This article was written by James Holl
This article was published in The National Pastime: Monumental Baseball (Washington, DC, 2009)
Fans come from miles around—families in wheezing Model Ts, farmers by horse-drawn wagons, folks of all ages on bicycles and on foot. Down flat, dusty roads past fertile fields of potatoes, melons, and corn ripening fast in the late summer sun. Their destination—the sleepy little town of Parksley, Virginia, hard by the Maryland state line on the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore. More precisely, they had come on this hot September afternoon in 1922 to watch a baseball game between their hometown Parksley Spuds, champions of the newly formed Eastern Shore League, and the Martinsburg Blue Sox, champions of the Blue Ridge League, in a battle for Class D baseball regional supremacy they were calling the Five-State Series.
By 3:30 game time, the ancient wooden grandstand was already overflowing with a crowd easily twice the size of Parksley’s 600 souls. They had filled the seats early and were entertained by the Onacock Band while waiting for league officials and other local dignitaries to join the two teams in a parade to the center-field flag-raising ceremonies. By the time the Spuds took the field and home plate umpire Arthur Cloak called “play ball,” the fans had long been on their feet.
Few were giving Parksley much of a chance. Al- though Spuds manager Thomas “Poke” Whalen had put together a decent team that won the 1922 pennant by six games over Cambridge, the Spuds were decided underdogs. The swaggering Martinsburg team had bludgeoned their way to the Blue Ridge League title with sluggers George “Reggie” Rawlings and Lewis “Hack” Wilson terrorizing their opponents. The visitors had come to this isolated Eastern Shore village ready to show the upstart Parksley lads who really was the boss of Class D baseball in the Bay region. Time for talk was past and braggin’ rights were on the line.
The answer was quick in coming. Martinsburg rocked veteran Parksley right-hander Frank Hummer for four home runs and took a convincing 8–3 win in the opening game before a disappointed crowd of 1,445 fans. Blue Sox pitcher Hank Hulvey allowed the Spuds only four hits.
The next day was a repeat, with Martinsburg taking a 3–0 decision. Walter “Yap” Seaman doled out three measly singles and shortstop Johnny Brehany supplied the only needed run with a first-inning drive over the left-field fence.
The series moved to Salisbury on September 9, where a large crowd of 2,229 jammed Gordy Park to watch a close and exciting game go to Martinsburg 2—1 in eleven innings. Ross Roberts of Martinsburg and John Clayton of Parksley staged a classic pitchers’ duel, each allowing only six hits.
The Blue Sox winning run came when third baseman Joe Brophy scored on Breheny’s suicide squeeze bunt.
Two days later at Martinsburg, the Blue Sox completed a four-game sweep, again shutting out Parksley 4–0 behind lefty Kirk Heatwole. Rawlings’s home run and a triple play by the Blue Sox highlighted the action as rain shortened the game to six innings and held the home attendance at Rosemont Park to 1,196.
Martinsburg won the 1922 Five-State Series with clearly superior hitting and pitching. The Parksley club battled hard and kept the games close, for the most part. More importantly, Eastern Shore fans were solidly behind their team. The series drew a total attendance of 5,617, with the winning team players pocketing $176.92 each. The losers’ share was $1 7.92. Not bad for an extra week’s work in those days. It showed both leagues that a postseason series could be a financial success, something of real significance to struggling Class D baseball operators, not to mention the players.
THE BAY BASEBALL RIVALRY BEGINS
The Five-State Series originated as the brainchild of Baltimore Sun sports editor J. Edward Sparrow, who conceived the idea of promoting a “Baseball Championship of Maryland” in the summer of 1921. His proposal would feature the winner of the Blue Ridge League, a well-established circuit of towns in western Maryland and nearby parts of West Virginia and southern Pennsylvania, and the independent Eastern Shore League, long a hotbed of amateur baseball, eager to show it could compete on a faster professional level.
