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Elmira Pioneers

Elmira Pioneers
Founded in 1885
Elmira, New York
Current None (1996-present)
  • A- (1973-1995)
  • AA (1963-1972)
  • A (1962)
  • D (1957-1961)
  • A (1933-1955)
  • B (1908-1932)
  • C (1900)
  • B (1895)
Minor league affiliations
League Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League(2011-Present)
Previous leagues
Major league affiliations
Current None
Minor league titles
League titles 12 (1914, 1937, 1938, 1941, 1943, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1997, 2007)
Division titles 3 (2007, 2010,2013)
Team data
Nickname Elmira Pioneers (1972–present)
Previous names
  • Elmira Royals (1971)
  • Elmira Pioneers (1938-1955, 1957-1970)
  • Elmira Colonels (1937)
  • Elmira Pioneers (1935-1936)
  • Elmira Red Wings (1932-1934)
  • Elmira Colonels (1924-1931)
  • Elmira Red Jackets (1923)
  • Elmira Colonels (1908-1917)
  • Elmira Pioneers (1895, 1900)
  • Elmira Gladiators (1891-1892)
  • Elmira Hottentots (1889)
  • Elmira Baseball Club (1888)
  • Elmira Colonels (1885)
Colors Red, Blue, White,
Ballpark Dunn Field
Don Lewis, Nellie Franco-Nichols
Operations: Robbie Nichols
Manager Matt Burch

The Elmira Pioneers are an amateur baseball team based in Elmira, New York. They currently compete in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, a wood bat collegiate summer baseball league. Prior to the 2006 baseball season, the team was a professional ball-club with a rich history of league championships and future major league stars, including some Baseball Hall of Fame inductees. They play their home games at Dunn Field.


While the Pioneers now play in an unaffiliated amateur league, Elmira has a long history of hosting Major Leagueaffiliated professional teams. Most of those teams also were known as the Pioneers.

1885–1931: The early years

The Elmira Colonels played in the New York State League in 1885 and again in 1889. Two years later, the Elmira Gladiators were one of six teams in the original New York–Penn League. That league failed, but in 1892, the Gladiators were one of the original teams in the original Eastern League but only lasted one year in the league.

The Pioneers name first appeared in 1900, when the team joined a new New York State League that was founded a year earlier.

The Elmira Red Jackets, presumably named after the Seneca chief, were charter members of the new New York–Penn League in 1923. Armando Marsans, one of the first two Cubans to play Major League baseball, served as their manager in 1923.

They changed their name to the Elmira Colonels from 1924–31 and remained unaffiliated through those years.

1932–1972: Becoming a farm team

The Colonels signed on with the St. Louis Cardinals and changed their name to the Red Wings for the 1932–34 seasons. They resurrected the Pioneers name for their unaffiliated 1935 and '36 seasons. After winning the league championship that year, they signed on with the Brooklyn Dodgers and re-established the Colonels name for the 1937 season, in which they repeated as champions. The league became the Eastern League in 1938 and Elmira managed to pull off a three-peat that year. Elmira maintained their affiliation with the Dodgers, known as the Pioneers, through 1940. This, despite losing its home stadium, to fire in 1938. On June 12, 1939, the Pioneers played their first night game in Elmira, which was a novel concept for fans at the time.

The Pioneers then became an affiliate of the Tigers for a couple seasons and then the St Louis Browns before re-establishing ties with the Dodgers from 1950 to 1955. During the 1951 season then player Don Zimmer married his wife at a ceremony at home plate.

Elmira did not field a team in 1956, but joined the Class-A short-season New York–Penn League in 1957 as a Washington Senators affiliate. The Pioneers switched affiliation to the Philadelphia Phillies for the 1959–61 seasons. Two highlights of their time with the Phillies, were Jim Gunn's 33 game hitting streak in 1959, and Vern Kemp striking out 21 batters in a single-game during 1961. Both were team records.

The Pioneers returned to the Eastern League for the 1962 season, this time affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles through 1968. Their manager from 1962 to 1965 was Earl Weaver. Elmira was filled with talent during the Oriole years. They won the championship in 1962. In 1965 there were three no-hitters pitched and Lou Pinella hit three home runs in a single game. They also played a 27 inning game, which at the time was the longest professionally played game. The following year, 1966, they won the Pennant by 20.5 games!

The 1960s ended with the Padres and Royals sharing the Pioneers for a year. The next two years, the team was exclusively affiliated with the Royals and actually known as the Royals in 1971 while winning another championship. The Royals didn't want to keep Elmira as part of their farm system, and the team signed on with the Cleveland Indians for 1972. Unfortunately, that summer would find the city of Elmira deep in a flood that ruined the season. The Indians didn't stick with the team.

