Minor League history: Eastern Shore League (1922-1928)

The Eastern Shore League debuted in 1922 and lasted through 1928. The second run of the league was in from 1937 through 1941. The final run lasted four years, from 1946 through 1949. The league was classified as a Class D League. 

During the first run of the Eastern Shore League, the champions played the champions of the Blue Ridge League in what was called the five state championship. The Eastern Shore League won in 1923, 1924 and 1927, while the Blue Ridge League won in 1922, 1925 and 1926.

Cities represented 1922-1928:

Cambridge, MD: Cambridge Canners 1922-1928
Crisfield, MD: Crisfield Crabbers 1922-1928
Dover, DE: Dover Senators 1923-1924; Dover Dobbins 1925; Dover Senators 1926
Easton, MD: Easton Farmers 1924-1928
Laurel, DE: Laurel Blue Hens 1922-1923
Milford, DE: Milford Sandpipers 1923
Northampton, VA: Northampton Red Sox 1927-1928
Parksley, VA: Parksley Spuds 1922-1928
Pocomoke City, MD: Pocomoke City Salamanders 1922-1923
Salisbury, MD: Salisbury Indians 1922-1928

The Eastern Shore League was the start of the career of Jimmy Foxx, considered the best first baseman of those days behind Lou Gehrig. Foxx spent the bulk of his career with the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston Red Sox. Foxx broke into the majors as a catcher and in the twilight of his career he also pitched in some games in which he sported a very good ERA of only 1.59.
Fox was invited for a tryout with the Easton Farmers and Frank “Homerun” Baker, who managed the team was very impressed with Foxx. So Foxx played with the Farmers for the 1924 season before Baker recommended him to Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics. Eventually Foxx would become the Athletics’ regular first baseman in 1925.

Frank “Homerun” Baker used to be a famed ballplayer as well. He played for the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Yankees from 1908 through 1922, before he became player manager for the Easton Farmers. Baker hit a lifetime career batting average of .307 with 96 homeruns. 96 may seem a small number for someone with the nickname Homerun, but he played in the midst of the dead ball era.

Frank “Homerun” Baker’s plaque in Cooperstown

In the first season of the ESL, the Parksley Spuds won the pennant with a six game lead over the Cambridge Canners. In the Five-State Championship vs Martinsburg, the winner of the Blue Ridge League, the Canners didn’t stand a chance as they were swept 4-0.

In 1923, the Cambridge Canners finished as runner up again, trailing the Dover Senators by three games. The Senators then took on Martinsburg in the Five-State Championship and came out as a victor, beating the BRL champion 4-2. In that 1923 season, the Milford Sandpipers had used an ineligible player. Instead of forfeiting all the games in which they used that player, the team rather retreated from the league. The Pomoke City Salamanders folded on August 21.

Canners stock
A 1923 stock of the Cambridge Canners

In 1924, the Parksley Spuds won the pennant again with a one game lead over the Cambridge Canners, who finished second for the third year in a row,  and moved on to the Five-State Championship where they met Martinsville, that seemed to have a subscription to Blue Ridge League titles. The Spuds beat Martinsville 4-2 for the overall championship.

Easton Farmers
The 1924 Easton Farmers 

Despite the two future Hall of Famers on the team, the 1924 Easton Farmers finished dead last, twenty-three games out of first place.

The 1925 championship was finally won by the Cambridge Canners, but the team fell in a nailbiting Five-State Championship to the Hagerstown Hubs four games to three.

In 1926 a salary scandal hit the league as four teams exceeded the salary limit of the league. Thirty-four wins of the Easton Farmers were reversed, nineteen of the Parksley Spuds, twenty-three of the Dover Senators and twenty-two of the Cambridge Canners. Due to the reversal of all those games the Crisfield Crabbers won the championship with a seven game lead over the Salisbury Indians and a twenty-four game lead over the Dover Senators. In the Five-State Championship, the Hagerstown Hubs beat the Crabbers by four games to two.

The 1927 pennant would be won by the Parksley Spuds with an eleven game lead over the Salisbury Indians. The Spuds would continue their good play and won the final Five-State Championship, as it would not be played in 1928, by beating the Chambersburg Maroons by four games to two.

In 1928, the final year of the first run, the league disbanded about half way due to a collapse in farm prices and thus farm income. With lacking income the farmers did not have money to spend on attending ballgames. With the attendance declining the owners voted for a premature end of the league as the league disbanded on July 11.

ESL rulebook
A 1927 Eastern Shore League Rule Book

Another player for whom the Eastern Shore League was the start of a big career was Mickey Cochrane. Cochrane was part of the 1923 championship team of the Dover Senators. Cochrane started was a catcher. If he had not been a catcher in the A’s team, Jimmy Foxx may have ended up as one as he was catcher for the  Easton Farmers.
Cochrane was a life time .320 hitter in a thirteen year MLB career in which he spent the most seasons with the Phillies before he was traded to the Tigers in 1934 and played the final four years of his career in Detroit.

Red Ruffing also played in the Eastern Shore League. Just like the aforementioned players, Ruffing ended up as a Hall of Famer. He was a pitcher that played with the Red Sox, the Yankees and the White Sox in a 22-year career in which he posted a 273-225 record with a 3.80 ERA. Ruffing started his professional career in the class B Triple I League in 1923 before he moved to the ESL in 1924. He played with the Dover Senators before his contract was bought by the Red Sox later that year.

 

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