Brief History of the League Print

It was August 4. 1919. Two teams. the Tigers and the Orioles, met on the Basin lot in a twilight game. It was a typical sandlot contest. Few players were uniformed. The fans present stood, for there were no seats.

The Orioles won the ball game, 8-2, inspired by the two-hit mound performance of George Tubley. The Tigers' hurler, Frank Pollitt, pitched well enough, but was victimized by his comrades' fielding shortcomings.

So a new league, designed to provide working men with an opportunity to play ball, was rather timorously launched. No band music filled the air. No city official tossed the first ball. The local papers treated the birth of a league which was in the next 21 years to stage some 1600 games before an attendance of 1,500,000 spectators rather calmly. A few paragraphs, no box score, just score by innings.

August, 1919, witnessed the idealist Woodrow Wilson, then president, drafting his League of Nations: the sports world was still talking about Jack Dempsey's knock out of Jess Willard just a month before, the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox were marching towards the unfortunate World's Series which was to rock the very foundations of the sport.

Down Memory Lane

Locally, only the day before the Boston Red Sox had shut out the Trojans, 3-0, at Freebody Park, George "Babe" Ruth, the colossus who was to change the entire offensive pattern of the game, bring a livery ball to baseball, and put the home run industry on a mass production basis, played first and pitched. Oscar Vitt, now manager of the Cleveland Americans, played third for Boston.

Norman Plitt did the Trojans' pitching and Luke Urban was behind the bat, with Leo Martin, Bill West, and Chick Gagnon on the bases, Flo Harvey at short and Bill Martin, Gildea and Arnold on the picket line. Within a few weeks the Trojans were to castigate the hitherto unvanquished Lynn Cornets, 2-0, on Bill West's rousing double and Bill Martin's far-flung triple in the memorable riot game.

Little did the group of pioneers which organized the circuit dream that its creation would grow in popularity and power through the years and parade into its third decade on a firm structure, recognized as a vigorous and indispensable local institution. The Basin, once a rough, skin-diamond, a veritable pond after a few hours' rainfall, now as Cardines field is a spacious, well groomed field worthy of a minor league club.

The city in 1919 was filled with many young teams, eager to play ball. When the Junior City Government league gave up the ghost, Dr. Peter P. Integlia, then instructor at the Basin, took immediate steps to fill the void. Thedore Vietri, who had donated a cup to the disbanded league, agreed to award his trophy to the new circuit.

On July 28, William A. Kelley was elected secretary of this new loop, first known as the amateur city league. Other officers were: Arthur Leland, treasurer, Michael McCarthy, chairman: Howard Langley, Emil E. Jemail, scorers: Hayward Williams, umpire. The next evening the 1eague's name was changed to 'The Sunset League'. Eventually William A. Kelley was elected as president, a position he held for four years.

Braves, Richmonds Dominate

Games were played at Wellington park and the Basin. Rigid economy was the league's policy. It cost only $102 to run 28 games. The Braves, rattling off nine victories in ten outings, won the first Sunset title. Will, Pete and Vincent Integlia, Sam and Ray West, Frank Bencivenga, Johnny Sullivan, Joe Pinto, Jim Beattie, and Danny Walsh were the Indians at the controls.

After the Braves, came the irresistible Richmonds, who swept to the pinnacle in 1920 and 1921 and tied the Torpedo Station for premier honors in 1922, a year in which no play-off game was arranged to climax a rousing race. Fred Franco was the swashbuckling downtowners' pitching ace. And he was backed by a powerhouse headed by Bill Donovan, John L. and 'Big Jerry' Sullivan, Lollie Connerton, Gene Sullivan, John "Spike" Collins, Paul Callahan, James "Boonie" Carroll, et al.

In five years of blistering strife, this horny fisted, fighting clan of Irishmen won 70 games and lost only l3 to strike a sprightly gait of .753. No club over a like span has equaled this record, although Harlow's bettered the Richmonds success story by winning three pennants outright in a row, 1932 - 1934. The Creamery nine missed the Richmonds' record clip by 51 points, yet its .702 stride [87 wins, 37 losses] was an outstanding accomplishment.

