Great Main Line baseball players – from the Main Line League

In writing of young baseball players who obtained their start in the Main Line League in its early days, the late A. A. H. Canizares, from whose articles I quoted in last week’s column, tells first of Jimmy Dykes, who attained fame with the Athletics and the White Sox. “Round and oratorical,” as the sports writer described him, Dykes played first with Frank Zeiss’ Oakmont (or it might have been the Delmar) team, and afterwards with Jack Seashotz’ Ardmore team. And Jack Lapp, one of the best catchers Connie Mack ever had, obtained his early training with the Pirates of Berwyn. His successor on the latter team, “Help-Me-Lord” Duffy Lehman, was afterwards a ground-keeper at Shibeshire for many years.

Lehman, maskman on the Berwyn team, Mr. Canizares described as “a wizard behind the plate and as a batsman.” Since he was terribly afflicted with St. Vitus dance, both his teammates and the spectators wondered how he could catch or bat. His secret was that he held his breath as the pitch was made which “Stopped his shaking nerves and left him as steady as the ordinary player.” Mr. Canizares considered Lehman one of the best catchers who ever played along the Main Line, a player, indeed, who would have gone far had it not been for his affliction.

Other great outfielders in the Main Line League in addition to Leo Murphy, of Wayne, whose prowess was mentioned in last week’s column, were “Big Ed” cording to our scribe, “hit like Lou Joe Evans, of the Wayne team, and Joe Cullinan who played with Ardmore. “Big Ed” once went through one entire season without dropping a fly ball and could, according to our scribe, hit like Lou Gehrig or Joe Di Maggio.” Joe Evans could wait until the ball was hit, and then, “with the grace of an antelope would gallop across the field and snag the old spheroid.” Joe Cullinan “could hit ‘em a mile, and had an arm of steel and rarely missed one in the outer garden.” And one of the hardest hitters in the Main Line League was Joe Dorsaneo of Wayne, who “didn’t hit the ball so far, but when he smashed one to an infielder, it nearly took off an arm or leg.”

Continuing his amusing reminiscences, Mr. Canizares wrote of a small riot in Strafford one hot summer afternoon when a game between two bitter rivals, the Ardmore team and the Strafford team, was on. The score was tied when the decision of the umpire on a close play at the plate precipitated a riot. In those days, Jack Pechin, “Mayor of Strafford,” was chief rooter for his home town team, while the woman publisher and editor of an Ardmore newspaper led the cheers for Ardmore. Mr. Pechin was about six feet tall and weighed about 275 pounds while the lady in question was a featherweight about five feet in stature. Nevertheless she hit him vigorously over the head with her parasol until further hostilities were stopped by Constable George Morris!

Still another incident involves a Labor Day morning game in Narberth, in 1913, when Wayne was all set to win the Main Line League pennant. The game was scheduled for ten o’clock. But when that time arrived Wayne’s twirler, “Big Ed” Smith was not on hand and Manager Charles Sullivan had only eight other eligible players with him! But when the umpire was about to forfeit the game to the Boroughites, Ed arrived, a large “shiner” on his left eye. Since the game must go on, Manager Sullivan sent the big pitcher onto the mound after a severe tongue lashing. Due to this reprimand, or otherwise, “Ed twirled the game of his life, whiffing 22 of the Narberth sluggers and allowing them but three puny singles.” Writing some twenty-five years after that game, Mr. Canizares stated that that strike-out record still stood in league circles. It was equaled, however, by Herbie Pennock, afterwards famous Yankee star, who “twirling for Cedarcroft Academy, shut out St. Luke’s School, fanning 22.”

And in conclusion, one last, and amusing word, about the so-called amateur standing of players in the Main Line League. There was for instance, according to our scribe, the case of Charlie Coryell, former University of Pennsylvania star, sometimes with the Wayne team, sometimes with the Narberth one. At this particular time he was third sacker for the latter, known as the “Boroughites,” led by “Flick” Stites. The latter found a way to evade the amateur rule. “He simply bought a checker from Charlie every Saturday,” writes Mr. Canizares, ‘paying’ therefore a ten dollar bill – which is some price for a checker in any man’s language.” And may this present writer add it would still be “some price” even in these days of the high cost of living!