1973–1992: The Red Sox years

The New York–Penn League affiliate of the Boston Red Sox moved from Williamsport, Pennsylvania to Elmira for the 1973 season. The Red Sox remained in Elmira through 1992. The 1973 team was known as the Pioneers, but the team was called the Elmira Red Sox from 1974 to 1976 and the Elmira Pioneer-Red Sox in 1977 and '78. They won the NY Penn League Championship in 1976. The Pioneers name returned for the 1979 season, though the team actually wore "Red Sox" uniforms.

In 1983, Clyde Smoll bought the team and changed its name to the Elmira Suns to match other teams he owned. The name proved unpopular in Elmira and the Pioneers name soon returned complete with uniforms featuring a stagecoach logo. The uniforms were mocked throughout the league as resembling softball uniforms and the team returned to the Red Sox uniforms after a couple of years.

Coincidentally, the former Elmira team now located in Jacksonville is known as the Suns.

1993–2005: Post-Red Sox years

The Pioneers were affiliated with the Florida Marlins from 1993 to 1995, after which Smoll moved the team to Lowell, Massachusetts and reaffiliated with the Red Sox as the Lowell Spinners.

After some significant scrambling, an ownership group anchored by an Elmira native living in Maryland, John Ervin, got a team into the independent Northeast League before the 1996 season began. In 1997 the Pioneers started the season 24–18. They'd end it by beating the defending champion Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs 2 games to 0, to win their first championship in 21 years. In 2001, the team played for the championship again. This time they faced the New Jersey Jackals, but lost a tough series 3 games to 2.

One other bright spot for the team in these years was pitcher Greg Keagle, who threw a no-hitter in the summer of 2000. A couple years later, he struck out 119 batters. Keagle was a very popular player due to his talent and being an Elmira area native. For a while, he was a player-coach, coaching the pitching staff.

2006–2010: New York Collegiate League

After the 2005 baseball season, the Pioneers changed leagues. They became part of the New York Collegiate Baseball League, which is an amateur league. They went 19–24, which was good enough for a second place finish in the West Division, but lost in the first round to the Allegany County Nitros.

In 2007 the Pioneers won the New York Collegiate Baseball League Championship with a sweep of Glen Falls, finishing the season 32–16. Currently 2 players from the Pioneers are playing in Minor League baseball, Shane Wolf '06–'07 [Astros AA] snd Jack Cawley '06 [Cardinals A]. Cody Eppley '06 became the first former Pioneer to suit up in a Major League game with the Texas Rangers. Eppley had his contract purchased by the New York Yankees at the start of the 2012 season.

2011–Present: Perfect Game Collegiate League

In June 2011 the Pioneers joined the newly formed Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League [PGCBL]. Seven former teams from the New York Collegiate Baseball League(NYCBL)including the Pioneers made up the inaugural teams in the league, as well as an expansion franchise [Newark Pilots] located in Newark, New York.

The 2013 season will feature 11 ball clubs across New York. In late November 2012 the welcomed two new teams to the league. Former NYCBL franchises Adirondack [Trail Blazers] & Utica [Brewers] made the jump to the PGCBL raising the number of active teams to 10. The Oneonta Outlaws franchise was placed on "Voluntary Suspension" for the 2013 season.


The Pioneers have won 12 titles. The most recent was in 2007. Other championships were won in 1914, 1937, 1938, 1941, 1943, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1971, 1976, and 1997.

2013 PGCBL season

The Pioneers announced after the conclusion of the 2012 season that the team would be parting ways with manager Dan Shwam. Shwam led the Pioneers for 3 seasons from 2010-12. August 21, 2012 the Pioneers ownership group held a press conference to announce the new coaching staff. Matt Burch will return to the Pioneers with the same staff that guided Elmira to a playoff appearance in 2006 and the NYCBL championship in 2007. This will be Burch's third stint with Elmira as he was a player/pitching coach during the 2004 season and managed from 2006-2008. Burch was a Div. I All-American while at Virginia Commonwealth University and was selected first overall by the Kansas City Royals in the 1998 Major League Baseball Draft.

Notable Pioneers


  1. Kernan, Kevin. "SABR." Kernan: Legendary Flameout Steve Dalkowski and His 110 Mph Fastball. Society for American Baseball Research, 6 July 2013. Web. 23 June 2014.

External links

Preceded by
Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs
Northeast League Champions
Elmira Pioneers

Succeeded by
New Jersey Jackals