Sparrow’s idea was quickly taken up by J. Vincent Jamison Jr., a Hagerstown industrialist and president of the Blue Ridge League. Jamison was an able administrator who had kept the league in business since 1916 and tirelessly promoted it as a model of Class D stability (no mean feat for the chronically underfunded small-town ball clubs). Jamison was also well known in Organized Baseball circles, serving as the smaller Class D clubs’ representative on the National Board of Arbitration of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. He was a close personal friend of Commissioner Judge Kenesaw M. Landis, American League President Ban Johnson, and Philadelphia Athletics owner Connie Mack, whose son Earle managed Martinsburg to the Blue Ridge League championship in 1922 and 1923. Moreover, he was also advising Eastern Shore baseball interests on the process for gaining Organized Baseball recognition.
The Sun newspaper sponsored a 1921 series be- tween Frederick, the Blue Ridge League champion, and tiny Princess Anne, representing the independent Eastern Shore League, the predecessor to the 1922 Class D league. Although largely ignored by Organized Baseball people, the series was a huge regional success. Frederick won this initial series four games to one, with the final game played on September 10, 1921, at Oriole Park in Baltimore, before an estimated crowd of 10,000 fans. The two teams played a meaningless second game that Sunday afternoon, which Frederick also won.
Although Princess Anne lost, its local hero Dick Porter was on his way to a major-league career. In fact, Porter had already been sold to Jack Dunn’s Baltimore Orioles and had been “loaned” back to Princess Anne for the series. It was not enough to keep Frederick from winning, but the excitement generated in the postseason matchup was enough to convince the Sun to continue its sponsorship. When Martinsburg and Parksley won their respective pennants in 1922, Sparrow realized it was no longer solely a Maryland affair and it became the Five-State Series, covering Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania as well as Maryland.
The Five-State series was well covered by the newspapers. Ed Sparrow, of course, was there for every game, writing for the Sun. Local papers like the Martinsburg Evening Journal, the Hagerstown Morning Herald, the Dover Index, and the Cambridge Daily Banner gave extensive inning-by-inning game summaries as well as daily and composite box scores of every game. Front-page headlines and player photographs were prominently displayed, especially when the home team won. In short, the Five-State Series was big news for local baseball fans.
This intense interest created well-received recognition. The players and the leagues not only gained badly needed revenues, but the winning clubs also received the Ned Hanlon Cup and the Ban Johnson Five-State Pennant for its achievements. Individual players received miniature gold baseball medals presented by the Sun newspaper. Medals were also awarded to the Most Valuable Player from both teams participating in the postseason games.
The Five-State Series also benefited from the appearance of many notable baseball figures. Commissioner Landis, Ban Johnson, Connie Mack, Jack Dunn, and Mike Sexton, the president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, often attended games. Other major-league owners and scouts showed up to look for baseball talent on display. Although it was lowly Class D ball, the series (while it lasted) attracted an audience of fans and baseball people all out of proportion to its limited provincial base.
The series had several unique features that helped to widen its appeal. Games were often played at neutral sites in hopes of attracting more fans. Salisbury, the largest town on the Eastern Shore, was particularly favored, where Gordy Park drew the largest crowds. Games were also played at Easton in 1924 and 1926. Final deciding games were played on neutral grounds at Chambersburg in 1924, Baltimore in 1925, and Salisbury in 1927.
The leagues also permitted each team to add up to two additional players to their postseason roster. This was allowed to strengthen the lineup (pitchers were often in demand) or to compensate for late-season injuries. On more than one occasion, added players made a big difference. In 1924, a young catcher named Jimmie Foxx (spelled with one x in the box scores and stories of the era) played for Easton during the regular season. Picked up by Parksley for the postseason, Foxx wreaked havoc on Martinsburg, blasting four home runs and batting .391 in six games. Paul Richards, a future major-league manager and a Crisfield addition to the Parksley lineup in 1927, did even better, hitting .463 with five homers and winning three games single-handedly with his bat.
THE BLUE RIDGE LEAGUE
Although only a short distance from the bustling urban centers of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C., the Blue Ridge country was geographically and culturally a world away. Old factory, coal mining, and railroad towns occupied narrow valleys flanked by apple and peach orchards on the slopes of the surrounding Allegheny Mountains. It was a land only a few generations removed from searing Civil War conflict at places like Gettysburg, Antietam, and South Mountain.
Hagerstown, the largest city in the region, lay at the hub of a network of rail and trolley lines that linked it to Martinsburg to the south, Frederick to the east, and Chambersburg to the north.
