07/28/2020 5:09 AM
Article By: Mike Richard
Throughout the 1950s and early 1960, there was general discord among teams in the Upper and Lower Divisions of the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Putting it mildly, the two divisions just did not get along. Because there wasn’t any official director of the league, arguments and disagreements were the norm during both the regular season and during the playoffs.
According to his book “Baseball by the Beach” (1998), author Christopher Price credited Chatham selectman and baseball fan Robert A. McNeece with starting a movement to bring the Cape League into the modern era.
“(McNeece) gathered the most influential men in the Cape League at the home of Carter Whitcomb, a longtime Cotuit supporter,” wrote Price. “In attendance were McNeece, Whitcomb, Arnold Mycock (Cotuit general manager), Laurin ‘Pete’ Peterson manager of Orleans, Merrill Doane (Chatham GM), Neil Mahoney (former Harwich manager and then Red Sox Director of Scouting) and Joe Sherman (sports editor of the Cape Cod Times, who once pitched for Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics).”
In time, the committee decided it was important to name a league commissioner so it unanimously selected former professional baseball player and Cape Cod native Daniel J, Silva to the position.
On June 17, 1963 the official Modern Era of Cape League Baseball dawned as the Upper Cape and Lower Cape unified as one league but with two divisions. The Upper Division consisted of Bourne, Cotuit, Falmouth, Sagamore and Wareham, while the Lower Division included Chatham, Harwich, Orleans, Otis Air Force Base and Yarmouth.
Each team had a 34-game schedule, at the time the largest and most comprehensive in league history.
As we spend a summer without Cape Cod League baseball, The Barnstable Patriot will continue take a look back at the Cotuit team from 1963-69 during the early years of the Modern Era.
Barnstable did not have a team in the league after 1962, so Cotuit would be the only village of the Cape’s largest town to field a squad. Hyannis did not enter the league until 1976.
Year W-L Place Playoffs
1963 28-4 1st Won Cape League championship
1964 31-1 1st Won Cape League championship
1965 15-17 3rd Did not qualify
1966 14-22 3rd Did not qualify
1967 22-16 2nd Lost in semifinals to Falmouth
1968 16-24 4th Did not qualify
1969 21-22 2nd Lost in semifinals to Falmouth
Here is a look back on some of Cotuit’s playoff runs during this era:
The early 60s were indeed the dynasty days for the Cotuit franchise as it would go on to win a record four straight Cape Cod League Baseball titles from 1961-64. Prior to this, no team in history had ever won so many consecutive titles. Cotuit would repeat with another four-year run between 1972-75.
In the 1963 semifinal’s opener, despite the brilliant two-hit pitching of Bobby Butkus, Cotuit lost to Wareham, 1-0. From there, they came back to take the next two games – a 3-1 win behind the pitching of Connie Deneault and then a 5-2 win in the rubber game behind Butkus, 5-2.
The finals became a two-game sweep for the Kettleers over Orleans. In the first game, Bernie Kilroy was the winning pitcher and aided his cause with a pair of doubles and a single to drive in three runs for the 5-4 win. The clinching second game was a 7-1 rout as Cotuit managed only five hits, but collected 14 walks in the victory.
Cotuit continued its run of four championships in four years as only a Cape League final was held this season. The Kettleers emerged as Upper Division champs and went on to meet Lower Division champion Chatham in the finals.
The opening game of the finals saw Cotuit pitcher Keith Weber, an All-American out of the University of Missouri, give up only three hits and strike out seven en route to the 4-0 shutout win. Jack McCarthy – who in the 1970s would manage the Cotuit team to four straight titles – paced the offense with a two-run triple in the second inning, while Ken Huebner added a two-run single in the seventh.
Ace Bernie Kilroy won the series clincher with relief help from Bobby Butkus in the 6-3 victory. Key hits by Jack McCarthy and Dick McAvoy, and a sacrifice bunt by Connie Deneault produced runs for the champions.
After two consecutive seasons of falling short of playoff contention, the Kettleers finished second in the Upper Division before losing in three games of the semifinals to Falmouth, two games to one. After beating Falmouth in the first game, 3-1, the Commodores came back to sweep a Labor Day doubleheader 9-3 and 8-5 to eliminate the Kettleers and move on to finals.
Cotuit was led that season by Tom Kelly who was voted team MVP for the second straight season with a .331 batting average to pace the team. In addition, he led the Upper Division in stolen bases with 21.
Cotuit closed out the decade just barely making it into the playoffs with a second-place finish in the Upper Division with a 21-22 record. In the semifinals, Falmouth opened the series with a 12-inning 3-2 win on a strange play. Commodores pinch runner Doug Hopper scored on bases-loaded error when the throw to the plate from the second baseman pulled the catcher’s foot off the plate on a force play.
The Kettleers came back to win game two, 5-1, before Falmouth won the next two straight, 5-4 and 15-1 and went on to beat Chatham in the finals.
Next Week: Cape League Baseball – 1970-74
Mike Richard is the official historian of the Cape Cod Baseball League and can be contacted by email at [email protected].