09/02/2008 2:30 PM
Cotuit Kettleers, Orleans Cardinals
Can Thank Ex-Newsman, Now 91,
For Giving Them Their Nicknames
HYANNIS, Mass. – Did you know that at one time the high school athletic teams in Falmouth, Barnstable, Harwich, Orleans and Chatham all sported nicknames given to them by the same man? And that that same man is responsible for the names used to this day by the Cotuit and Orleans franchises in the Cape Cod Baseball League?
Art Quirk (Orleans 1958) holding the tray presented to him by Mel Allen and Phil Rizzuto in 1958 as the Outstanding Pitcher in the Lower Cape League. Art recently donated the engraved silver tray to the Cape League Hall of Fame & Museum in Hyannis. (CCBL Photo by Joe Sherman)
Now 91 years old, he has successfully battled cancer and other ailments associated with growing older and has survived a long period of depression and grief triggered by the death of his beloved wife Betty. But he remains active by swimming two or three times a week in a hotel pool and pounding out a column every other week on his ancient typewriter for the Barnstable Patriot newspaper.
He is Ed Semprini, once the voice of local high school sports on Cape Cod’s very first commercial radio station, WOCB (Old Colony Broadcasting), and like myself a former sports editor of the old Cape Cod Standard-Times.
It was in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s when Ed christened Barnstable High’s sports teams the Red Raiders and, just to be fair, he also named the teams at Barnstable’s traditional rival, Lawrence High of Falmouth, calling them the Maroon Marauders. One name stuck, the other didn’t. While Barnstable embraced its teams’ name, Falmouth wanted to pick its known and held a contest to select a new one. Clippers emerged as the winning entry.
The Chatham Blue Devils, Harwich Rough Riders and Orleans Cardinals are other creations to which Ed can lay claim.
In 1959, when Nauset Regional High was established, absorbing the old Orleans High, the Cardinals name Ed had provided was replaced by Warriors. A few years later, the Orleans Athletic Club, which sponsored the town’s entry in the Lower Cape Cod Baseball League, decided to bring back Cardinals and the franchise has used that nickname ever since.
CCBL Hall of Fame member Arnold Mycock, New York Yankee great Mickey Mantle, CCBL Hall of Famer George Karras and longtime Cape Cod print and radio journalist Ed Semprini during a visit to Yankee Stadium in the late 1950's. (Photo courtesy of John Karras)
Ed also coined the word Kettleers as nickname for the Cape League’s Cotuit entry and it was he who came up with Canal Clouters as the name for CCBL Hall of Fame manager Manny Pena’s Sagamore team that played at Keith Field, practically beneath the Sagamore Bridge.
Although his first love always was sports, Ed’s role at WOCB was all-encompassing. The World War II veteran was actually the station’s news director. But he is probably best remembered by the Cape’s old-timers for teaming with morning drive-time personality Dan Serpico to broadcast play-by-play accounts of Cape and islands schoolboy basketball games from the late 1950s through the early1970s, chronicling the exploits of such memorable local stars as Bob Driscoll (Bourne), Mike Lopes (Falmouth), Wes Ward (Barnstable), Dana Wilson (D-Y), Glenn Rose (Harwich), John Colley (Provincetown) and many others.
Ed’s involvement with local sports in the 1950s extended to the Cape’s two rival summer baseball leagues – the Upper Cape and Lower Cape leagues -- which merged in 1963 to become the Cape League we know today. He recalls broadcasting the mid-summer all-star game between the two leagues one year at the Ezra Baker School field in South Dennis and says that somewhere in his files there is a photo of him with New York Yankees radio announcers Mel Allen and Phil Rizzuto taken that night.
In the mid- to late-1950s, one of the Yankees’ main sponsors on radio and TV was P. Ballantine & Sons, brewers of Ballantine beer and ale. (Remember Allen touting any Yankee home run as a “Ballantine blast”?) Ballantine was represented by the Tex McCrary advertising agency in New York, whose account executive was a Cape summer resident named Don Walsh. Don had a fondness for baseball in general and Cape Cod baseball in particular. In fact, his son Jeff later played second base for the old Barnstable Red Sox, forerunners of today’s Hyannis Mets.
Don came up with the idea of having Ballantine sponsor the annual Cape All-Star Game, picking up the tab for awards and arranging for appearances by Yankee players and broadcasters at the game. Thanks to Walsh and Ballantine, Cape baseball fans got to meet Allen, Rizzuto, Whitey Ford, Ellston Howard, Bill Skowron, Bill Stafford and even the great Dodger catcher Roy Campanella.
The promotion also included a junket to Yankee Stadium by officials from the Cape’s two leagues and local media representatives. There, at the big ballpark in the Bronx, the Cape delegation would be treated to lunch in the Stadium Club, introduced to Yankee players and generally treated as VIPs. Officials of the Yankees and Ballantine would announce their upcoming participation in the Cape game at the luncheon and everyone would get to watch the Yankees play before returning home.
I participated in one of those junkets myself, thanks to my position at the time as sports editor of the Cape Cod Standard-Times. It was in 1961, a memorable year in Yankee history. Dan Serpico and I took the American Airlines shuttle from Boston to New York, where we were joined at the stadium by various Cape baseball figures and a delegation from Otis Air Force Base, led by Col. Ernie White, the base commander. The Cape all-star game was scheduled to be played at Otis later that summer.
We did, indeed, receive VIP treatment and had great seats behind the Yankees’ dugout for their game against the Minnesota Twins. If memory serves, neither Roger Maris, who later that season would break Babe Ruth’s record by hitting his 61st home run, nor Mickey Mantle, who would finish with 54 homers, was able to hit one out that day.
All of this was brought to mind recently when the new Cape Cod League Hall of Fame and Museum in Hyannis held a reception to thank all of those who had contributed to the construction of the wonderful new facility, located in the “Dugout,” the lower level of the John F. Kennedy Museum on Main Street.
As part of the ceremony, a presentation was made to the Cape League by 1958 Orleans star Art Quirk, who now lives in Stonington, Conn. The ex-Baltimore Orioles and Washington Senators pitcher donated a silver tray which he received at the ’58 Cape all-star game from Allen and Rizzuto.
Quirk said he felt the most appropriate place for the large, engraved “Three-Ring Award” as the Lower Cape League’s outstanding pitcher that season was at the new Hyannis facility which houses the Cape League’s most cherished memorabilia. The tray will now be a permanent feature of the Orleans Cardinals’ display.
A postscript to the above tale … Don Walsh, who brought the Yankees, Ballantine and the Cape League together, later left the Big Apple to become a reporter for the Cape Cod Standard-Times, where he revealed that his true baseball passion was for the Boston Red Sox. Still a promoter at heart, he convinced the Sox to hold an annual Cape Cod Day at Fenway Park and enlisted the participation of the newspaper and the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce as sponsors.
One of those Cape Cod Days took place on Sunday, May 12, 1963, when the Red Sox played a double-header against the Washington Senators. Pre-game ceremonies presided over by Sox broadcaster Curt Gowdy included a presentation of an engraved Hamilton wristwatch to Washington pitcher Quirk by U.S. Rep. Joseph W. Martin Jr. (D-Mass.) on behalf of the town of Orleans.
Quirk, a Dartmouth College graduate, was the only player on either team to have played summer baseball on the Cape, so he was singled out for the special award. Nobody imagined that 45 years later he would return the favor by making his own presentation to Cape Cod.
Joe Sherman, CCBL Public Relations Staff ([email protected])