Early town baseball teams cemented these connections and fierce rivalries developed. The Blue Ridge League was formed in 1915 with Hagerstown and Frederick, Maryland, Martinsburg, West Virginia, and Chambersburg, Hanover, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as the original members. The compact little circuit prospered, faltering briefly in 1918 when Gettysburg left and Chambersburg was replaced by Cumberland, Maryland. It emerged stronger than ever in 1920 when Chambersburg returned and Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, joined. In a remarkable display of stability, the same six towns comprised the Blue Ridge League for the next decade without a change in franchises, an almost unheard-of feat at the Class D baseball level.
The success of the Blue Ridge League was due in large part to the guidance of President Jamison, whose firm hand kept quarreling owners and unhappy players under control. Such was the respect for Jamison’s abilities that when he attempted to resign in 1924 to pursue other business interests, the owners quickly came to their senses, overcame their differences, and implored him to stay on the job.
Along with the league’s reputation for stability, its proximity to major East Coast cities and location at the center of a baseball-rich area meant major-league baseball clubs were always ready to stock Blue Ridge League teams with prospects. The league was the incubator for such early baseball greats as Lefty Grove, Jimmie Dykes, Joe Boley, Lu Blue, Bill Sherdel, and Hack Wilson. Later on, Joe Vosmik, Roger Cramer, Luke Hamlin, and Babe Phelps would get their starts in the Blue Ridge League. Connie Mack had a close connection with the Martinsburg team, often sending players down for added seasoning and acquiring others for his Philadelphia Athletics. Jack Dunn of the Baltimore Orioles also kept a close eye on Blue Ridge prospects.
THE EASTERN SHORE LEAGUE
In marked contrast to the well-established Blue Ridge League, the Eastern Shore League traveled a rocky road in its early years. Formed out of the same strong local baseball rivalries that existed everywhere in the early days of the century, the Eastern Shore League suffered from its relative geographic isolation and the incredibly small population bases of its league towns.
The Chesapeake Bay eastern peninsula, consisting of parts of Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia, was an insular world in the 1920s, with its own unique set of customs and traditions, a land peopled by fishermen and farmers who spoke their own distinctive Tidewater dialect. Accessibility to its shores was primarily by ferry from Annapolis or Baltimore. The largest towns, Salisbury and Cambridge, claimed barely 10,000 residents, and time passed slowly along their streets in the lazy, hot summers.
Baseball was one of the few pastimes the local folks enjoyed. Every crossroads and village had a team. When the interested parties gathered at Salisbury in October 1921 to discuss the formation of a professional league, everyone wanted in. As a result, the small towns of Pocomoke City, Crisfield, and Parksley, with populations of less than 1,000, were admitted to the fold. Although baseball fever in these tiny communities was undoubtedly high, in time the small populations were the Eastern Shore League’s downfall. The fan support base simply was not enough, and ballclub owners lost money every year.
In 1922, the Eastern Shore League was sanctioned for play by Organized Baseball as a Class D circuit. The six original members were Salisbury, Cambridge, Pocomoke City, and Crisfield, Maryland, Parksley, Virginia, and Laurel, Delaware. Interested towns like Centreville and Easton, Maryland, and Milford, Delaware, were thought to be too far north of the league’s center. As a result, the league took on a more southern tilt, a geographic feature that eventually proved unworkable.
The league was plagued by a host of problems— on and off the field—in its early years. Fan rowdyism, teams failing to show for games, and disputes over poor umpiring were rampant. Violation of player salary limits and use of excessive numbers of “class” or more experienced players were commonplace. Owners tried to expand the league to eight teams in 1923, but that ill-advised experiment failed when Milford and Pocomoke City quit before the end of the season— Milford on July 14, Pocomoke City on August 21. League presidents, first Walter Miller, then M. B. Thawley and Harry Rew, tried to instill order but it was too little and too late. When the Great Depression arrived on the Eastern Shore ahead of the rest of the country, the league could no longer stay afloat, and in July 1928, the first Eastern Shore League closed its gates. It was later revived in 1937 and, except for the war years of 1942–45, lasted until 1949.
