Early baseball in Wayne – Main Line League

With one gray day succeeding another as they have so often this month, we are all doing a bit of wishful thinking along the lines of sunshiny days, with more warmth and less of dampness in the air. And with robins in everyone’s yard, and Easter but a few days off, we can say hopefully with the poet, “Ah, Wind, if Winter comes, can Spring then be far behind?”

Among other things, spring brings baseball, both of the sandlot variety and otherwise. Because of the great popularity of the game not only in professional but also in amateur circles, it is often called the national sport of the United States. Baseball really originated in this country, the final outcome of a number of similar games, particularly of town ball. Colonel Abner Doubleday (afterwards a general in the U. S. Army) has been credited as its originator since he devised the diagram of the bases and positions for players in 1839.

Wayne has always been interested in baseball, having had much to do with the Main Line League in its beginnings. In those early days probably no one was more interested in that sport locally than the late A. A. H. Canizares, one-time president of this League and for many years a baseball writer for “The Suburban” and other newspapers in this vicinity. In going over the old giles of “The Suburban,” this writer has come across some anecdotes of Mr. Canizares that should prove of interest to old-timers in the community. They may well be of interest to others than old-timers too, for Wayne’s continued participation in baseball is attested to by the games that go on almost nightly throughout the summer on the school field.

Mr. Canizares listed as the most amusing incident he could recall one that occurred when the Boroughites and Hib Steele’s Ithan team were in the midst of a hard fought struggle for the championship of the Main Line League. The “Old Fox,” as Mr. Steele was often called, was in a bad way, when his regular moundsman developed a charlie horse. Although the League was supposed to be of strictly amateur standing, it was not above paying for the services of a good player when the necessity arose. So in this emergency Mr. Steele hired “a twirler who had been beating all the sandlotters in sight,” to quote Mr. Canizares. “Hib, of course, with the other managers, had long before submitted his list of eligible players to the league secretary. There were one or two on the list who had never appeared in his lineup, and consequently, were not known to the fans. Hib proposed to substitute his twirler for one of the unknown, but unfortunately for him, he hadn’t a copy of his list with him, and couldn’t think of an eligible player’s name. As a result, the game was played under protest, and if memory serves, eventually was forfeited to Narberth.”

Another story concerns the occasion when Mr. Canizares, as president of the League, had to call a special meeting to decide whether “Lefty” Craig, a mounder of note, should play with the Wayne or the Bryn Maw team, the latter then managed by Sam Wisler, the former (according to Mr. Canizares’ best recollection) by Marc Hellner. For it seems that “Lefty” had signed with both teams! The managers of the other teams would not vote in open meeting on the question. After several such meetings, Mr. Canizares sent to each manager a secret ballot to be marked and sent to Secretary Charlie McCrea. The vote was 5 to 3 in favor of Wayne and that was where Charlie played!

Still another story concerns local baseball during World War I. So many of Wayne’s members had enlisted in various branches of the service that there were not enough left to form a team. Among the Marines stationed in a detachment near Paoli was Eddie Collins, one of the greatest second basemen the game has ever seen. He organized a team and brought it to Wayne to play out the league schedule. While the team didn’t last long, it did show the community some great baseball. And “incidentally,” Mr. Canizares wrote, “Eddie hit the longest home run ever made on the school grounds, slamming the spheroid over the tennis court in right field and ending up on Dr. Elmer’s lawn!”

And speaking of home runs, on several Wayne occasions “Cy” Cornog and “Doc” Wallace put the ball on top of the gymnasium in center field.

At the time Mr. Canizares was writing his articles, Leo Murphy, playing on the Wayne team, was considered the best outfielder who ever played along the Main Line. “He had an uncanny knack,” Mr. Canizares wrote, “of seeming to judge from the crack of the bat just where the spheroid was going to land, and he was generally on the spot. I recall him more than once hurdling the fence that used to be in deep left field and making catches that would have been impossible for the ordinary outfielder. And he had an arm of iron, throwing with uncanny accuracy right into the catcher’s mitt, and snaring at the plate many an ambitious runner trying to score from third after a putout.”

(The conclusion of this article in next week’s issue of “The Suburban” will tell of some of the men in the Main Line League who afterwards became famous in professional baseball.)