Eastern Shore baseball history First Saturday’s closer at Marvel Museum

GEORGETOWN – Professionally speaking, minor league baseball on Delmarva has had a major impact on Mike Lambert.

For several decades the 1976 Seaford High School graduate has been collecting memorabilia from the Eastern Shore League, a Class D league that played to crowds in predominantly rural ballpark venues from 1922 to 1949, but not all 28 consecutive years.

“It’s just something that I got into about 30 years ago. Seaford had a team from 1946 to 1949. When I learned about that I just started my addiction, collecting that memorabilia from those leagues,” said Mr. Lambert.

This Saturday, Sept. 5 will mark the fifth and final First Saturday in Georgetown initiative, and Mr. Lambert will be on hand at the Nutter Marvel Carriage Museum in Georgetown with some of memorabilia collection – and his book, “Eastern Shore League” published by Arcadia Publishing in 2010.

“It will be a very nice collection, items that you probably have never heard of or seen and never will see again, quite frankly,” said Mr. Lambert. “I have been collecting for 30 years. I have a lot of stuff that is the only one I have seen.”

Eastern Shore Baseball photo cover

Sponsored by the Georgetown Non-Profit Alliance, First Saturday in Georgetown is a five-month initiative that offers free public tours of six Georgetown-area museums: Masonic Lodge, Old Georgetown Train Station, Old Sussex County Courthouse, Delaware Aviation Museum, Marvel Museum and Treasures of the Sea at Delaware Technical Community College.

Museums are open free of charge from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Featured in Mr. Lambert’s collection are uniforms, hats, bats, trophies, tickets, programs, photographs, baseballs (many autographed by Eastern Shore League teams) and more.

“The uniforms are the toughest thing to find,” he said.

There are even stock certificates.

“Most of the teams sold stock so they could build their ballpark,” said Mr. Lambert, who works as an operations manager for a small business in Salisbury.

Several members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame – Frank “Home Run” Baker, Jimmie Foxx, Red Ruffing and Mickey Cochrane – have ties to the Eastern Shore League.

After his playing days ended, Mr. Baker managed the ESL’s Easton Farmers during the 1924-25 seasons and he is credited with discovering Jimmie Foxx, a high school dropout who as a major leaguer would hit 534 home runs.

Mr. Cochrane’s pro baseball debut was with the ESL’s Dover Senators in 1923, while Red Ruffing pitched for the Dover Senators at the start of the 1924 season.

These Hall of Famers and many others are in Mr. Lambert’s book, which features vintage photos. The price is $20.

Mr. Lambert’s favorite major league team is the New York Yankees.

Interestingly, his all-time favorite Yankee is not Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Jeter or Rivera. It’s Nick Testa, who after a very brief career with the San Francisco Giants – one inning of one game in 1958 – later became the batting practice pitcher for the Yankees.

“He played for the Seaford minor league team in 1947,” said Mr. Lambert, who got to know Mr. Testa back in the early 1990s when he attended Yankee games. “After he would finish batting practice he’d come and sit and watch the game. I got to talk baseball with him and all of that.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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