Despite its problems, the Eastern Shore League produced many future major-league players in its early years. Among these, in addition to Foxx, Richards, and Porter were Mickey Cochrane, George Selkirk, Clint Brown, and Red Ruffing. Frank “Home Run” Baker, a Shore native, played and managed at Easton in 1924, after his major-league playing days were over.
It could be argued that the Five-State Series did more than anything else to keep the Eastern Shore League going as long as it did. It brought in badly needed revenue to ease the clubs’ financial burdens. It sustained fan interest with exciting, competitive baseball in a spirited regional rivalry. Finally, especially when the Eastern Shore team won the series, it raised a glimmer of hope for fans that, maybe, next year on the Shore things would be a little bit brighter.
1923—DOVER’S STUNNING COMEBACK
After the humiliating losses in 1921 and 1922, Eastern Shore League followers were beginning to wonder if they were in over their heads. Martinsburg, their most recent tormentors, were back again. The Blue Sox won their league title easily, finishing 15 games ahead of Waynesboro. Their opponent in this year’s series was the Dover Senators, a surprise winner who rode a late- August winning streak to overtake Cambridge for the shore championship.
The series opened on September 7 at Martinsburg’s Rosemont Park, with 1,380 fans on hand. Veteran Reggie “Doc” Rawlings homered twice to back Horace Ozmer’s six-hit pitching to give the Blue Sox a 5–4 win. Sloppy fielding hurt the Dover cause, and the local paper predicted a Martinsburg series win in five games at best.
The next afternoon Hank Hulvey outpitched Dover right-hander Ira Plank to give Martinsburg a 4–1 victory and a two-game edge in the series. Rawlings and George Quellich homered for the Blue Sox. As the teams left for Dover, it looked like the hometown newspaper folks might be right about a short series.
A sizeable contingent of Martinsburg fans motored down to Dover via Wilmington, confident of their team’s chances. Dobbins manager “Jiggs” Donahue called on local boy Fred Willey to take the mound for Game 3. Donahue’s choice proved a smart one, as Wil- ley, with the vocal backing of Delaware Governor William Denney and 1,492 Dover fans, shut down the hard-hitting Blue Sox 4–1. The Dobbins’ defense sparkled in support of Willey.
First-game starters Ozmer and Charley Humphrey squared off again in Game 4. This time the result was different. Dover first baseman Harvey McDonald’s grand slam fueled a six-run rally in the fifth inning as the Dobbins took a wild 10–6 win to even the series. Dover catcher Frank King (aka Mickey Cochrane) was ejected for arguing a called third strike and grabbing umpire Sipple. His actions provoked a near-riot in the crowd of 1,315 and visibly rattled the visiting Blue Sox. Game 5 was played at Salisbury, where the largest turnout of the series (2,320) saw Ira Plank handcuff Martinsburg on five hits to earn a 5–2 win. Dover played without King, who was suspended for the game and fined $25 for his outburst the previous day. Home runs by Leonard Schaeffer and Art Sullivan broke open a close game and gave the Dobbins the series lead.
Willow Lane Park in Hagerstown was the neutral site for Game 6 on September 14. Martinsburg manager Earle Mack used his entire roster in a vain attempt to stem the Dover tide. The Dobbins abused four Blue Sox hurlers for 1 hits in a 9–5 series clincher. Willey won his second game over a disappointed Martinsburg club.
The year 1923 was a pivotal year in the Five-State Series. A total of 9,1 5 fans attended the six games, nearly 50 percent more than the previous year. The surprising Dover win proved the Eastern Shore League could compete on the field with its more renowned sister circuit to the west. For Blue Ridge supporters it was a wake-up call. In the future, the Five-State Series would be a war—not a walkover.
1924—PARKSLEY GETS REVENGE
The 1924 series was a rematch of the 1922 participants. Martinsburg, under new manager Pete Curtis, continued its dominance of the Blue Ridge League, taking its third-straight crown.
It wasn’t easy this time as they nipped Hagerstown by the narrowest of margins—.002 percentage points. Parksley, too, had a fight on its hands, beating hard-luck Cambridge by one game.
