History of the Cape Cod Baseball League: The Sons of Summer
Although searching for Cape League truth can be as frustrating as fielding a fly in the fickle fog at Veterans Field, one fact about the league is inescapable. The CCBL experience isn’t just about the baseball.
“There’s something magical about summer baseball on the Cape,” says Boston Globe journalist Christopher Price, author of “Baseball by the Beach: A History of America’s National Pastime on Cape Cod”. “But what makes it so magical are the relationships that develop in and around the Cape League, between players, host families, volunteers and fans.
“The league has enabled people to come together under the auspices of baseball, and build deep and abiding relationships,” adds Price, whose grandparents met at a Barnstable game in the 1930s. “The game connects generations over time. That’s a legacy that any sport would be proud of.”
1923-39: ‘Recognized and Organized League’ Born on Cape Cod
The Cape League officially dates its origins back to 1885, primarily due to a poster from the National Baseball Hall of Fame that promotes a “base ball match” between host Sandwich and Barnstable on July 4, 1885. However, there is strong historical evidence that an early version of base ball—the Massachusetts Game—actually pre-dates the Civil War, and that the first nine-man team, the Nichols Club of Sandwich, was organized in the 1865-66 timeframe.
Then there are those who date the origins of the Cape League to 1923, when Falmouth, Chatham and the Barnstable villages of Hyannis and Osterville formed the first organized Cape Cod Baseball League. “Cape Cod is fortunate in having a national pastime played in a recognized and organized league,” noted a 1936 Hyannis Patriot article. “It’s a great game.”
Regardless of which side of the argument one takes, baseball has a very rich, deep and colorful history on the Cape.
In addition to high-quality baseball, one of the hallmarks of the Cape League’s early years was instability, with teams dropping in and out of the league on a regular basis. Osterville dominated the 1920s, winning four of the first six league titles before disbanding. “The village was a baseball hotbed throughout the ’20s and ’30s,” Price wrote in “Baseball by the Beach”.
Falmouth, which owns the second-most championships in league history (14), won this era’s marathon, though, winning two titles in the ’20s and adding five more in the ’30s.
1946-1963: The Post-War Baseball Boom
By the late ’30s, the financial damage wrought by the Great Depression eventually caught up with—and impacted—municipal finances on the Cape. This factor, combined with the distant drumbeat of war in Europe, diminished the public’s appetite for financing baseball and the Cape League shut down from 1940 through 1945.
When the league was born anew in 1946, fans did flock back to the Cape for a summer of sun, fun and baseball, as did a growing number of college players. The league was divided into Upper Cape and Lower Cape divisions, with the top teams in each division meeting in the postseason to decide the league’s championship.
One of the most transformative moves made during this era was by the Sagamore Clouters, who decided to surreptitiously recruit the best college baseball players in the nation. Because of this decision, the Clouters were amongst the league’s elite during the 1950s. Eclipsed only by Orleans, which captured five championships, Sagamore earned four titles during the rock-and-roll decade.
Price, in “Baseball by the Beach”, reports legendary Cotuit General Manager Arnold Mycock as saying, “The other teams began to see that if they wanted to compete, they would have to sign college players.”
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