Minor League history: Eastern Shore League (1946-1949)

After the previous Eastern Shore League folded due to financial problems in 1941, no new effort was made in reestablishing the league during WWII. But in 1946 the league was started up again as it contained most of the former cities. The league was rated as a class D league again. 
The league would last four years before calling it quits for good.

When Fred Lucas, former manager of the Cambridge Cardinals, asked the Brooklyn Dodgers to invest in the local ballpark, this would be the spark plug for other teams to join
forces with MLB clubs as well. So the third edition of the Eastern Shore League was born. Lucas was working for the Dodgers organization for several years and he invited Branch Rickey to the area for fishing and duck hunting trips. The area was a hotbed of baseball fans. Fred Lucas eventually persuaded Ricky to invest $60,000 in Dodger Park.

Fred Lucas later would become the organizer and president of Cambridge Little League, Cambridge Colt League and Cambridge Pony League. Lucas had a cup of tea with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1935. In 27 games and 34 at bats, he collected nine hits (.265) and drove in two runs. He was mainly used as a pinch hitter and he played only three games in right field.
Lucas was born in New Jersey but apparently fell in love with the area of the Delmarva Peninsula as he returned there after he played for and managed the Cambridge team in 1937 and 1939.

Cities represented:

Cambridge, MD: Cambridge Dodgers 1946-1949
Centreville, MD:Centreville Orioles 1946
Dover, DE: Dover Phillies1946-1948
Easton, MD: Easton Yankees  1946-1949
Federalsburg, MD:  Federalsburg A’s 1946-1948; Federalsburg Feds 1949
Milford, DE:  Milford Red Sox 1946-1948
Pocomoke City, MD: ; Pocomoke City Chicks 1940
Rehoboth Beach, DE: Rehoboth Beach Pirates 1947-1948; Rehoboth Beach Sea Hawks 1949
Salisbury, MD: Salisbury Cardinals 1940-1941, 1946-1949
Seaford, DE: Seaford Eagles 1946-1949

The 1946 pennant was won by the Centreville Orioles. The team beat the Dover Phillies  4-3 in the semi-finals and the Milford Red Sox 4-1 in the championship series. Remarkable feat about this team that existed for only one season is that no future MLB player was on the roster.

All the efforts to revive baseball in Cambridge paid off in 1947 as the Cambridge Dodgers won the regular season with a 91-34 record, the best in professional baseball in that season. But eventually they were beaten by the Seaford Eagles, who beat them in the championship series in seven games.

Cambridge Dodgers
The 1947 Eastern Shore League runners up, the Cambridge Dodgers

Chris Van Cuyk led the league in the 1947 season with several pitching stats. The Cambridge Dodgers pitcher recorded the most wins (25), 279 strikeouts, the lowest ERA (1.93) and a winning percentage of .926 (25-2). Van Cuyk debuted with Brooklyn in 1950 as he pitched seven innings for the win vs the St. Louis Cardinals. Van Cuyk would pitch his last MLB game in 1952 when he gave up four runs in only 0.1 innings pitched. He finished his career in 1957 with the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern Association, then a Washington Nationals affiliate.

Richard Hall: 16-4 for the Milford Red Sox in 1948 but never made it to the Majors

From 1948 the league play offs were not played in a semi-final and championship series format. The league opted for a round robin format. The two teams that ended on top of the standings after six games would take on each other in the championship series. The 1948 season was finished with the Salisbury Cardinals on top of the standings but the team went 2-4 in the round robin and did not reach the championship series. That honor was for the Milford Red Sox and the Cambridge Dodgers. In the final year of the league, the Easton Yankees would finish on top of the standings but did not make it to the championship series as well. The Rehoboth Beach Sea Hawks won the pennant by beating the Federalsburg Feds in seven games.

After the 1949 season, most MLB teams turned their back to the Eastern Shore League, so there were no funds to field teams anymore. This sealed the feat of the league that did not return for the 1950 season. Without the support of the MLB clubs the league could not survive as the ticket sales were so low that running a team was an unprofitable business for the owners.

Next to the aforementioned players that made it to the bigs, the most well known players of the Eastern Shore League were Don Zimmer, who joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954 but who was most know as a manager of the Chicago Cubs and as bench coach of the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. The other well known Eastern Shore League player was Bill Ripken, uncle of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken jr. and his brother Billy Ripken.

In 1997 the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame Museum opened its doors at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in Salisbury MD, home of the Delmarva ShoreBirds. The museum is mainly dedicated to the Eastern Shore League and is opened during the South Atlantic League season.


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