Years the League Operated

1915 1916 1917 1918 1920
1921 1922 1923 1924 1925
1926 1927 1928 1929 1930

Standings and League Leaders

1916 1917 1918 1921 1922


History - 1918

Class D, Blue Ridge League - Chapter 4
1918: A Season Cut Short Due to War
by Mark Zeigler

 

Box Scores

Newspaper Clippings

 
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 officially ended.
 
 
Blue 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.
 
Unfortunately, as 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 International League.
 
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.
 
 
Blue Ridge 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.
 
 
Scrambling to Field Enough Teams
 
With Frederick’s 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 play.
 
 
The Managers on the Field
 
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.
 
 
Drybugs Join BRL Ranks
 
Hagerstown 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.
 
 
Season Opens
 
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 in Cumberland.
 
 
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.
 
 
Prospects
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.

Vic Keen, Hagerstown Terriers, Pitcher
©Baseball Hall of Fame Library, Cooperstown, NY.

 
Mysterious Ending
 
The Martinsburg 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.
 
 
Piedmont and 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 Bat
 
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 Ridge League.
 
 
Where Do We Go From Here?
 
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 1919
 
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.
 
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End Chapter Four
 
 
 

Box Scores

 

Newspaper Clippings

Newspaper clippings credited to www.newspaperarchives.com and
Maryland Room of the The C. Burr Artz Library, Frederick, MD

 

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