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Hall of Fame Ceremony

01/19/2002 3:17 PM

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Hall of Fame Ceremony 
19 January 2002
Cape League Hall of Fame Inducts Second Class

CHATHAM - If Anaheim Angels' all-star outfielder Darin Erstad's words of gratitude were any indication of the success of the Cape Cod Baseball Hall of Fame, then it may be said the Hall of Fame has achieved in the span of two years vast popularity and credibility as a standing institution that has become as much a part of the Cape Cod landscape as the 117-year-old Cape Cod Baseball League itself.

Anaheim Angels' all-star Darin Erstad signs autographs after being inducted in the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Chatham Bars Inn. See Stories and photos.
Sean Walsh/CCBL 2002


     Humble and gracious for his two-year Cape League experience, the former Falmouth Commodore and 1994 Cape League MVP espoused the rigors of the nation's top collegiate summer baseball league as one, which propelled him to the forefront of Major League prospects following the summer of 1994. On the heels of batting .302 for Falmouth in 1993, Erstad followed his first season in the Cape League with an MVP year, batting .340 and becoming the Anaheim Angels' first pick in the first round of the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

     Erstad, who said he collected his first-ever paycheck as an employee at the since defunct Bradlees' Department Store in Falmouth in the summer of 1993, noted that the Cape League not only helped him sharpen his skills and realize his full baseball potential, but that it offered him his first valuable experience away from home, alone from his family and friends and on his own. He said that Falmouth Commodores general manager Chuck Sturtevant took a chance on recruiting the University of Nebraska outfielder and that it was a chance he did not take lightly.

Falmouth Commodores General Manager Chuck Sturtevant congratulates 1994 Cape League MVP Darin Erstad on his induction into the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame.
Sean Walsh/CCBL 2002


     "If I hadn't been given that opportunity," Erstad said, "who knows where I'd be."

     And in spite of being a Gold Glove American League all-star, Erstad said that his induction into the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame was the crowning accomplishment, thus far, in his still formative baseball career.

     "By far and away this is the biggest individual accomplishment of my life," Erstad said. "This means the most to me… this is the best."

     A day marked by deep emotion, humorous anecdotes and tales of glory in the old days of the Cape League, Erstad's poignant commentary on the import of Cape League baseball was preceded by six other inductions. Joining Erstad in the Class of 2001 was the late Cal Burlingame, the late Tony Plansky, New York Yankees third baseman Robin Ventura, former CCBL Commissioner and Harwich Mariners Manager Fred Ebbett, Kansas City Royals' Chuck Knoblauch and Terry Steinbach. Only Erstad and Ebbett could attend the ceremonies.

     Nevertheless, the families of the late Plansky and Burlingame both attended and marked the moment and memory of the new inductees with intense pride. Cape League vice president and Hall of Fame committee member Jim Higgins filled in for Wareham Gatemen President and General Manager John Wylde - who had fallen suddenly ill prior to the ceremony - to induct former Wareham Gatemen all-star Chuck Knoblauch (Texas A&M). Longtime Cape League umpire Curley Clements was also on hand to share a few words about the Gold Glove American League all-star infielder. Knoblauch, who was a Cape League all-star in 1987 and who roomed with Mo Vaughn that summer, was crowned the 1987 Cape League Batting Champion with a .361 average. He was also named the top Prop Prospect that year before being drafted in the first round (25th pick overall) along with Vaughn (23rd pick overall) of the 1988 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He finished that summer in Wareham tied with Vaughn for the league lead in doubles with 17. Knoblauch has been a member of four World Series champions (Minnesota and New York).

     "He (Knoblauch) had an air about him… a certain quality … you just know they're going to the Major Leagues," Higgins said.

     Tony Plansky's wife Betty, now 90, and his two sons Carlton and Tony Plansky Jr., along with the extended Plansky clan, were all on hand to accept their patriarch's induction plaque. Bourne Braves General Manager Randy Vacchi was also on hand to share that there are still people who lived in Bourne at the time Tony Plansky played in the Cape League (1929 and 1933-1939) and who all said his influence on them was far-reaching.

     "The measure of man is not how tall he stands but how often he bends to help others," Vacchi said.

     Plansky, whose name graces the track at Williams College, was track coach at Williams for 31 years following an All-Pro football career with the New York Giants and eight years in the Cape League. A native of South Boston, Plansky is buried in a tomb near the base of the track named for him at Williams. His wife Betty said that it is widely known the track team meditates at the burial place of the former coach prior to each meet. The Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Famer's influence on those around him, even in his absence it seems, remains steadfast and strong.

     Former Cotuit Kettleer manager and current head coach at Wake Forest University George Greer was on hand to induct former Kettleer and Major League all-star catcher Terry Steinbach into the Hall of Fame. Steinbach batted .431 for Cotuit in 1982 and drove in 54 runs (a league record). He could not be in attendance for the induction ceremonies due to prior family commitments. Greer, who recruited Steinbach to play for Cotuit, noted that the slugger was drafted by the Cleveland Indians out of high school and that upon arriving at Lowell Park for an away game a day after the season had already begun in 1982, Steinbach proceeded to step into the batter's box at Falmouth's Fuller Field and rip a "line drive that went through the pitcher's legs and landed about three feet in front of the centerfielder…. He was just a hitting machine."

Cape League Commissioner Bob Stead
congratulates the Burlingame Family on the induction of former Boston Red Sox pitcher and Cape Leaguer
Cal Burlingame into the Hall of Fame.
Sean Walsh/CCBL 2002


     Bob Stead, who knew inductee Cal Burlingame when Burlingame was an umpire and Stead a 23-year-old baseball coach at Dennis-Yarmouth High School, said Burlingame was a "ballplayer's ballplayer… a man of integrity, man of honesty."

     Former State Senator Jack Aylmer, who played with Burlingame at both Barnstable High School and in the Cape League, also spoke of Burlingame as perhaps the greatest all-around player of his time (late 1940s, early 1950s).

     Also inducted were former Cape Cod Baseball League Commissioner and Harwich Mariners Manager Fred Ebbett, a Quincy native. Ebbett, who was introduced by his daughter Mariah Ebbett and Chatham A's Manager John Schiffner, began his lengthy baseball career in 1959 when he first began teaching and coaching at Harwich High School. He coached for 22 seasons at Harwich winning championships in 15 of his 22 years, before matriculating as manager of the Harwich Mariners. Schiffner got his first taste of the Cape League playing for Ebbett.

Mariah Ebbett (left) and longtime Chatham A's Manager
 John Schiffner congratulate Cape League Hall of Fame Inductee Fred Ebbett.
Sean Walsh/CCBL 2002


     Schiffner said Ebbett helped his players realize their potential not merely as ballplayers, but more importantly as young men. "He said baseball's important, but don't get consumed by it," Schiffner said, and added later that it was under Ebbett as Cape Cod Baseball League Commissioner that he got his first taste of coaching in the Cape League. Ebbett played an instrumental role in eliminating the use of aluminum and metal bats that had been used by the Cape League for 10 years (1974-1984).

     The Second Annual Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was sponsored by the Chatham Bars Inn and in part by Cape Cod Potato Chips and the United States Army.