A brief history of the Cape Cod Baseball League’s winningest team
Fans of the Cape Cod Baseball League who tuned in to the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians likely recognized some familiar faces between the foul lines.
Cleveland’s lights-out closer, Andrew Miller, once brought the heat for Chatham, while Cubs catcher David Ross called games for Brewster in 1996. In total, 13 players on the World Series rosters are Cape League alumni, and of those, five once took the field for the Cotuit Kettleers. That’s no scorer’s error: Indeed, Indians Mike Clevinger, Yan Gomes, Jason Kipnis, and Jeff Manship played for the Kettleers just a few summers ago, as did Justin Grimm, now a pitcher for the World Series champion Cubs. If these numbers seem inflated, consider the following two statements: One, according to Cape League statistics, 297 league alumni saw action in Major League Baseball in 2016; and two, the Kettleers, who play their home games in a quiet residential section of a village some Cape Codders would need GPS to find, are the most successful team in Cape League history.
In addition to the big leaguers mentioned above, Cotuit’s roster of alumni-stars goes on and on, and includes Will Clark, Ron Darling, Tim Salmon, Josh Paul, Greg Vaughn, and many more. Terry Steinbach, who went on to play for the Oakland Athletics, was a standout for Cotuit and still holds the league record for hits in a season. Since 1961, these and other athletes from around the country have helped the Kettleers win 16 league titles—the most of any Cape team.
“We’re proud,” says Paul Logan, the team’s president since 2008. “We’re very proud. The Kettleers organization, and games at Lowell Park, is sort of a fabric of the community in Cotuit and the surrounding areas. We have a nice venue and passionate fans, longtime fans.”
In 2016, the Kettleers completed their 70th season in Cape League play. In interviews this fall, members of the community, including volunteers, journalists, fans, and two former players, shared some thoughts, quotes, and anecdotes about their experiences with the team. Most interviewees also commented on Arnold Mycock, otherwise known as Mr. Cotuit Kettleer, who was involved with the team as a volunteer for 66 years before passing away in April of 2016. He was 92.
“It was very difficult for the league and the organization to lose somebody who had done the things Arnold had done,” Logan says. “This was our 70th season in 2016—and Arnold was a part of 66 of them. In my opinion he was one of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever met in my life.”
The Cotuit squad was formed in 1946, but baseball on Cape Cod dates back to at least the late 19th century. Paul Galop, the Cape League’s commissioner, says there are records of a game played at the Barnstable County Fair between two town teams, circa 1885. During the early years of the 20th century, a number of towns fielded their own baseball teams, but play fizzled out during World War II. After the war, with young men returned to the Cape, the league was reinvigorated in 1946 and that’s when a Cotuit team was founded. The next year, the Kettleers played their first official season.
Stewart Goodwin has been a fan since the very beginning, attending his first Cotuit game in 1946. He was 7. At that time, the roster consisted of local players from Cotuit and Mashpee, and though located in the same spot as it is today, the Cotuit ball field lacked modern frills, like fences.
In that era, Goodwin says the best of the town teams was the Sagamore Clouters, and he recalls watching a game in Bourne where slugger Jim Perkins hit a ball into the canal on one bounce. During a game at Falmouth’s field in Falmouth Heights, Perkins blasted a ball into Vineyard Sound. “He couldn’t run very well,” Goodwin says of Perkins, “but he was a formidable power hitter.”
Goodwin says cheering on, and volunteering for the Kettleers over the years has been a wonderful experience for both him and his family. “I always thought of it as the way baseball should be, on grass, in the daylight. It’s a family sport. It’s just a great environment. The field is just one of the most beautiful little fields that you’d ever want to see.”
What drives his passion for this local squad? “Cotuit is our team,” Goodwin says. “This team has represented our village. It’s been something we always did, the team we always rooted for, and they were generally successful. There have been a lot of good games and a lot of dramatic wins over the years. It’s been a fun team to watch.”
In 1950, Arnold Mycock, who grew up in Somerset, served in the Army Air Corps during World War II and then attended Brown University, moved to Cotuit and quickly got involved with the Kettleers. He took on the position of general manager—a role he would keep until 1994—and over the years he played a key role in helping transition the league into what it is today: the premier collegiate summer league in the country.