Parksley didn’t take long to make a statement. Before 1,479 appreciative fans, the Spuds mauled Martinsburg 17–0 in the series opener. Catcher Jimmie Foxx blasted two long home runs to lead the Spuds assault. Veteran Frank Hummer allowed only four hits in, coasting to an easy shutout.
Martinsburg came back strong in Game 2 as lefty Charles Willis blanked Parksley 8–0 on two hits. The Blue Sox collected 14 hits off three Spuds pitchers. Rawlings homered and catcher Art “Woody” Woodring added a pair of doubles to lead Martinsburg. Rain held the crowd down to 949, and the game was called after eight innings.
Another postseason Parksley pickup, pitcher Tom Glass, tossed a six-hit, 7–1 win at Easton in Game 3.
A standing-room-only crowd of 1,748 watched local hero Foxx (who played with Easton during the regular season) launch a three-run homer in the first inning to give the Spuds all the runs they needed. Blue Sox starter Ed Andrews failed to last through the fourth inning and took his second loss in the series.
Back in the friendly confines of Rosemont Park on September 8, Martinsburg carved out an 1 –4 victory to even the series. Willis was the beneficiary of a 17- hit barrage, sparked by home runs from Dave Black and Denny Sothern. Every player in the Blue Sox lineup hit safely as they scored in every inning except the first and fourth to secure an easy win.
A sparse crowd of 519 hardy fans braved the cold and wet weather on September 9, as Frank Hummer again showed his mastery over the Blue Sox in a convincing 8–2 triumph. Ralph Mattis’s three-run homer and five runs scored on Martinsburg errors in the ninth inning sealed the Parksley win. Ed Sherling’s two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth spoiled Hummer’s bid for a second straight shutout.
The series moved to Chambersburg for Game 6. The change didn’t help Martinsburg as Glass, with re- lief help from Hummer, gave Parksley a 6–3 clinching win and evened the Five-State Series at two wins apiece. Again wintry weather kept the crowd of 379 in overcoats. Spuds first baseman Charley Fitzberger had three hits and outfielder John Goetzel added a home run to lead a 16-hit attack on Blue Sox pitchers Steve Adamson and Ed Andrews.
It was a dramatic reversal from 1922. From the opening game rout, Parksley soundly outplayed its rival. With Fox batting .391 with four homers, Goetzel (.391, three homers), Fitzberger (.363), and Hiller (.360) all helping out, the Spuds were in complete control. Martinsburg had no answer to Hummer and Glass, who each won two games for manager “Poke” Whalen’s boys. When Parksley carried away the Ban Johnson pennant, the Five-State Series was dead even.
1925—HAGERSTOWN HOLDS ON
Two new faces took the field for the 1925 series. After three seasons as runner-up in the Eastern Shore League race, Cambridge finally broke through. Manager Ted Smith’s Canners beat Parksley by 3½ games as John Trippe, Tom Glass, and Carl Fischer headed up a strong pitching staff. Hagerstown represented the Blue Ridge League as manager Ray Werre’s Hubs held off second-place Frederick to qualify for the annual postseason battle.
The series opened at Hagerstown on September 10. A Willow Lane Park crowd of 1,419 saw the home team
scratch out a 7–4 win behind right-hander Joe Zubris. A three-run homer by manager Werre in the bottom of the eighth inning snapped a 4–4 tie. The Hubs had to overcome five errors to hand Tom Glass the loss.
Cambridge jumped on Hagerstown’s Al Kendricks for eight runs in the third inning of Game 2 en route to an 1 –6 victory. Canner pitcher Curt Gordy homered to cap the early outburst. Outfielder Leo Strickler added four hits, including a pair of doubles and a home run. Gordy was credited with the win, pitching in relief of starter John Shellberg.
After his rough outing the previous day, Al Kendricks was back on the mound in Game 3. Hubs manager Werre’s move was vindicated as Kendricks went the distance, scattering eight hits in a 5–3 win. There were 1,147 in attendance as George Thomas’s double and home run accounted for three Hagerstown runs and his defensive plays in the outfield saved the day for Kendricks.
The teams took a day off to make the ferry crossing to Cambridge for Game 4. A large crowd of 2,027 cheered an 8–5 Canner victory to even the series. Glass won with late relief help from Trippe. Glass aided his own cause with a home run. Third baseman Bill Dressen also homered in a six-run, fourth-inning rally that gave Cambridge the lead for good.
