PLAY BALL! From the Cape Cod Baseball League to the Hall of Fame
A great favorite was Danny MacFayden, described as the only native Cape Codder to make the big leagues. Born in North Truro, and known locally as ‘Old Reliable, he helped pitch Osterville to the 1924 Cape League championship. The next year he played for Falmouth. And in 1926 he was on the Boston Red Sox staff. MacFayden closed his career with the 1943 Boston Braves.
Towns were in the league one year out the next. In addition to the original four entries from Barnstable, Bourne, ChathamHarwich, Harwich, Orleans, Provincetown, and Wareham participated, but did not limit themselves to league play city clubs commonly were engaged. Falmouth, in 1929, even took on the Boston Braves, losing an 8 to 7 exhibition. The Enterprise earlier had commented, ‘The caliber of ball in the league is being recognized by all the Boston experts as about as good as can be found outside the big show.
Cape baseball peaked in the late thirties. It’s unlikely the game ever will regain the widespread popularity of the period. A Barnstable County Twilight League and a Lower Cape League were formed of local players. Hyannis even had a special ‘road team as well as an Industrial League. A number of independent teams existed. The sport was so popular that a small town like Brewster had two teams at once.
Financial troubles plagued the Cape League; Barnstable could not afford a team in 1938. Orleans stepped in. In 1939 Orleans was out and Barnstable returned. Midseason, Hyannis restaurateurs saved the league from collapse. Admission ($.25) was charged. Barnstable town meeting repeatedly refused to fund the town’s entry.
On July 19, 1939 a novel approach was tried. The first Cape League night game was played under portable lights in Falmouth Heights. Barnstable played Falmouth before 1,200 fans (643 paid admissions) The lights were poor. Balls were lost in both darkness and glare. The Barnstable scorekeeper asked Manager Pete Herman how to record a drive knocked down by an infielder but lost in the shadows. Herman replied, Make note of the fact that he got through the play alive.
But the league did not survive. Barnstable in 1940 again refused to appropriate funds for baseball. The league disbanded, its energies diverted to war mobilization.
Early in 1946 the Cape Cod Athletic Association ‘revived’ the Cape Cod Baseball League; in reality however the revived league descended from the County Twilight League and the Lower Cape League. The new league prohibited paid players and required all players to be “bonafide residents of Cape Cod”. Teams from Bourne to Eastham participated. The Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Otis Air Force Base, and the Cape Verdean Club also entered teams.
By the early 1960s interest waned and rules were amended; the league became a summer collegiate circuit. Sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and assisted financially by the major leagues, the Cape Cod Baseball League now is recognized as one of the top amateur leagues in the country Chatham, Cotuit, Falmouth, Harwich, Hyannis, Orleans, Wareham, and Yarmouth-Dennis currently are members. Bill Enos, Boston Red Sox scout claims, ‘It’s the best organized nonprofessional league I’ve seen.
With such a colorful heritage and solid reputation, gilding the lily is unnecessary.
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