Watertown Indians

watertown logo

1989-1998

The Watertown Indians of Watertown, New York, played an even ten seasons in the New York-Penn League. For that decade, they were a short season Single-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. 

The identity came to be after the 1988 season, when the Watertown Pirates lost their Pittsburgh parent (to Welland, Ontario) and Cleveland came to town. According to one report, the Watertown Pirates franchise was moved to Welland and the Watertown Indians were an expansion team. The league did indeed expand from twelve to fourteen clubs for ’89, but for Watertown fans, the effect was merely a switch from Pittsburgh to Cleveland. Like the W-Pirates and many other of the city’s amateur baseball clubs dating back to the 1930s, the newly-dubbed Watertown Indians played their home games at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds–part of the area that hosts upstate New York’s Jefferson County Fair each summer. 1990 giles

Watertown was a straight Cleveland COTOB identity, using the parent club’s red and navy blue hues. Their logo was the notorious Chief Wahoo superimposed over a W. In the early days, the W was a tall and spiky letter–eventually replaced by a shorter W with rounded edges. Later caps (in both red and navy) featured the full logo with a baseball as backdrop, though the team also wore the same Wahoo-only caps that Cleveland sported in those days. 

On the diamond, Watertown had the typical low-level setup, with a small handful of players in a given season being lucky enough to crack the bigs. In those days, Cleveland had another short-season club in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, so the pickings were even more slim than usual. It was quality over quantity. Watertown’s list of notable alums pretty much starts and stops at two, but those two were pretty darn good: Brian Giles and Sean Casey. Also future GM Jerry Dipoto is worth mentioning, I suppose. 

The end of Watertown’s run in the New York-Penn came after the 1998 season, when the franchise was moved to Staten Island as part of Rudy Giuliani’s plan to bring two minor league clubs to the boroughs. The Yankees got theirs a few years before the Mets got Brooklyn. The Staten Island Yankees have been in the New York-Penn ever since, and the Watertown Indians are merely a ten-season blip in the vast history of minor league baseball. 

Ephemera

Inaugural season schedule with spiky W
Sean Casey slapping a pickoff tag on an Elmira Pioneer, 1995
Nice look at the red alternate caps