The Williamsport Grays were a minor league baseball based in Williamsport periodically between 1924 and 1962. The club was first established in 1923, however it did not adopt a formal name. Rather the name, Williamsport Billies, was used by the local media when referring to the team in Williamsport. Other names found in local papers included the Bald Eagles, Hinchmanites, and even the Bills, a name adopted by the Eastern League clubs of the 1980s. The Billies played their games at Williamsport High School athletic fields, now on the campus of the Pennsylvania College of Technology They team later played all their home games in Bowman Field which is currently the home of the Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York–Penn League.
|Minor league affiliations|
|Major league affiliations|
|Minor league titles|
|League titles||3 (1923, 1934, 1960)|
The Billies' name was changed to the Williamsport Grays for the 1924 season, a name that stuck with many of the organizations in Williamsport throughout much of the 20th century.
In 1953, the club was referred to as the Williamsport A's or Williamsport Athletics a Class AA affiliate of the Philadelphia Athletics. The Athletics names lasted for just the 1953 season. The franchise was purchased at the end of the 1952 season by five anonymous businessmen from the Detroit Tigers. The ownership group moved to establish a working arrangement with the Philadelphia A's owned by Connie Mack.
From 1947–1949 and again in 1951–1952, The team was named the Williamsport Tigers were a AA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Detroit had a working relationship with Williamsport from 1946 until 1952.
The Tigers were owned by Earle Halstead a former American Association umpire and businessman from Dearborn, Michigan. Halstead gave up his business ventures in favor of owning a minor league baseball team. Halstead arranged for the Williamsport franchise to have a working agreement with the Detroit Tigers of the American League. But later went on the scout for the Milwaukee Braves, signing Bob Buhl and Red Murff (who later himself became a scout and signed Nolan Ryan). In 1960, he bought the Baseball Blue Book, Inc., which published the "Baseball Blue Book", frequently referred to as the bible of baseball. He later patented a curveball pitching machine and formed the company named Tru-Pitch, Inc., which revolutionized batting practice on all levels of baseball.
The Tigers were the 1945 World Series champions. Local fans were hopeful that the Tigers would fill the roster of the Williamsport team with better players that had previously been sent to Williamsport by the Washington Senators and Philadelphia A's. The Tigers were two step below the Tigers. Detroit's top farm club was in Buffalo, New York and the two teams below the Williamsport club were in Rome, and Jamestown, New York. Players moved from franchise to franchise as their stock in the Detroit Tigers system rose and fell. The Tigers took control of the franchise in 1947 and improved Bowman Field by spending $40,000 to repair flood damage and installing grandstand seats from Briggs Stadium in Detroit. The franchise was sold at the end of the 1952 season to five anonymous businessmen for $7,500. The Tigers era ended at the same time when the team was once again aligned with the Philadelphia A's and the Williamsport Grays name was restored.
The Williamsport A's struggled on the field. They finished in sixth place with a record of 65 wins and 85 losses. The first African-Americans to play professional baseball in Williamsport were members of the squad. Joe Taylor a veteran of the Negro Leagues and Héctor López who would go on to play in the majors with the A's and New York Yankees played the full season for the Williamsport A's.
The Williamsport Grays changed their name to the Tigers for the 1947 season. This was their second year of affiliation with Detroit Tigers, and it was the first time that the Eastern League team in Williamsport was known as something other than the Grays. The 1947 club was managed by George Detore. The Tigers finished in 5th place of an eight team league with a record of 67 wins and 74 losses.
The 1948 season saw the Tigers have a change in manager with Gene Desautels taking over. The Tigers finished in fourth place in the Eastern League and reached a one-game playoff for the final spot in the league playoffs. The Tigers lost that game to the Hartford Chiefs. Lou Kretlow who would go on to play in the majors for the Tigers, St. Louis Browns, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox and the A's was named the league's Most Valuable Player.
The Tigers slipped back into mediocrity during the 1949, 1951 and 1952 seasons. The 1950 Grays fared no better. Notable players and managers to pass through Williamsport during these years included, Jack Tighe, Schoolboy Rowe and Hall of Famer Jim Bunning.
|1923||82-42||1st||Harry Hinchman||League Champs|
|1925||77-55||1st (t)||Harry Hinchman||Lost League Finals|
|1932||63-76||7th||Herbie Moran / Harry Hinchman / Glenn Killinger||none|
|1934||78-60||1st||Mike McNally||League Champs|
|1941||82-55||2nd||Spencer Abbott||Lost League Finals|
|1946||59-80||6th (t)||Nig Lipscomb / Harry Davis|
|1948||73-68||5th||Gene Desautels||Lost one game playoff for 4th place|
|1949||66-74||5th (t)||Gene Desautels|
|1958||67-65||5th||Dick Carter||Lost in 1st round|
|1959||81-60||3rd||Frank Lucchesi||Lost League Finals|
|1960||76-62||1st||Frank Lucchesi||Co-Champs *|
|1962||83-57||1st||Frank Lucchesi||Lost League Finals|
* Williamsport led Springfield Giants 1 game to 0 when rain hit. Co-champions were declared