Title: Book explores the Shore's great pastime
Author: Ben Penserga
Publisher: Delmarva Now
Baseball has always been prevalent on the Eastern Shore.
From Little League to the Delmarva Shorebirds, the area has always embraced the action on the diamond. However, teams from 50 or 60 years ago are rapidly fading from memory.
To combat that, Seaford resident Mike Lambert has come out with a book, "Eastern Shore League," a collection of vintage photos chronicling teams from early to middle part of the 20th century. The book will be available April 5 at www.arcadiapublishing.com, and Lambert will have a small book signing tour in the next few weeks.
What inspired you to write this book?
There has been very little written about the Eastern Shore League, and when I discovered the Images of Baseball series from Arcadia Publishing, it was a perfect fit and I knew that I could accomplish it.
How long did it take you to research the book? Where did you get your material from?
I have been collecting, studying and researching the Eastern Shore League for several decades. The images in the book are virtually all from two personal collections, mine and Donnie Davidson's from Cambridge. Donnie and I are not only competing collectors, but we have become close friends over the past couple of years.
Was there anything in particular that you discovered about Eastern Shore baseball while researching the book?
While working on the book, Donnie and I both had many items in our respective collections that the other had never seen. Most of the items in the book have rarely, if ever, been seen by most of the Eastern Shore citizens, and the memorabilia is much rarer than I had thought.
Do you think many people today know about the area's baseball history?
Not as many as you would think. Whenever I talk or write about the Eastern Shore League, I usually surprise people with how vast the professional baseball history on Delmarva is.
What is the one thing you'd like a reader to learn from your book?
My goal is to educate as many people as I can on the history of Eastern Shore League. I would like most readers to understand how huge professional baseball was during the three eras of the Eastern Shore League, and that back then, the players played for the love of the game, not for money.
Title: Mike Lambert does it for the love of the game
Author: Ron MacArthur
Publisher: Cape Gazette
If anyone wishes he could step back in time, it's Mike Lambert of Seaford. He would love to sit in the stands during the heyday of the Eastern Shore League and cheer on the players who were hometown heroes.
From the 1920s to the late 1940s, before they were stars, baseball players like Frank "Home Run" Baker and Jimmie Foxx played and coached on fields in Rehoboth Beach, Milford, Seaford and other towns throughout Delmarva.
The memories of those players and fields are vivid to those who were fortunate enough to witness games in person, but that group is dwindling. Lambert wants others to share in memories of a bygone era of the nation's pastime.
For most of his life, Lambert has been collecting memorabilia and speaking with those who played and went to games. Now he has compiled that information into a book, "Eastern Shore League: Images of Baseball," by Arcadia Publishing.
Most of the images in the 128-page book are from two collections - his and Donnie Davidson's, a friend and fellow collector. The two often end up on opposite sides of bidding for Eastern Shore League baseball memorabilia.
The book, released Monday, April 5, features many rare, never-seen photographs of baseball on Delmarva from the 1920s to the 1940s. Lambert also shares photographs of memorabilia from the league such as players' contracts, schedules, autographed baseballs and ticket stubs.
A rich baseball history
For more than 100 years, town ball, semi-professional and professional minor league baseball (right up to the Delmarva Shorebirds of today) have been part of the Delmarva scene.
Lambert's focus has been the three-term Class D Eastern Shore League that was without a doubt the social event of the day or night when teams were in town. Entire towns from Dover to Parksley, Va., shut down when their teams played.
The teams were called Farmers, Spuds, Canners, Crabbers, Chicks, Eagles and Sandpipers. The players, some of whom put down roots in the area, were larger than life in an era when few had a chance to see professional baseball.
During the first Eastern Shore League from 1922 to 1928, fans watched future hall-of-famers Home Run Baker, Jimmie Foxx, Red Ruffing and Mickey Cochrane, as well as future Baltimore Orioles Manager Paul Richards.
The second league ran from 1937 to 1941, coming to a halt because of World War II. Star players included Mel Parnell, Danny Murtaugh and Mickey Vernon. During this era, many future Major Leaguers honed their skills on area baseball diamonds.
