The Mohawk Valley Baseball Hall of Fame will induct Little Falls native Ray Shepardson into its hallowed hall on Saturday, April 5, 2014 in ceremonies being held at the Knights Inn in Little Falls, NY. The keynote speaker for the evening will be famed pitcher Bill Lee, a prominent and colorful member of many memorable teams including the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos.
Shepardson, the only Little Falls native to play Major League Baseball, passed away November 8, 1975 and thus will be inducted posthumously.
“It is only fitting that we recognize the achievements of Ray Shepardson, not just for his play on a Major League ball club, but for his overall life playing and teaching the great game of baseball,” said Travis Heiser, owner and General Manager of the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs whose home field is where the Hall of Fame is housed.
According to a biography prepared by author Lou Parrotta in his book Gloves Along the Mohawk:
Raymond Shepardson is the only Major League Baseball player to hail from Little Falls, New York. In 1924, he caught the eye of famed Manager and talent evaluator Branch Rickey, then the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, and translated a solid season in the New York-Pennsylvania League with both the Utica Utes and the Oneonta Indians (for which he played under manager Ambrose McConnell, another local standout player) into a September stint with the Redbirds.
Shepardson only played one season of professional baseball total, beginning with the Utes/Indians (the two teams were one in and the same due to the Utes’ folding and the Indians’ forming around the same time) in 1924. He hit .290 in 107 games and poked 17 doubles and 8 triples for them. Rickey, notorious for his elaborate minor league system and abundance of talent scouts, got word that Shepardson had potential. As a result, the man who signed Jackie Robinson in 1946 when he was the General Manager with the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed Shepardson to a big league contract. His career lasted three games.
On September 19, 1924, Shepardson made his debut at catcher for the Cardinals versus the Boston Braves in Boston. He caught the full game, and called pitches for another rookie on the Cardinals, Henry “Pea Ridge” Day, who was also making his big league debut. The 27-yeard-old didn’t get a hit in his first game, but did call a terrific 4-1 complete game win for the Cardinals’ Day. The next day, Shepardson was back behind the plate for Game 2 of the day’s doubleheader calling pitches for starter Jesse Fowler, older brother of former big leaguer Art Fowler who is most notably remembered as Billy Martin’s best friend and pitching coach when he was a manager. The Cards won 5-2. Shepardson did not play the entire game, garnering only one at bat, but he did score his first and only big league run. Four days later, Shepardson appeared in his last Major League game, this time as a defensive replacement at catcher in a 9-4 win against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Despite playing in just three games, Shepardson undoubtedly had some terrific memories to bring back to the Mohawk Valley. His manager was a future Hall of Famer and his teammates included Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Jim Bottomley, and Chick Hafey. When he faced the Braves he played against Hall of Fame legends Casey Stengel (then an outfielder), Dave Bancroft and Rube Marquard. Surely playing on a field with those esteemed teammates and opponents had to provide tremendous stories for which Shepardson must have entertained audiences in Little Falls for decades after his career ended.
When his professional career ended, Shepardson returned to the Mohawk Valley to play for semi-pro teams in the area including the Little Falls Independents in the Mohawk Valley League. He continued to play for these types of teams on and off for the next 8 years. Intermixed during that time, and for fifteen years beyond, Shepardson was a fixture in Old Timers’ Games in and around the Little Falls area.
In 1942, Shepardson coached a team for St. Mary’s school, the Gaels, and in 1955 his son Jerry played under his father’s watchful eye for the same Little Falls team Ray Shepardson did.
When he died on November 8, 1975 in Little Falls, Ray Shepardson left behind his wife of fifty-one years, the former Edna Hart, and one son and three daughters.
The Hall of Fame induction on April 5th will include dinner and a Chinese auction and will feature keynote speaker and former Boston Red Sox left-handed pitcher Bill Lee. The event will be at the Knights Inn in Little Falls April 5th. Doors will open at 5:30 P.M. for cocktails and autographs with dinner and program following. Tickets cost $35 for adults and $20 for kids 12 and under. For a table of 8 people, the cost is $250.
To purchase a seat or table, please email Travis@mydiamonddawgs.com or contact team owner Travis Heiser at call (315) 985-0692.
Stay tuned as we announce will be announcing more inductees by visiting our website www.mydiamonddawgs.com or by social media on Facebook and Twitter @MVDiamondDawgs.