The situation looked dark for Hagerstown when the Canners romped to an easy 10–2 win in Game 5. The Hubs, short of pitching, turned to outfielder Frank Roscoe, on loan from Hanover, but his mound success was short-lived and he was driven to cover in the fourth inning. Cambridge, with Dressen and shortstop Joe Nelson leading the way, continued its attack on reliever Nick Harrison, to the delight of 1,549 hometown rooters.
With their backs to the wall, Hagerstown called on Kendricks once more in Game 6. The big right-hander came through, holding Cambridge to seven hits in a complete-game 4–1 victory. Solo home runs by Thomas and third baseman Joe Conti made the difference. Clutch defensive plays by Conti and Werre also kept the Canners at bay for the afternoon.
The deciding seventh game was played on September 17 at Baltimore’s Oriole Park. The announced crowd of 2,574 saw Hagerstown come back from a 5—4 deficit and score a wild 12–10 win to take the 1925 series. The Hubs took an early 2–0 lead, then fell be-hind, and retook the lead with five runs in the seventh inning, withstanding a late Cambridge surge to claim the win. Winning pitcher Joe Zubris staggered through six innings before catcher John Albert’s two-run double put Hagerstown ahead to stay.
The 1925 Five-State Series was the only one to go the full seven games. It featured two evenly matched teams with dramatic swings in momentum that kept the fans constantly on the edge of their seats. Hagers- town pitcher Kendricks was the hero, coming through with two crucial wins in Games 3 and 6. Ray Werre’s club had just enough hitting to prevail, as Cambridge could have easily won the Ban Johnson pennant with a break or two going their way.
1926—THE HUBS WIN IT AGAIN
With their big guns, Werre, Thomas, and Conti returning, Hagerstown cruised to a second-straight Blue Ridge League title by beating Frederick in a playoff series. Postseason pickups Chick Fullis (Frederick) and Dave Black (Martinsburg) made the Hubs an even stronger bet to take the Five-State Series again. Crisfield was the Eastern Shore League champion as the surprising Crabbers beat out Salisbury. Manager Dan Pasquella fielded a solid, hustling club, but the odds favored Hagerstown. The series opened on September 13 in the bustling little seaport town of Crisfield, the “Seafood Capital of the World” at the end of the road in Somerset County. An overflow crowd of 1,682 was disappointed when Hagerstown’s Al Kruez belted a ninth-inning homer off Cecil Rose to lift the Hubs to a 4–3 win. Both teams used three pitchers in the tense duel as Kruez’s blast made Nick Harrison the winner.
Only 824 fans showed up the following day to watch Crisfield stage a four-run uprising in the eighth inning and take Game 2 by a 10–6 score. Crabber second baseman Paul Richards’s two-run triple highlighted the winning rally. Paul Smith, on loan from Salisbury, went the distance for Crisfield, despite nine hits and eight walks, while surviving a late Hagerstown comeback.
In hopes of drawing a larger crowd, Game 3 was moved to Easton on September 15. Crabber hopes were buoyed when lefty Leslie Signor shut down the Hubs on four hits in a 4–2 Crisfield win. Home runs by first baseman John Pasquella and shortstop Johnny Schofield gave Signor all the support he needed.
Back home the next day at Willow Lane Park for Game 4, Hagerstown evened the series with another close 4–3 victory. Harry Fishbaugh won it for the Hubs, overcoming home runs by Pasquella and Richards. Fishbaugh won his own game with a seventh-inning double off Bill Everham, driving in Kruez with the winning run.
In as exciting a game as local fans had ever seen, the hometown Hubs captured a heart-stopping 2–1 win in Game 5, scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth inning. Catcher Bob Harper’s two-out single plated Joe Conti with the game-winning run. Crisfield scored its run in the first inning as Harrison and Smith waged a torrid pitching duel, until Harper’s hit ended the game.
Irvin “Stub” Rase, Hagerstown’s ace right-hander, slammed the door on Crisfield in Game 6. Rase surrendered only three hits in giving the Hubs a 4–1 win and the 1926 series. Thomas’s homer off Signor broke a 1–1 tie in the sixth inning as Rase did the rest. Both teams turned in several outstanding defensive plays in another tense game between the two rivals.
