Years the League Operated
Standings and League Leaders
History - 1918
Class D, Blue Ridge League
- Chapter 4
1918: A Season Cut Short Due to War
by Mark Zeigler
HAGERSTOWN, MD -
The Great War in Europe had finally reached the shores of the
United States in 1917, and by the time to plan for the following
season, many able bodied young men had already signed up to
serve their country. With a shortage of players and
finances, many leagues folded by the time the 1917 season
Ridge Only Class D League Left Standing
When the 1918
season began, only ten leagues in all of the classifications
started play. The Blue Ridge League was the only Class D
league in operation. The other leagues remaining included
the three Class AA leagues: American Association, International
and Pacific Coast; two Class A leagues: Southern and Western;
three Class B leagues: Eastern, Pacific Coast International and
Texas; and one Class C league, Virginia.
the war effort continued, leagues were forced to suspend
operations or disband due to lack of players and finances by the
individual clubs. By September, the only baseball being
played came from the two Major Leagues, and the Class AA
The Class D, Blue
Ridge League, under the leadership of James Vincent Jamison,
Jr., had many uphill battles to start the season, but with a
little creativity and help from a few new sources, began the
season, unfortunately, that would not last very long.
League Loses Several Members
When the 1917
season ended, the financially insolvent Gettysburg (PA) club
ceased operations. With the addition of the Cumberland
(MD) franchise in July of 1917, the Hanover (PA) club complained
about inconveniences and travel costs in traveling such a long
distance to that Western Maryland town. With Gettysburg no
longer in the league, Hanover soon dropped out, citing financial
concerns and the lack of resources to properly field a team.
On March 6, 1918,
the league moguls met to decide the fate of the league at the
Hamilton Hotel in Hagerstown (MD). With Hagerstown,
Cumberland and Frederick verbally committing to field teams, it
was decided then to field four teams, with Martinsburg (WV)
agreeing to become the fourth league club. The
representatives of each club were Colonel N. W. Russler of
Cumberland, Frank K. Schmidt of Frederick, J. C. Roulette, T. B.
South, and W. C. Conley of Hagerstown, and C. A. Miller, E. C.
Shepherd, and Max von Schlagel of Martinsburg.
With four clubs
agreeing to begin play, the leagued looked like it would
continue until two weeks before the beginning of the season.
On May 10, Schmidt of the Frederick club announced that they
would not be able to field a team for the 1918 season due to the
lack of enthusiasm among their supporters, because of their
concentrated efforts on the war overseas.
Field Enough Teams
unexpected announcement, League President Jamison was forced to
scramble to find enough teams to continue the league. He
had previously invited representatives from York (PA) and
Harrisburg (PA) to join the league, but they declined due to
travel and financial concerns.
Chambersburg (PA), a original member of the league, which
lost in franchise the previous June 30 to Cumberland, was also
touted as a possible replacement, but their home ballpark, known
as Wolf Field, had been plowed up and was being used for
agricultural purposes, leaving them with no place to play.
Luckily for Jamison and the league, tiny Piedmont, located along
the Potomac River in Allegany County (MD), agreed to field the
fourth team to keep the league alive on May 13. The
league rescheduled their opening day for May 28, which gave
Piedmont just two weeks to field a team and prepare a field to
The Managers on
The four managers
selected at the beginning of the season included veteran William
“Country” Morris who was started his fourth season as
manager of the Martinsburg club. Eddie Hooper, who managed
Chambersburg in 1916 and part of 1917, returned to manage the
Cumberland club. Hagerstown was managed by Ernest
“Doc” Ferris, and the new Piedmont clubs was managed by
Arthur “Shorty” Smith. Piedmont tried to
hire native son and former Major Leaguer, Bill Louden, but were
caught in a dispute with his former club, Minneapolis (MN), when
they would not release him from his contract. When the AA
club later offered Louden for $1,000, the Piedmont club
said “no, thanks,” and kept Smith at the helm.
continued to use the moniker “Terriers” for the 1918 season,
while Martinsburg continued to use “Mountaineers”, and
Cumberland “Colts”. Piedmont decided to call
themselves the “Drybugs”, for the nickname of an insect that
was popular in that region of the Potomac River.
When the league
opened on May 28 in Hagerstown, it featured an entirely
different look, as many players from the season before had
signed up for the armed service, or were playing on different
clubs. Martinsburg won a rain shortened season opener over
the Terriers, 3 to 1, in a game that featured former Frederick
Hustlers manager, Tom Crooke playing for the Mountaineers.
