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Cape League celebrates Hall inductees

Cape League celebrates Hall inductees
Laughter and tears fill the Chatham Bars Inn as seven are enshrined.

By BOB SYLVA
STAFF WRITER
   CHATHAM - Amid the splendor of a winter day alongside the Atlantic, the galaxy grew a little larger yesterday when the Cape Cod Baseball League inducted seven stars of the Class of 2001 into its Hall of Fame.

In a style befitting the host Chatham Bars Inn, Cal Burlingame, Fred Ebbett, Darin Erstad, Chuck Knoblauch, Tony Plansky, Terry Steinbach and Robin Ventura had their Cape League legacies preserved for posterity in the second Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

There was laughter, there were tears and more than once, words were caught in the throat on this emotional afternoon. With players, coaches, managers and administrators whose rein spanned the past century being honored, the Cape League became a portal to a different time.

"Things haven't changed much since the last time I was on the Cape," said Anaheim Angels outfielder Erstad, who last trod these shores in 1994 when he was named the Cape League's Most Valuable Player. "And that's a good thing. It reminds me a lot of home. The people here are so friendly and supportive. Those are rare qualities in the world these days."

The only one of the four major league players in attendance yesterday, Erstad spoke passionatley about the opportunities afforded during his two summers in Falmouth.

"The Cape League allows you a chance to find out not only what type of player you are, but also what type of person you are," he said. "Being inducted into the Cape League Hall of Fame is by far my biggest accomplishment."

Erstad's sentiments were echoed by all those who made presentations as well by those who accepted awards.

"I've got a lot of notes here, but I'm just going to throw them away," said former commissioner Fred Ebbett, who received a standing ovation after being presented by his daughter Mariah and Chatham A's manager John Schiffner.

"Beyond his influence on us as players, he taught us lessons about life," said Schiffner, who played for Ebbett at Harwich. "The league did a smart thing hiring a school administrator. Fred thought he was getting a nice job for the summer vacation and he ends up handing out suspensions to players, managers and umpires instead."

The summer jobs held by the future major leaguers provided amusement throughout the ceremony.

Mariah Ebbett, a former Cape League scorer, spoke of how her job "decided careers" for all the major league hopefuls and how her father hired a group of players to dig a pool, but left the family with a big hole in its place.

Jack Aylmer had Ventura, a Southern Califonia "surfer boy" selling ice skates in the basement sporting goods department of Puritan Clothing while ESPN analyst Peter Gammons noted that Erstad was selected Employee of the Month for July 1993 at Bradlees in Falmouth.

"I'll be willing to bet that Jeremy Giambi never got Employee of the Month at the A&P in Bourne," he quipped.

Statistics and on-field perfomance may have been the deciding factors in selecting this class for Hall of Fame, but yesterday's ceremonies were more about remembering the men inside the uniforms.