America's League

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'AROUND THE HORN': Remembering 1988 in the Cape League

04/22/2013 3:15 PM

Article By: John Garner Jr.

     It was 1988 and the Republican Party was riding high after eight years of Reaganomics and four more years with sitting Vice President George H.W. Bush taking over in the oval office.
     Top movies included “Big,” “Working Girl” and “Bull Durham,” and people were rockin’ to hit songs by George Michael, Rick Ashley and Guns N' Roses.
     The Dodgers beat Oakland in the World Series, winning the best-of-seven series 4-1 thanks to a dramatic pinch-hit homer by a limping Kirk Gibson,and after five decades the Cold War was finally winding down.
     It was also a magical year in the Cape Cod Baseball League, so much so that the league issued baseball player cards for the first and only time in recent memory, and the CCBL captured the prestigious Boardwalk and Baseball Tournament in Haines City, Fla., against the Great Lakes, Central Illinois and Valley collegiate summer leagues.
     In its fourth year using wood bats after a decade of aluminum, the CCBL boasted future major leaguers such as Jeff Bagwell (Chatham), Jeromy Burnitz (Hyannis), Chuck Knoblauch (Wareham), Mike Lansing (Harwich), Kevin Morton (Hyannis),  Mike Myers (Brewster), Denny Neagle (Yarmouth-Dennis), Craig Paquette (Brewster), Tim Salmon (Cotuit), JT Snow (Orleans), Mark Sweeney (Chatham), Mo Vaughn (Wareham), John Thoden (Wareham), Frank Thomas (Orleans), John Valentin (Hyannis),  Eric Wedge (Y-D),  Dan Wilson (Cotuit) and Dave Staton (Brewster), who set the league’s wood bat home run record with 16.
Knoblauch, Vaughn, Thoden, Thomas, Wedge and Staton have all been inducted into the CCBL Hall of Fame.
     Led by the hard-hitting duo of Vaughn and Knoblauch and outstanding pitcherThoden(9-1), the Wareham Gatemen compiled the league’s best record (29-13-2) under field manager Stan Meek en route to a championship series win over Orleans, two games to one.
     The power-hitting Staton missed winning the Triple Crown, losing the batting title to Knoblauch on the final day (.361 to .359) while capturing the home run and RBI (46) title. Staton, who played two seasons for the San Diego Padres in the 1990s, also led the CCBL in slugging percentage (.772), on-base percentage (.475) and total bases (112).
     With the addition of expansion franchises Brewster and Bourne, the Cape League grew to 10 teams, with the Whitecaps playing at Cape Tech and Braves performing at Massachusetts Maritime Academy before moving to Coady Field in the 1990s.
     Dick Sullivan was CCBL president and the late Fred Ebbett was commissioner, overseeing expansion of these two fledgling teams. Not surprisingly, Brewster finished last in the Eastern Division with a 17-25 record, while the Braves were cellar-dwellers in the West with a 12-29 mark. 
     “Our franchise began at a meeting with the Brewster Recreation Department,” said former Brewster GM Barry Souder, current chairman of the Whitecaps’ 25th anniversary committee. “Our goal was to get a regulation (youth) baseball field and it evolved into building a Cape League franchise.”
     Souder, Alan Harrison, Dennis Hanson and Bob Drummond were key “movers and shakers” who began the Brewster franchise. After two decades at Cape Tech in neighboring Harwich, the Whitecaps built their own field at Stony Brook Elementary School in Brewster. 
     Along with Staton, other top Whitecaps players included Myers (5-3, 2.30 ERA), Tim Smith (3-2, 2.54), Henry Manning (.292) and Darryl Vice (.290).
     On the Upper Cape, the Bourne Braves also began their quarter-century run after several years of inactivity, dating back to the Sagamore Clouters in the 1950s and ’60s.
     The two teams kept their newfound rivalry stoked by playing an annual “Expansion Cup” game on Nantucket in the mid-1990s.
     The new Bourne franchise began under the auspices of administrators Admiral Jack Aylmer and longtime MMA athletic director/baseball coach Bob Corradi. Ed Gendron served as GM, while Jim Watkins and Gendron served as field managers.
     Top Braves players in ’88 included Mark Johnson (.313 BA), Mike Kelley (.243), Joe Delli-Carri (.327) and pitcher Chris Snyder (5-3, 3.38 ERA).

 “Our fans showed up except on weekends because of traffic at the bridges,” Corradi said. “The Sagamore Rotary was the old rotary and the reason we moved to Coady Field (from MMA) was through efforts of our general manager.”