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COLUMN: Cobb in Utica, misses Opening Day of National Baseball HOF

Lou Parrotta
Sentinel columnist
Posted 7/22/22

During the 1930s up until approximately 1950, a well-known bowling alley, Tex’s Alleys, called Bleecker Street home.

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COLUMN: Cobb in Utica, misses Opening Day of National Baseball HOF


During the 1930s up until approximately 1950, a well-known bowling alley, Tex’s Alleys, called Bleecker Street home. This famed venue was a staple in the East Utica community, especially among Italian-Americans who congregated there to bowl, eat, drink, and generally enjoy each other’s company.

The proprietor of the Alleys was Frank “Tex” Fragetta. Tex became a well-known business owner and friend to numerous people who passed through his establishment. Tex’s wife, Vincenza (DaProna) Fragetta, better known as Jessie, was a typical Italian-American woman who cooked voluminous amounts of delicacies and made sure that all patrons left with full bellies.

Tex’s story is quite interesting, especially as the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown readies itself for its annual induction ceremonies on Sunday. As a result of Tex’s friendship with 1936 inaugural Hall of Fame inductee Ty Cobb, Cobb missed the famous first photo of the living members of the first four classes at the Hall’s grand opening in 1939.

Tex was born in 1900 and in the late 1910s decided to venture west to find a job working on the assembly lines in the up-and-coming automobile industry. He landed a job at the Cadillac installing and testing out car horns. During his off time, he went to Navin Field to watch the Detroit Tigers play. At one game, he tipped an usher some money to be able to sit near the Tigers’ dugout. While watching the game, Cobb came over and asked him who he was knowing full well that the seats next to the dugout were reserved mainly for corporate big-wigs. Explaining he was an assembly line worker at the Cadillac plant, the two struck up a conversation and decided to go out after the game. A friendship was born.

Cobb was known to be surly, among other things, but with Tex he bonded. When Tex decided to move back east to Utica, Cobb and he kept in touch. Cobb contacted Tex any time he was in New York and the two went out on the town together. When the call to the Hall of Fame came, Cobb asked Tex how far Utica was from Cooperstown. Tex indicated about an hour and a half (at that time), so Cobb decided to take a train into Utica and spend the day (and night!) with his old friend. Tex would then be Cobb’s guest at the festivities.

The author Jim Reisler wrote a terrific book in 2006 on the creation and opening of the National Baseball Hall of Fame titled “A Great Day in Cooperstown.” In the book, the reader is taken through the history of how the Hall of Fame came to fruition, what led up to the day of the grand opening, and learned about the original Hall of Fame travels to the bucolic little village in New York’s southern tier. The reader also learns that Ty Cobb missed the group photo because he was “ill in Utica.”

After a long day and night of drinking, Cobb’s “illness” that Reisler wrote about, was really a massive hangover after partying with his good friend, Tex Fragetta. As a result of Cobb’s condition, Tex had a difficult time rousing Cobb from his bed. (Tex’s son, Joe, recalled the hotel Cobb stayed at was the Hotel Utica, but he was not 100% certain). By the time Tex got Cobb up and ready to set out on the trip, the festivities in Cooperstown had already begun.

Cobb eventually did make it to Cooperstown, and he and his friend Tex were able to hobnob with some of baseball’s immortals. Fragetta, as a result of slipping an usher some money for a better seat at a major league ballpark many years before, had a front row seat on the dais to experience the first of what became one of sports’ most iconic annual events.


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