Damaschke Field is located at 15 James Georgeson Avenue in Oneonta, New York, just 24 miles south of Cooperstown, New York.
The ball field dates back to 1905 when it was known as Elm Park. Located in Neahwa Park, for a time the ball field also was known as Neahwa Park.
In 1968, the ballpark was renamed Dutch Damaschke Field in honor of Earnest C. “Dutch” Damaschke, the long-time Commissioner of Recreation for the City of Oneonta.
The stadium structure has changed over the years, although the concrete and steel grandstand dates back to 1939. Like many other ballparks of that era, it was constructed with funds from the Works Projects Administration. Funds also were donated by William F. Eggleston, owner of the Oneonta Grocery Company.
in 2007, the city renovated the ballpark, adding new bleacher seating down the first and third base lines, as well as new player clubhouses and concession stands.
The view from the grandstand down the first and third base lines is an interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new, with the 1930s WPA grandstand seating along side the modern bleacher seating behind first and third base.
In 2008, with the addition of a new clubhouse for the players, the former locker room located under the grandstand was turned into storage space.
During the first two decades of its existence, the ballpark hosted mostly amateur, college, and semi professional teams. The Brooklyn Royal Giants played an exhibition game at Neahwa Park on August 19, 1920, defeating the Oneonta Cubs 13-3. Two months later, on October 16, 1920, the Babe Ruth All Stars played an exhibition game against the local Endicott-Johnson team. Babe Ruth hit a home run over the right field fence during the eighth inning of the barnstorming game. In the fifth inning of that game, Ruth reportedly fractured a small bone in his left wrist while attempting slide into first base, although the following day in Jersey City he hit another of his exhibition home runs, suggesting that his wrist was fine.
The first professional team to call the ballpark home was the Oneonta Indians, who played in the New York-Pennsylvania League for one season in 1924.
Professional baseball returned to Oneonta in 1940 with the arrival from Ottawa of the Canadian-American Baseball League (Can-Am) Oneonta Indians. In 1941 the Indians became an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Baseball in Oneonta was suspended after the 1942 season, but the team returned in 1946 following the end of World War II as the Oneonta Red Sox. The Red Sox played in Oneonta through the 1951 season, and professional baseball once again was on hiatus in Oneonta.
Professional baseball returned in 1966, with the arrival of the New York-Penn League Oneonta Red Sox. In 1967, Oneonta became a farm team of the New York Yankees, thus beginning the city’s longest affiliation with a single major league team. Over the years, MLB players such as Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Al Leiter, Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson, and Willie McGee began their careers at Damaschke field.
Future National Football Hall of Famer John Elway also began his professional baseball career at Damaschke Field in 1981. The following year he was drafted by the Denver Broncos. In 1985, Buck Showalter started his professional managerial career as skipper of the Oneonta Yankees.
The Oneonta Yankees departed Damaschke Field after the 1998 season. The Oneonta Tigers arrived the following season, and played at Damaschke Field through the 2009 season.
Although professional baseball no longer is played at Damaschke Field, it still is possible to take in a baseball game at the ballpark during the summer. Damaschke Field currently is the home of the New York Collegiate Baseball League Oneonta Outlaws, who play during the months of June and July. The city of Oneonta still uses the ballpark for civic events such as graduations, holiday celebrations, and concerts.
The ballpark most certainly is worth a visit. Given its proximity to Cooperstown, there should be a steady stream of visitors each summer, looking for a wonderful baseball experience in what is known as one of the coziest ballparks in the country.