Branch Rickey and Dodger Park

Fred “Fritz” Lucas was a former major league player who had worked with the Brooklyn Dodgers since 1937. When he was assigned to play for and then manage the Cambridge team, he decided to stay and make it his home.

At the end of World War II, Lucas and several other baseball enthusiasts on the Shore were committed to reorganizing the Eastern Shore League. Along with rebuilding and renovating the old ballparks, they knew they would need to cultivate the support of at least one major league club to get others to follow.

In 1945, Lucas appealed to Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey had recently signed Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers. After a short stint in the minor leagues, Robinson moved to the majors, breaking the color barrier in baseball in 1947.

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Branch Rickey and Stan Musial after a hunt, c. 1950s

Rickey was an avid sportsman and Lucas believed he could win him over if he could get him to the Eastern Shore. Lucas invited Rickey to come to Maryland for a fishing trip. Rickey was elated after their day on the Choptank River landed him close to 100 fish. A few months later, Lucas invited him back for duck hunting and this equally successful trip sealed the deal.

Branch Rickey committed $60,000 to build Dodger Park ball field in Cambridge to open the 1946 season. As Lucas suspected, other major league clubs followed suit with support. The Eastern Shore League was back for a third time.

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Dodger Park, Cambridge, Maryland, 1946, Courtesy of Donnie Davidson

Legends & Lore of Delmarva Baseball
Branch Rickey and Dodger Park