The beginning of the end of the league started in 1946 and ended in 1949 with such notable players as Don Zimmer; Bill Ripken, uncle of Cal Ripken Jr.; and Duke Markell. During that period, the league comprised teams from Rehoboth Beach, Seaford, Milford and Dover in Delaware and Cambridge, Centreville, Federalsburg and Salisbury in Maryland.
Rehoboth Beach, as an affiliate with the Pirates, won the 1949 pennant, the last one to be lavished on a team in the league.
Book becomes a reality
Lambert said he never dreamed of doing a book on the Eastern Shore League, although he has written numerous newspaper articles about the league over the years. When he provided photographs for another Arcadia Publishing book on Seaford, the seed for a baseball book was planted in his mind. It took about a decade for that seed to bloom, when he discovered Arcadia Publishing has an Images of Baseball series.
"It all came together quick - like a perfect storm - and when Donnie Davidson said he was in, I started work on the book," he said.
Lambert said it was essential to get some of Davisdsons' collection in the book, and a photo book would be much more interesting than a typical text-only book.
Within two weeks of contacting Arcadia Publishing, he was presented a contract with two months to compile the photographs, scan the memorabilia and write the text.
Lambert says he doesn't plan to make much money from the book; he did it because of the passion he has for the league and its players. The only out-of-pocket expense he had was usage fees for a few photographs not in his collection.
He now plans to attend a series of book-signing events to promote the book as much as possible.
Collection is extensive
Lambert said he collects Eastern Shore League memorabilia in order to bring it home. One of his recent finds is one of his best - one he calls a real gold mine. He found a stock proxy on eBay from the 1924 Easton Farmers, a team with hall-of-famers Home Run Baker and Jimmie Foxx. After paying $20 for it, he contacted the seller to see if he had more certificates. He ended up buying 40, all he had, with eight signed by Home Run Baker.
Lambert has become an expert on the Eastern Shore League, and along the way has met some players and become lifelong friends with others. Ducky Detweiler, who played for the Federalsburg, Md. Athletics, provided his original 1939 contract and his first paycheck for $37.12 to be included in the book. He was paid $75 per month to play.
Lambert said the book is a way to showcase players who have almost been forgotten.
"I'm not in it for the money, but the love of the game," he said. "I want to keep this going the best I can."
Eastern Shore League book now on sale
"Eastern Shore League" by Mike Lambert is available at bookstores throughout the area including Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, and at Walgreens, online bookstores and through arcadiapublishing.com or 888-313-2665. The book sells for $21.99.
Notable players from the league include:
George Selkirk, 1927 Cambridge Canners. In 1935, he replaced Babe Ruth in right field for the New York Yankees, and was later general manger for the Washington Senators and a scout for the Yankees. He is a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Frank "Home Run" Baker, 1924 Easton Farmers. Baker played 13 years in the majors for the Philadelphia As and the New York Yankees before returning to the minor leagues. He was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Don Zimmer, 1949 Cambridge Dodgers. Zimmer went on to play for five major league teams and manage four teams. He is currently an adviser for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Jimmie Foxx, 1924 Easton Farmers. Foxx was 16 when he started playing baseball and ended up playing 20 seasons, finishing with 534 home runs, three MVP titles and a Triple Crown in 1933. He was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Carl Furillo, 1940 Pocomoke City Chicks. Furillo played for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers for 15 years, winning two World Series titles in each city.
He won a lawsuit for back pay against the Dodgers after they released him in 1960, but he was then unable to find another job in baseball.
Danny Murtaugh, 1937 Cambridge Cardinals. Murtaugh's No. 40 was retired by the Pittsburgh Pirates after he coached the team to three World Series championships. He played for nine years with three National League teams.
Charles "Red" Ruffing, 1924 Dover Senators. Ruffing, another Hall of Famer, pitched for 22 years, winning 273 games. A six-time All-Star, he also played on six New York Yankees' championship teams, including the legendary 1927 team.