Seventy-five years ago this week, the Kingston Ponies took to the field at Megaffin Stadium in the Class C professional baseball league.
It was one of the most splendid chapters in Kingston’s sporting history.
The Border League was founded in 1946 with teams from Ogdensburg, Auburn and Watertown, N.Y., as well as teams from Sherbrooke and Granby, Que.
The Kingston franchise was owned and operated by Nels Megaffin.
“He came to the city from Toronto in 1940 and quickly became a civic-minded businessman,” said Ken Cuthbertson.
The Kingston baseball historian says Megaffin purchased a couple of hotels in the city and did quite well for himself. He had the financial means to bring professional baseball to Kingston and built a new stadium to house the Ponies.
“That first year in 1946 was their most successful season,” stated Cuthbertson.
“Under playing manager Ben Lady from Indianapolis, the Ponies finished in third place and led the league in attendance. They ended up losing to Watertown in the championship playoff final.’
Kingston’s own Arnie Jarrell led the league with 21 pitching victories.
Things were never the same for the horseman after that inaugural campaign.
Like most sporting cities, fans support a winner and the Ponies started to struggle both on the field and at the gate.
For the next five years, the Ponies played inconsistent baseball and the fans were frustrated.
Cuthbertson, a 70-year-old retiree from Queen’s University says the sudden death of their owner in 1948 was the beginning of the end.
“Nel’s was only 43 when he passed away from a heart attack,” added Cuthbertson, adding that Megaffin was the heart and soul of the franchise and things were never the same after his passing.
The Border League continued to operate until the summer of 1951 when things began to unravel. Four teams decided to fold and the league ceased operations.
It’s too bad, says Cuthbertson because Kingston was in first place.
Cuthbertson just completed a booklet called When the Ponies Ran.
It is a brief history of the Ponies and Border League play.
“I had some time during the pandemic and it’s a project I always wanted to complete,” says Cuthbertson.
“Very few people are still around that remember the professional Ponies. I felt it was important to bring them back to life on the 75th anniversary of the first game played at Megaffin Stadium.
Copies of the booklet are available at Novel Idea on Princess Street.