Bush League, Big City

The Brooklyn Cyclones, Staten Island Yankees, and the New York-Penn League

By Michael Sokolow

Subjects: New York/regional, Sports And Society, General Interest
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438492636, 316 pages, April 2023

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. Our Own Little Communities

2. Dictating Things from a Distance

3. What the Hell Do They Care?

4. New Stadiums Do Not Produce Economic Growth

5. Sane Businesspeople Become Misty-Eyed

6. We Are Committed to Nobody Except Watertown

7. It Will Be Great for Staten Island

8. We Could Not Stay in St. Catharines

9. Coney Island Is Hot Right Now

10. An Insult to the People of Brooklyn

11. Waiting for Exactly This: The Inaugural Season

12. Not Even a Smidgen of Sentiment


The saga of New York’s push to build two minor-league baseball stadiums, colored by dollars, politics, and dreams.


Bush League, Big City tells the interwoven stories of two low-level minor league baseball teams brought to New York City in the late 1990s. It also illuminates the history of the New York-Penn League, America’s oldest and longest-running minor league, from its inception in 1939 until its abrupt contraction by Major League Baseball in 2020. With an eye for details and firsthand accounts by many of the baseball people involved, Michael Sokolow tells the story of two franchises that went in very different directions, as the Cyclones achieved astronomical success while Staten Island’s ‘Baby Bombers’ sank under the weight of debt and recriminations. Along the way, the book visits small communities in upstate New York, New England, and Canada, introduces the multimillionaires who came to dominate small-time baseball ownership, and tells the tale of two of the most expensive minor-league baseball stadiums ever built. It also sheds light on the complex, behind-the-scenes influence of New York City politics, as the indomitable will of Mayor Rudy Giuliani reshaped the geography of both the city and professional baseball. Bush League, Big City is a compelling examination of both the power and limits of nostalgia in a sport that is increasingly focused on the bottom line.

Michael Sokolow is Associate Professor of History at Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York. He is the author of Charles Benson: Mariner of Color in the Age of Sail.


"Bush League, Big City is a compelling and important read. Examining the contraction and betrayals that beset the venerable New York-Penn League, Michael Sokolow follows the money from small-town Oneonta, New York, to the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn. Based on extensive research, Bush League, Big City melds observant analysis with masterful storytelling. As Sokolow broaches, the shortsighted greed of Major League Baseball may well come back to haunt the game and its moguls." — William Simons, Professor Emeritus, History Department, SUNY Oneonta and editor, The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture