POTSDAM - Major League Baseball’s commissioner-in-waiting, Robert D. Manfred Jr., spent his boyhood growing up in Central New York, but his family tree has deep north country deep roots stretching to the villages of Potsdam and Norwood.
Mr. Manfred, a native of Rome, was named baseball’s 10th commissioner Aug. 14. He will succeed outgoing commissioner Bud Selig when he retires in January.
Although Mr. Manfred grew up in Rome, his father, Robert D. Manfred Sr., and his grandfather, Francis H. Manfred, were long-time Potsdam residents.
Robert Sr. was born in Potsdam, graduated from Potsdam High School in 1948 and the chemical engineering major graduated from the then Clarkson College of Technology in 1952.
The new commissioner’s grandfather, Francis, was a long-time manager of Kinney’s Drugs on Market Street, Potsdam. The family lived at 6 1/2 Garden Strt.
Mr. Manfred Sr., 85, who now lives in Sunset Beach, N.C., said he still has fond memories of his childhood growing up in Potsdam, especially of his school days and playing sports. Although he would later go on to play tennis at Clarkson, he said he was involved in a variety of athletics at Potsdam High School.
“I think going to school were my best memories,” Mr. Manfred said. “I played basketball, football and tennis. We had an awful good time there.”
Mr. Manfred said the last time he visited his hometown was about eight years ago to attend a friend’s funeral.
“We don’t get up there very much any more,” Mr. Manfred said. “It’s been a long time.”
Mr. Manfred said he never in his wildest dreams imagined as a boy growing up in Potsdam, as a student at Clarkson or later, after starting a family in Rome, that he would someday have a son who would become the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
He described his son “Robbie” was a talented tennis player and a pretty fair second baseman as a youth playing Little League.
“He was a good ball player and an excellent tennis player,” Mr. Manfred recalled of the new baseball commissioner. “He played second base in little league and played tennis in high school and college.”
Added Mr. Manfred, “We sure are proud.”
Etta S. Manfred, Robert Jr.’s aunt, is another Potsdam native with fond memories of the future baseball commissioner when he was a child. Now living in North Carolina, Mrs. Manfred said her nephew and son were always close playmates, whether romping around at family events in the north country or in Central New York.
“We called his father Bob and we called him Robbie. But he changed that after he became an attorney,” Mrs. Manfred joked. “Yes, he and my son Steven played together a lot when we got together in Rome or in Massena, where we lived, for family dinners.”
Mrs. Manfred, whose maiden name is Swan, also graduated from Potsdam High School and married Paul Manfred. She said most of the Potsdam area Manfred family has either passed away or moved away, although a cousin, the Rev. Father Donald Manfred ,still lives in Massena, where he serves as pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Massena, and St. Lawrence Church, Louisville.
Mrs. Manfred said the last time she saw Robert Jr. was when he attended her husband’s funeral.
“I remember what he told me,” she said, noting he had high praise for her husband.
Although his life is now far removed from his days of playing with his north country cousins, Mrs. Manfred said her nephew, the man who will become the 10th commissioner of Major League Baseball in January, has a lineage to be proud of.
“His grandfather was the manager of Kinney’s in Potsdam, and his great grandfather ‘Henry’ was a tailor in Norwood,” Mrs. Manfred said.