Jamestown Jammers

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1994-2014

 

The Jamestown Jammers of Jamestown, New York, played 21 seasons in the New York-Penn League. Over that time span, they served as the Class A-Short Season affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves, Florida/Miami Marlins, and Pittsburgh Pirates.

The team came into being following the 1993 season, when the Niagara Falls Rapids moved about 100 miles south to Jamestown. The city’s College Park (later named Russell Diethrick Park) had been vacated following the same season, when the Jamestown Expos moved to Vermont. This meant that Jamestown had an unbroken chain of New York-Penn League baseball, albeit with a different identity.

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The new team called itself the Jammers and introduced pinstriped uniforms with red caps featuring an ambiguous animal. The creature was sort of like a smaller, grayer cousin of Taz from Looney Toons. Presumably, many baseball fans shrugged and thought “well, that’s a Jammer, I guess.”

Starting in 1994 and continuing for five seasons, Jamestown was affiliated with the Detroit Tigers. Francisco Cordero, Brandon Inge, and Jeff Weaver are the biggest-name players from this time, drthough Gabe Kapler and Dave Roberts (both more famous for their managing than their playing) were also Jammers.

From 1999-2001, Jamestown was in the Braves’ system. In those years, the Braves had two short season clubs, with the other being the Rookie-Advanced level Appalachian League’s Danville Braves. Among players who required time at these lower levels, the prized prospects were sent to Danville rather than Upstate New York. A handful of Jammers during the Braves years went on to MLB careers, but none amounted to anything noteworthy.

In 2002, the Jammers linked up with the Florida Marlins, and kept up that affiliation for eleven seasons. This was a fruitful period that yielded several future All-Stars, including Jason Vargas, Gaby Sánchez, Brad Hand, A.J. Ramos, and Marcell Ozuna. In 2011, the late great José Fernández pitched one game (his second pro start) for the Jammers, en route to a much-too-short career in Miami.

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In 2006, the team retroactively brought clarity to the Jammer identity mystery. They redesigned their entire visual identity, including team colors, uniforms, and logos. Gone were red and black with the Taz-like character, and in were green and purple. The new logo was an anthropomorphic cluster of grapes (as in grape jelly/jam) rendered in both purple and green versions, with the purple cluster strongly resembling a perturbed blackberry. For the rest of their years, they stood as one of a handful of new food identities for the Aughts, alongside teams such as the Montgomery Biscuits and Modesto Nuts.

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Following the 2012 season, there was a minor shuffling of Player Development Contracts in the New York-Penn League, and the Jammers broke with the Marlins and linked up with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This change may have seemed incidental at first, but in the following year, news came out that there would be a team in the league moving to Morgantown, West Virginia–though the exact team that would be moving was unclear. The Batavia Muckdogs and Auburn Doubledays were floated as possibilities, but Jamestown seemed to be the obvious candidate, considering that Pittsburgh is the closest MLB city to Morgantown by a wide margin. It may have been mere coincidence, but those suspicions bore out. The Jammers were only with the Pirates for two seasons, though there was a good crop of prospects supplied by Pittsburgh. Though several have gone on to MLB careers, the only one who has thus far ripened at the major league level is Austin Meadows.

Following the 2014 season, the team relocated to Morgantown, and is now known as the West Virginia Black Bears. The Jamestown Jammers, excluding a brief re-emergence in the non-affiliated ranks, were squished out of existence.

 

 

 

Ephemera

 

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Pro-Line cap

 

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The early Jammers had an alternate pin-striped cap

 

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Inge in 1998

 

MILB - 2004 Jamestown Jammers
Vargas in 2004

 

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The green grapes
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The purple grapes, flipped with a J

 

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Marcell Ozuna, 2010

 

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Jamestown Jose
José Fernández, 2011

 

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Austin Meadows, 2013 (Pirates affiliate)

 

 

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