“Arnold was the godfather of the Cape Cod Baseball League and an absolute gentleman,” says Galop. “The Kettleers have clearly been one of the storied franchises around the league for many years. They have always been in a leadership role, and they’ve got a lot to be proud of. They’ve done a wonderful job.”
In 1962 there were two baseball leagues on Cape Cod, one each for the Upper and Lower Cape. That fall, representatives from both, including Mycock, met to discuss the future, eventually deciding to join forces and merge into a single eight-team league with all college players. The following year, 1963, is considered the first year of the modern Cape Cod Baseball League. Cotuit won the last two titles before the merger, the first two after, 12 during Mycock’s tenure as GM, and 16 in total since 1961.
Following the merger, Galop says Cotuit began to recruit players from colleges west of the Mississippi, a practice Cape teams at the time were not doing. With Cotuit’s success on the field, other teams also began to look west.
A journalist for the Cape Cod Times for 43 years, Bill Higgins has attended, written about, and edited articles covering many Cape League games. “Cotuit was always one of my favorite ballparks,” he says. “For me it was the quintessential baseball experience. It’s kind of a Norman Rockwell type of experience. You pull up your lawn chair behind the backstop. And, like at all of the Cape League fields, you’re just 30 feet from the action.”
Growing up in Harwich, Higgins followed the Mariners, but he has supported many teams over the years. “Cotuit has always had strong teams,” he says, pointing out the great Kettleer squads of the 1970s that won five of six titles from 1972-1977. Citing a few individual players, Higgins remembers Jeff Reardon, who later starred for the Red Sox, and a “blue chip” catcher named Danny Goodwin. He also recalls Ron Darling, who hit, pitched, played the outfield, and won league MVP honors in 1980 before eventually joining the New York Mets.
Darling still works with the Mets today, as a TV commentator. “Playing for the Cotuit Kettleers, and Arnold Mycock, and [coach] George Greer was the greatest summer I ever had playing baseball,” Darling writes in an email. “Sounds like hyperbole, but it was the last summer that I played a position and only pitched sparingly. I will never forget the summer of 1980.”
Another former pro who is now in broadcasting is Tim Salmon, who hit 299 home runs during a lengthy career with the California Angels. Salmon says he enjoyed his time on Cape Cod in 1988, but it took him some time to adjust. A native of Arizona, Salmon arrived in Cotuit following his sophomore year at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. “It was my first time being away from home,” he recalls, adding that Massachusetts was a different world from what he knew growing up. “It was really intriguing as a youngster trying to get my bearings straight,” he says. “The East Coast lifestyle, the Boston Red Sox—everyone lived and died with everything the Red Sox did.”
Salmon also had to adjust to the wooden bats used in the Cape League, and to the stiff competition. In his first few games, the outfielder struggled at the plate. After a few games, though, he strung some hits together, then a few more, and he ended up having a successful season, leading the squad in both hits and runs. “It’s high-talent baseball,” he says, “and there are lots of players who are looking to get there. It was a big adjustment—but I made the adjustment, and that was huge. Looking back on it, I had so much fun playing, and for my career, it was very instrumental.”
Today, Salmon lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife and four children. He films TV broadcasts with the Angels—now called the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—and he’s the head coach of a high school baseball team. Since 1988, Salmon has never been back to the Cape. With all the traveling teams do during the season, he says getting on another plane in the off-season was always low on the priority list, but he and his wife do want to make the trip. “It’s on our bucket list.”
Like many players of his era, Salmon worked during his Cape League summer; he made sandwiches and packed ice at a grocery store in Barnstable. Like all Cape League players, he also lived with a host family. For many, this particular aspect of the Cape League, where players live with local families during the season, is very special.
Ward and Renee Dunning of Cotuit hosted several players over the years, eventually retiring from the role in 1997. “We’re the old timers, that’s for sure,” Renee says. “We’ve been with the organization for 30 years, maybe. We stayed involved because of the people. It became family to us. Our kids grew up with the Kettleers, and now our grandkids are going to the field.”
Why make all this effort? “Because this is my community,” Renee says, “and it’s such an integral part of Cape Cod. It’s exciting to see these boys come here, and be scouted, and see their inspirations and hopes written all over their faces.”
