The Oneonta Yankees of Oneonta, New York, played thirty-two seasons in the New York-Penn League. For that entire time span, they served as a Single-A affiliate of the New York Yankees.
The O-Yanks, as they were sometimes called, began when the one-year wonder Oneonta Red Sox switched their affiliation following the 1966 season. Baseball fans living in the upstate city at the northern foothills of the Appalachians were able to root for future members of the popular ballclub down the road–rather than those of New York’s arch rival. For more than three decades, the Oneonta Yankees were a consummate COTOB and a model of branding consistency. Their uniforms followed the slight design variations of their parent club over the years, and their cap featured the same plain white block-letter O for the team’s full existence.
Oneonta played host to an impressive and interesting list of young players through the years. The biggest name future big-leaguers from the sixties and seventies were César Gerónimo, Doc Medich, Tippy Martinez, Dámaso García, Pat Tabler, Willie McGee, and Don Mattingly at the tail end of the Me Decade.
The O-Yanks were cemented in minor league history in 1982, when the New York Yankees sent their second round pick from the previous year’s draft–a young slugger from Stanford–to spend the summer in Oneonta. John Elway posted a .318 batting average across 42 games for the ’82 Oneonta Yankees.
There were some other guys who also wore the O-cap in the eighties, and some of those fellows who would go on to successful pro baseball (rather than football) careers are Bob Tewksbury, Roberto Kelly, Al Leiter, Jim Leyritz, Bernie Williams, Brad Ausmus, and J.T. Snow. Buck Showalter’s first minor league managing gig was heading Oneonta in both ’85 and ’86. A few years later, he would be skippering in the Bronx.
The 1990s was another fruitful decade for Oneonta, despite Derek Jeter skipping from the Gulf Coast League straight to full-season ball, bypassing Oneonta altogether. The 1991 season saw the battery duo of Andy Pettite and Jorge Posada, and some other nineties notables include Shane Spencer, Ricky Ledée, Rubén Rivera, Sterling Hitchcock, and Mike Lowell.
The end of the Oneonta Yankees came following the 1998 season, when the Watertown Indians were moved to Staten Island. The big-league Yanks opted for the new and much more local club, and Oneonta signed a deal with Detroit. The Oneonta Tigers continued to compete in the New York-Penn through 2009, when they were moved to Norwich, Connecticut. The Connecticut Tigers changed their name to the Norwich Sea Unicorns after the 2019 season. The Oneonta Yankees, meanwhile, will be remembered as one of the longest-tenured and most consistent team identities in New York-Penn League history.