The Torpedo Station, battled-scarred veteran of 16 campaigns, has won the most titles, four, although it had to share the laurels with the Richmonds in its first conquering season of 1922. But the 'Torps' won in convincing style the following year when their battlefront was manned by such doughty players as Eddie Harrington, B.J. Smith, Stubbs, Witherspoon, Brewster, Holly and Hart. They won 32 out of 40 games in two seasons.

Combined with the Naval Hospital, the Station captured the bunting going away in 1927, harpooning 15 victories against only one defeat. Jarvos, Chief Horace Davis, Charley Mitchell, "Dutch" Raffeis, and Templeton were some of the figures who engineered that steamrolling junket. In 1935, a fence-denting, courageous Station array, managed by Charley Mitchell bagged the tars' fourth pennant, despite a porous defense.

Blistering Series Warfare

The hottest rivalry in the split season playoffs was crammed into the 1924, 25 and 26 American Legion - Training Station feud. The Legionnaires prevailed in 24 when Danny Perez, the little Cuban, won two games on successive evenings, but the Causeway Cannonders evened things the next year. George Cozzens, hammered lustily during the regular season turned in two luminous one-hitters to pace the Legion to victory in 1926.

Heroes in Harlow's three-year ascendancy were Cooper and Leber, pitchers: Martland and Morgan, catchers: Norman Oxx, Eddie Donovan, George Butler, White, infielders: Dowery, Maher, Fred Nelson, Maloney and Bill Elliott, outfielders.

And so the Sunset League enters blithely its 22nd year. It has an attraction group of teams featuring the rankling civilian and service players in Newport County. The Navy's banner is carried by the Torpedo Station; Fort Adams is the Army's standard-bearer, and the four local clubs: M.C.M. Transportation, Fifth Ward A.C., North Ends and Good-Will Cleansers, champions of the 1939 Twilight league, are ready to carry on in traditional fashion.

The league declared by the late Michael McManus, king of local umpires, to be the oldest twilight league in this part of New England, is a community enterprise. It furnishes wholesome exercise for your men and recreation for countless citizens. Year in and year out the league games attract a season's attendance two and three times greater than the population of the city.

Long Roll of Teams

Fifty different teams have participated in the league since 1919. Fraternal organizations and societies such as the Knights of Columbus, Kolah Grotto. Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Father Mathew Total Abstinence Society, Red Men have sponsored teams as well as business concerns and all the military and naval posts and stations in Newport. Torpedo Station, Fort Adams, Training Statino, Naval Hospital, and Marines are, or were, associated with the league. In addition, several United States vessels also enter the nines. These include the Rappahannok, Whitney, Dobbin and Vetal.

Several ideas still follow the two-umpire: system, prizes to leading players and games between league all-stars and outside teams were introduced by President William A. Martin in 1926. Official figures that year showed an average attendance of 1,500 at league games and 2,500 at all-star jousts.

But rainy summers and one-sided races had reduced the circuit to a desperate plight when William T. Bull in 1929 revitalized the supposedly dying league. He put the league back on its feet and laid the foundation for the successful seasons enjoyed during the past decade. During his .administration the league spent nearly $500 on the field, ran a Sunset league dance and organized a basket bal l league which operated for five winters.

Bill Cooper in 1930 was given a trial by the Hartford Eastern League club and John Marsden in 1934, 35 played in several minor leagues, Harry Courtney, ex Washington A.I, and Pacific Coast leaguer, played a game n the Sunset League in 1929 and John Reder, member of the 1931 Bummer team, later played with the Bonton A.L. club and n the N.Y. Pen, and International loops.

The Richmonds, Legion, Torpedo Station, Training Station, Hummers, M.C.Ms and Red Sox fighting to the top amid the roar of the crowd: Donovan, West, "Temp", Wheeler and .Johann wielded their murderous maces: Paddy Handlon and Geffert fanning 20 sad confused batters in nine inning games: the triple plays, the no-hit: games, the mercurial "Pepper" Martin's spike's gleaming in the sun: light all live in the imagination as one thumbs through the records.

This article, appears in the 'Sunset Baseball League - Record Book - 1919 - 1940', Compiled and Edited by George D. Donnelly, Official Scorer. It has been republished out of respect for George D. Donnelly and the Newport Recreation Commission of the early 1940s. If you are reading a printed copy, additional copies can be printed from Go to the 'Sunset League 1919 - 1940' selection in 'the Point' section.