In the other season opener, the Colts defeated Piedmont, 9 to 6
A Few Good Men
As the season
started, several prospects started to emerge, however the war
effort quickly began to take its toll on the young men playing
ball in the Blue Ridge League. Martinsburg’s top
slugger, Hager, and Malone of Cumberland both were called to
active duty less than one week into the season, which followed a
pattern that would plague the league’s officials in trying to
field quality teams.
Hagerstown pitcher Victor Keen, a Eastern Shore teenager
from Snow Hill, joined the Terriers, and instantly
became a popular player in the Hub City, along with
becoming one of the league’s better pitchers.
Cumberland player/manager Hooper and third baseman, Joe
Brophy, were among the league’s best batters.
One of the strangest games of the
season was on June 1 when Cumberland scored three
unearned runs in the first inning to defeat Hagerstown 3
to 1, despite only getting only one hit off Terriers’
pitcher, George Zinn.
Two of the best games of
the season came off the arm of Piedmont’s Rose Brown, who
tossed back-to-back shutouts. Brown won a 1-0 pitcher’s
duel against Cumberland’s Hammill on June 2, and came back
five days later to toss a two-hit shutout at Martinsburg,
defeating Mountaineers hurler, Fitch, 2-0.
Keen, Hagerstown Terriers, Pitcher
©Baseball Hall of Fame Library, Cooperstown, NY.
club was on shaky ground financially when the season started.
When they experimented with game times to twi-light, they
realized that their attendance at the gate did not improve ,and
their officials, realizing that they were in a losing
proposition with a lack of attendance and increased travel
costs, devised a plan that led to the demise of the league on
June 15. As other minor league began to disband due to the
concentrated war effort, the sentiment was similar with some of
the officials in the Blue Ridge League. The league was in
its second week, when Martinsburg called a meeting of the four
member clubs in the West Virginia town. Piedmont, not
realizing the urgency of the meeting, sent a proxy with League
President, Jamison, and Cumberland was not aware of the details
of the meeting. That would prove fatal, as Martinsburg’s
officials had planned to convince the discontinuance of the
league less than three weeks into the season. Since
Hagerstown President, J. C. Roulette was confined to his bed
with a serious illness, his Vice-President, T. B. South
represented the Terriers. Martinsburg officials took
advantage of this situation, and convinced South to agree with
them to suspend the remainder of the season, due to the war
effort. With Cumberland and Piedmont against disbanding,
the final vote rested with President Jamison, who eventually
agreed with Martinsburg, that it would be in everyone’s best
interest to suspend operations.
Cumberland’s Last Game
Saturday, June 15
turned out to be the last game of the season, and the last of
Piedmont and Cumberland in the Blue Ridge League.
Hagerstown defeated the Drybugs 4 to 3, while Cumberland
defeated Martinsburg, 5-0 behind a five-hit shutout by pitcher
named “Lefty” Block. The Colts (11-6) had the best
record of the suspended season, but would not receive any
accolades since the season would be considered incomplete, as
the league lasted less than three weeks. Cumberland, still
furious over the way Martinsburg “hoodwinked” the other
league members to disband, announced that they would keep their
club, and play independent ball for the remainder of the season.
That resentment would run deep, as Colonel Russler vowed that
his Cumberland club would not return to the Blue Ridge league.
Quiet at the
When the season
ended after the 17th scheduled game, Hagerstown (7-10) batters
had the distinction of not hitting any triples or home runs
during the 1918 season. Hooper, the Colts player/manager,
led the league with three round-trippers, in a year where the
home runs were not a common sight at the ball fields of the Blue
Where Do We Go
With the abrupt
end to professional baseball in the Blue Ridge, those players
and officials not signing to join the armed services had to find
alternatives. The area Industrial Leagues, especially in
Hagerstown and Waynesboro, soon recruited several of the former
Blue Ridge League players to work and play for their company
teams. In some areas, the local Church Leagues also saw an
increase of misplaced ballplayers on their teams. In
Cumberland and Piedmont, an independent league schedule was
formed with neighboring West Virginia towns of Clarksburg and
Fairmont, to serve those communities interest in the sport.
No Baseball in
The effects of the
war, the flu epidemic that raged throughout the country the
latter part of 1918, and the limited resources and finances of
the remaining league towns, kept the Blue Ridge League from
returning in 1919, which was a boom to the area Industrial
Leagues. Among the casualties was Hagerstown team
president, J. C. Roulette who passed away later in the year,
causing disinterest within the ranks to try and continue the
following year. It would 1920, before baseball would
return to the towns of the Blue Ridge League.
End Chapter Four
Newspaper clippings credited to
Maryland Room of the The C.
Burr Artz Library, Frederick, MD