Early Days of Baseball on the Shore

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Salisbury White Clouds Baseball Team, c.1876, Nabb Center, Wicomico Historical Society Collection (WHSP8521)

By the late 19th century, like most of the nation, Delmarva had baseball fever. As early as the 1860s, teams from small cities and towns all along the Eastern Shore of Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware played baseball to enthusiastic crowds. Town teams fielded players mostly from farm and cannery workers, but local high schools and colleges also began forming teams and turning out future major leaguers.

The economic boom after the Civil War led to the expansion of railroad lines and steamers, making it possible for baseball teams to travel further distances to play their rivals. Fans could now follow their teams and root for their hometown heroes. Game days were special occasions, with towns often greeting arriving players with parades and brass bands. Attendance at these amateur games frequently exceeded the overall population of the towns where they took place.

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Salisbury Baseball Club with the 41st Governor of Maryland, Elihu Emory Jackson, 1896, Nabb Center, Wicomico Historical Society Collection (WHSP8523A)           

In the early 1900s, baseball players on the Eastern Shore began attracting national attention. In 1902, Dorchester County native Homer “Doc” Smoot was the first Eastern Shore player to join the major leagues. Frank “Home Run” Baker from Trappe, Maryland, landed in the majors in 1908 and helped the Philadelphia Athletics win the World Series in 1910, 1911, and 1913. Over 50 players who honed their skills on the Eastern Shore went on to play in the major leagues between 1878 and 1921.

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Cambridge Baseball Club featuring Frank "Home Run" Baker, 1907, Nabb Center, Sterling Collection (2004.013.003)                

Early Days of Baseball on the Shore