Johnstown Steal / Johnnies
First season: 1995
Years in league: 1995-2002
Ballpark: Point Stadium
Johnstown is another Frontier League city with decades of pro baseball history. The city's first minor-league team was in 1884. In 1926 Point Stadium was built and hosted teams in the low minors until the post-WWII era. Johnstown briefly hosted an Eastern League team but was without professional baseball for over thirty years until the Erie Sailors arrived following the 1994 season.
The Sailors won the Frontier League championship in 1994, and the Steal continued that trend in 1995, easily outdistancing second-place Newark and then sweeping Richmond and Zanesville in the playoffs. Outfielder Mark Soto hit .313-12-62 to win the league MVP award. The Steal again made the playoffs in 1996. In 1997 they made the postseason for the third consecutive year, winning the first half and posting the best overall record in the league.
In 1998 the team changed their name from the Steal to the traditional name of Johnstown teams, the Johnnies. They missed the playoffs that season, but in 1999 they returned to the playoffs under manager Mal Fichman, the man who led them to the title in 1995.
Things came together for the Johnnies in 2000. Mike Moore took the helm as the Johnnies edged London for the East Division title. Led by perennial all-star Kirk Taylor, the Johnnies then beat London in the playoffs before knocking off Evansville to claim their second Frontier League title. Moore was named Manager Of the Year for the team's accomplishments.
Taylor had a monster season in 2001, hitting .350-17-72 to win the MVP award, but the Johnnies narrowly missed the playoffs. Things went south in a hurry in 2002, as Taylor moved into the dugout after retiring due to age restrictions. The Johnnies finished 26 games out, with the worst record in the league. The high point of Johnstown baseball in 2001 was the August release of the Tom Cruise movie, "All the Right Moves". Several scenes of this film were shot at Point Stadium.
Attendance in Johnstown, which had been among best draws in the early days, declined to barely 35,000 in 2002. Worse, Point Stadium was showing serious wear, with parts of the grandstand roped off for the safety of the fans. After the season, Point Stadium faced possible condemnation. With the uncertain state of the ballpark and declining attendance, the Johnnies were sold and moved to Florence, Kentucky. After the move, it was decided to spruce up Point Stadium, and the ballpark will be used for youth baseball, but will probably never see pro ball again.
The Steal/Johnnies were a large part of the growth of the Frontier League. The team was a consistent winner on the field and a solid draw at the gate. They proved that the Frontier League could be viable in larger markets, and fans in Johnstown were treated to some of the best teams and players in the brief history of the league.
Point Stadium in Johnstown, PA, the home of the Johnstown Steal and Johnstown Johnnies
|Year||Won||Lost||GB||Finish||Attendance||Manager||Playoffs First Round||Playoffs Second Round|
|1995||46||23||--||1||67,167||Mal Fichman||Beat Richmond 2-0||Beat Zanesville 2-0|
|1996||22||15||1||2E||61,575||Jim Coffman||Lost to Chillicothe 2-1|
|1997||25||15||--||1E||59,768||Henry Manning||Lost to Canton 2-0|
|1999||43||41||11||3E||57,529||Mal Fichman||Lost to London 2-0|
|2000||48||36||--||1E||45,243||Mike Moore||Beat London 2-0||Beat Evansville 3-1|
Major Award Winners:
1995 Mark Soto, Most Valuable Player
2000 Mike Moore, Manager Of the Year
2001 Kirk Taylor, Most Valuable Player
Johnnies Post-Season All-Stars:
1995 OF Thurston Rockmore; OF Mark Soto; P Sean Hogan
1996 OF Gerald Bolden
1997 C Jeff Ucello; P Kevin Gieras; P Randy Bromley
1999 C Tony Girod; OF Shane Hopper
2000 OF Kirk Taylor
2001 C Chuck Van Robays; 3B John Poss; OF Kirk Taylor
Players on FL Tenth Anniversary All-Star Team:
C Tony Girod (1998-99)
OF Mark Soto (1995)
OF Kirk Taylor (1999-2001)
P Sean Hogan (1995)
P Jamie Irving (1995-98)
P Bobby Chandler (2001-02)
Franchise Player: OF Kirk Taylor (1999-2001) was a three-time all-star, twice with the Johnnies and once with Ohio Valley. He was the first Frontier league player to reach the 20-20 plateau with 21 homers and 29 steals for the Redcoats in 1998. Kirk led the Johnnies in home runs all three season he played in Johnstown. He was the league MVP in 2001, hitting .350-17-72. Taylor ranks in the top five career leaders in nearly every category, and his total of 64 home runs is second only to Morgan Burkhart. When his playing career was over he became the Johnnies' manager.
Johnnies in the majors:
P J.J. Trujillo (1999) played for the San Diego Padres in 2002.
P D.J. Carrasco (1999) played for the Kansas City Royals in 2003.