One player who stayed with the Dunnings was Josh Paul, the Cape League’s MVP in 1995. A student at Vanderbilt, Paul went on to play several years in the majors, and was inducted into the Cape League Hall of Fame in 2006. During the ceremony at the Chatham Bars Inn, Ward Dunning had the honor of introducing him.
“We have always been happy to be involved,” Ward says of his family’s role. “It was nice to give back to someone and help them get a start in their careers.” He says the experience was also beneficial for his children. “Our kids were 12 and 10 when we first started hosting players, and all of a sudden they would have an instant big brother.” The family attended most of the team’s games those years, and when there was free time they brought the players for dinner, or on trips to Sandy Neck Beach.
What about feeding the players? “Every house parent does it a little differently, and each of the teams do it a little differently,” Renee says, but generally the host parents provide the players—all in their late teens or early 20s—three meals a day. Looking back, Renee can visualize boxes of cereal being “inhaled,” and piles of bread and deli meats vanishing in a cloud of dust.
In Marstons Mills, the Tenaglia family has hosted 14 players, and Ann Marie Tenaglia says it’s been an enjoyable ride for her entire family. “I think the friendships, both near and far, are the absolute best part of our Kettleer experience,” she says. “We’ve met people from every corner of America, and we’ve met amazing people in our own Cape Cod backyard. These are lifelong friendships.”
One individual who has observed the Kettleers’ success from the outside is Chuck Sturtevant, president of the Cape League. “Cotuit has always been one of the strongest leaders in the western division,” Sturtevant says, “and their fan base over the years is phenomenal.” Prior to his current role, Sturtevant was the longtime general manager of the Falmouth Commodores, and Cotuit was the competition.
At games, he often saw Mycock and his buddies Moe Sherman and Art Brennan sitting together in the top row of the bleachers. “I got to know the cast of characters very well,” Sturtevant says. “I called them the three amigos. They were all Cotuit mainstays. They maintained the field—they maintained everything.” Following Cotuit victories against his teams, of which there were many, “Arnold would say ‘thanks for the win, Chuck,’” Sturtevant recalls.
“Arnold loved the game, he loved the Cape Cod Baseball League, and he loved the Cotuit Kettleers,” Sturtevant adds. “He’s probably more well known by more major leaguers than any other person in the league because of what he did for them.”
Paul Rikfin, a longtime Cotuit resident, got to know Mycock while taking photos at Kettleers games for The Barnstable Enterprise. He recalls that Mycock would always keep the box score. “He had a love for the game that was wonderful,” Rifkin says. A native of New York, Rifkin grew up a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, rooting for Jackie Robinson and Gil Hodges. He and Mycock often chatted about the history of the Cape League.
Speaking of history, Galop, who spent many years serving in many roles for the Chatham Anglers before being elected commissioner, mentioned a few dramatic championship series that Cotuit and Chatham played over the years. In 1992, Chatham clinched the title at Cotuit in a 12-inning game; three years later, Cotuit won the first game, Chatham took the second, and Cotuit claimed the third for the crown.
The teams faced off again in 1999. Chatham had home-field advantage and won game one. In game two, Cotuit snatched victory from the jaws of defeat late in the contest. Leading by a run in the ninth, Chatham brought in reliever Derrick DePriest, who hadn’t allowed a run all summer! Cotuit put a few hits together, and somehow eked out the win. “That,” Galop says, “ripped our hearts out in Chatham.” In the third game at Chatham, the Kettleers won decisively: 7-1. “It was exciting,” Galop says. “The sad part was my team was on the short end. Here it is 16 years later and it’s still a wound.”
Since Paul Logan has been involved with the Kettleers, the team has won two championship trophies—now named for Arnold Mycock—in 2010 and 2013. Following the victory in 2010 there was a joyous celebration on the field, Logan recalls, and the next day the players were all headed back to their colleges or hometowns.
“It was a lot of fun,” Logan says. “You knew you were the best of the best for the Cape League that season—and Cotuit was the best of the best that year. And hey, it’s always fun to win.”
Matthew J. Gill is the editor of Cape Cod LIFE magazine.