26 July 2004
THIS WEEK IN THE CAPE LEAGUE
24 July 2004, Eldredge Park, Orleans
The spirit of the Cape Cod Baseball League has always been based on those who give so graciously of their time and resources. Placed in the heart of downtown and cherished in the hearts of many volunteers, for over 91 years Eldredge Park has evolved into one of the most surreal and breathtaking collegiate baseball fields in the nation.
Arial photo of Eldredge Park courtesy of Fields of Vision and Eye Candy Cinema, whose "Touching the Game" is a documentary about the Cape Cod Baseball League. DVDs of the film are available at Cape League parks or by going to www.touchingthegame.com
In 1913, after acquiring 250 acres of land, Lewis Winslow “Win” Eldredge donated a 10-acre parcel of land in hopes of providing a bigger and better field for the community and, “in consideration of my affection for and my interest in the young people of Orleans and my desire to provide a playground for them.” While the parcel of land was a gift, it has turned into a playing ground for some of the World’s most famous and those who will become some of the more famous baseball players of our time. For one short summer Eldredge Park gives these players a chance to join the Orleans community.
With its unique ambiance, anyone who visits Eldredge Park can not help but feel the presence of something special happening all around. Baseball America took notice last year and named Eldredge Park the “Best Summer Collegiate Ballpark in the Nation.” While the park may have received honors, it did not always look the same as it does today.
In the late 1970’s volunteers, along with the late Charles F. Moore, raised funds and reconfigured the field’s layout, laboring to improve the shape and condition the whole park. A shift was made in home plate, changing it from the left field foul pole to where it is today. Additions of a scoreboard and lights, larger dugouts, a music shell, tennis courts and a play ground started the transformation into the new and modernized Eldredge Park.
Earl Dunham Jr., who played town ball at the park in 1946, remembers the old field. “The backstop was at Route 28 and we used to hit towards the elementary school. The field is all-together different with a much better feel.”
Phil Bergson built the very first press box for the Cardinals named the “Bird’s Nest,” in 1981 which was only a four person nest. After being rebuilt, in 2003 the Bird’s Nest was named for Ed Mooney for his many years of dedication to the Cardinals through announcing and other services. Fred Perreault terraced the home-side hill to give Eldredge the classic hillside effect which so many other Cape teams have but none capture quite as well.
While the field may look like a normal field to the unfamiliar passerby with shallow right field line at 300’, a deep straight center at 434’ and right field line at 312’, the field holds so much history with those who have played, coached, and just lived the game at Eldredge.
John Castleberry, former coach for the Orleans Cardinals, realized the importance of Eldredge Park. He started the baseball clinics for the Cardinals and really got the community involved with the Cardinals, bringing them to the park, as well as getting the players out of the park. Coach Castleberry started by getting the players involved in the community through the elementary school, clinics, and 4th of July parades in order to draw more people to Eldredge Park. Coach Castleberry’s jersey has been retired on the third base side of the field, in honor of all of his commitments to the Cardinals.
In 1995 during the World Junior Baseball Championships, the USA-Cuba game was played in Eldredge Park. Cuba was defeated by the USA and it has been speculated that the loss of the game was not only because of the heavy fog, but the smoke that came from volunteers cooking hamburgers in the outfield trying to raise money for the organization.
The following year in 1996 The Colorado Silver Bullets, an all-women’s team, made an appearance and played against a Cape League All-Star team. An estimated 5,000 were said to be in attendance at Eldredge Park that day. Sue Horton, General Manager of the Cardinals remembers that night and Silver Bullet player Kim Braatz-Voisard who Horton said “she hit the first out of the park home run for the Silver Bullets at Eldredge Park and the Bullets as a team had spectacular defense.”
In 2000, the Chinese Taipei Olympic Team was traveling with Team USA. Saturday, the weekend of the All-Star game, Team USA played the CCBL All-Star team and on Sunday after the All Star game, Team USA and Taipei faced each other at Eldredge Park.
This year, on Saturday July 24th 2004, another part of history will be made at Eldredge Park as the East Division All-Stars take on the West Division All-Stars in the Annual All-Star game. It wasn’t always the East against the West. For many years the All-Star game was played between the Cape Cod Baseball League and the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, and these games were rotated between Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium and Veterans Park.
When the league expanded to10 teams in 1988 and with the NCAA ruling that summer leagues could not play all-star games against each other it was decided to have an East-West All-Star game. The choice of having the games at one of the CCBL’s ballparks was an easy one, and it was no longer necessary to rotate between Fenway Park and New York and Philadelphia.
For the first three years, 1988, 1989 and 1990, the East-West All-Star Game was held at the home of the Orleans Cardinals, Eldredge Park.
The last All-Star game held at Eldredge Park was in 1994, and while many things have been changing since then and history continues to write itself, the pure fact that Eldredge Park is one of the finest collegiate ball parks in the nation will never change. The Orleans Athletic Association has worked harder than ever and the beauty of the park continues to be the result of cooperation between the town and volunteers, seen most recently in the new lights and the new press box.
Ed Mooney agrees that the Orleans Cardinals and Eldredge Park set standards for the rest of the league. “In many respects standards were set. We were the very first in publishing a book and feeding the ball players after the ball games. The rest of the league looks to Orleans for leadership.”
Eldredge Park has been cultivated into a different playing ground since when it was first graciously donated to the town of Orleans in 1913. With everything it has to offer, the field is the personification of exactly what the Cape League should be. Look around. There are generations of families with happy children, laughing, and parents and grandparents watching in enjoyment. But best of all Eldredge Park is the epitome of what Ed Mooney was talking about when he said it is “where the stars of tomorrow shine tonight.” --By Erica Gregory, CCBL 2004 Intern
John Garner, Jr.
CCBL Director of Public Relations & Broadcasting
(508) 790-0394 [email protected]
Lou Barnicle, Director of Publications, [email protected]
Bruce hack, League Historian