The 1926 Five-State Series was arguably the most exciting of all. With the exception of Game 3, every contest was close and not decided until late in the action. The series turned on Game 5, with the last-inning Hagerstown win. Rase overpowered the feisty Crabbers in Game 6, but Crisfield came close to winning it all. The only downside was the dwindling crowds who came out to watch the well-played games.
1927—PARKSLEY WINS AGAIN
It would be the last Five-State Series, although no one would know it at the time. The Parksley Spuds won their first Eastern Shore League title since 1924, when they trashed Martinsburg in the postseason finale. The Spuds finished well ahead of Salisbury in the regular season. Meanwhile, Chambersburg had to survive a split-season playoff with Martinsburg to capture the Blue Ridge League flag. Manager Mickey Kelliher’s Maroons added Martinsburg’s Reggie Rawlings to an already potent batting order for the series.
Henniger Field in Chambersburg was the scene for Game 1 on September 12. The visiting Parksley nine drew first blood when Clint Brown bested the Maroons 6–4. Paul Richards, added from Crisfield, blasted two homers and drove in four runs to lead the Spuds offense. A crowd of 1,266 saw a late Chambersburg rally fall short.
The Maroons knotted the series the next day when they sent six runs across the plate in the bottom of the eighth to snatch a 6–2 win. Chambersburg’s Robert Shatzer and Parksley’s Ray Perry hooked up in a classic pitcher’s battle before doubles by Kelliher, Russ Saunders, and Chet Horan allowed the Maroons to break through and hand Shatzer the win.
Game 3 was played at Willow Lane Park in Hagerstown before 1,250 fans. Poor fielding by Chambersburg betrayed pitcher Bob McIntyre as Parksley made an early lead stand up for a 6–4 victory. The heat affected the listless play of both teams as lefty Steve Toner pitched seven innings of strong relief to gain the well-deserved win.
After a day’s rest, while making the ferry trip across the Bay, Chambersburg bounced back to tie the series again in Game 4. Kermit Smith, with ninth-inning relief help from Charley Hamel, tossed a five-hitter to win 4–2. The largest crowd of the series, 1,441 in all, saw the Maroons take an early lead on shortstop Johnny Griffith’s double and Hamel squelch a ninth-inning Spuds rally.
Two home runs by Richards, his fourth and fifth of the series, and another round-tripper by Dave David- son, was more than enough to give Perry a 7–3 win in Game 5. Horan and third baseman Whitey Bowman homered for Chambersburg, who outhit Parksley 13—9, but the Maroons wasted too many good scoring opportunities.
At Salisbury on September 19, Game 6 and the series ended early in a downpour as Parksley, behind the four-hit pitching of Toner, blanked Chambersburg 5–0. A final game attendance of 1,631 saw the Spuds break the game open with four runs off Mike Dodson in the sixth inning. An inning later the rains came, washing out any hopes for a Maroon comeback.
Parksley, led by the bats of Richards and Dan Pasquella and the pitching of Toner, all postseason additions, held a decisive edge in the 1927 series. The Spuds outplayed Chambersburg in every department, while Kelliher’s Maroons never showed the batting power that had carried them through the regular season. The Parksley win gave each league three wins apiece in the hard-fought series.
IT’S ALL OVER
By 1928, the Great Depression had settled in with grim determination on the Eastern Shore. Farmers and small-town merchants were the first to take hits. Families could barely pay their bills, let alone afford the 75-cent admission ticket to a ball game. Local ballclub owners, who rarely made money in the best of times, saw their losses steadily mounting. The Eastern Shore League opened briefly in 1928, but on July 10 the directors met at Salisbury and reluctantly decided to close the gates for good.
The Blue Ridge League soldiered on until 1930, when only four clubs managed to stagger through the season. President Jamison, ever the tireless promoter, arranged a brief postseason series with the Class C Middle Atlantic League. But it just wasn’t the same. The zest and excitement that had characterized the old Five-State Series was gone. The battle for baseball braggin’ rights in the Chesapeake Bay region between the Eastern Shore and Blue Ridge leagues was over.