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Cape Cod Baseball League Welcomes 10 New Members to Hall of Fame

11/17/2010 12:10 PM

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Cape Cod Baseball League Welcomes
10 New Members to Hall of Fame


CHATHAM ---- Ten new members shared memories of their magical Cape Cod summers before a sellout crowd at the 11th annual Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday at the Chatham Bars Inn.

  From left, David Aardsma, Jack Cressend, Tom Grieve, Lori Weir
(accepting for late husband Tom Weir), Steve Robbins, Peter Ford, Mike Loggins,
Lou Merloni, Casey Close and Jim Winders (accepting for teammate Wayne Granger).
Photo by SportsPix 2010

There were many special moments during the ceremony. Baseball analyst Peter Gammons read a congratulatory letter from former President George W. Bush while presenting Tom Grieve his plaque. Gammons emphasized the three words chosen by the former Rangers owner to describe Grieve — intelligence, integrity, character.

     Coming to the Cape straight out of high school, Grieve worried about being accepted by the older players, a concern he quickly realized was unfounded. 

     “The best summer I ever had was in 1966,” he said of his time in Chatham. “I loved everything about it, even my job (painting houses).”

     At the morning brunch that preceded the formal induction ceremony, Nomar Garciaparra (Orleans, 1993) received the plaque that has been held for him since a scheduling conflict prevented him from attending his own induction in 2002. The presentation was made by Boston Red Sox vice president Dick Bresciani, himself a Cape League Hall of Fame member.

     Garciaparra, the former Red Sox star and current ESPN baseball analyst, flew from his California home to see his close friend and Boston teammate Lou Merloni enter the Cape League Hall.

     Former Boston Red Sox pitcher and inductee David Aardsma, now the closer for the Seattle Mariners, fondly recalled his 2002 summer with the Falmouth Commodores. During his time on the Cape, Aardsma endeared himself to the children in the Falmouth Recreation Summer Camps, dedicating his time to help his host mother, Helen Kennedy. Aardsma said he had “no idea how special (his time with the league) was until long, long after,” noting that it starts first and foremost with the fans and volunteers. 

     “The Cape is one of those special places that will never leave me,” he said.

     When Casey Close presented fellow Harwich teammate Joe Magrane with his plaque last November, he didn’t realize he’d be making a return trip to take his own place in the Hall of Fame. The sports agent, with such notable clients as Derek Jeter and Ryan Howard, was a member of the 1984 Mariners, whose team also included fellow inductee Mike Loggins. 

     “The best (summer ball) experience is the Cape, not only to develop skills and professional notoriety, but friendships as well,” he said. 

     Signing with the Red Sox as an undrafted free agent in 1996, Jack Cressend credits his time in Cotuit as the springboard to his 11-year professional career spent with Boston, Cleveland, and Minnesota. 

     “I truly believe my pro career was a direct result of my time with the Cape League,” he said. 

     In his first game at Lowell Park — as former Cotuit GM and host parent George Streeter noted — an unlucky call resulted in a 3-2 loss to Bourne. It was the only break the Cape League got from Cressend, who subsequently went 14-0, posting a 2.44 ERA on his way to being named Pitcher of the Year in 1995, and a 1.89 ERA in 1996 as he recorded a perfect 7-0 record. Signing in late July of the ‘96 season, Cressend was reluctant to leave his team, noting that “Coach had to push me out the door.”

     Hometown boy Peter Ford joined the Cape League in his high school days as a Harwich High southpaw. One of the last players to be “grandfathered” into the league, he played four seasons with the team, with his best performances coming in 1968 as he went 6-1 with a 2.13 ERA, fanning 70. Ford went on to sign with the Orioles, playing in their farm system before returning to the Cape. For the last seven years, he has been a league vice president. 

     “Obviously, some things have changed,” he said. “There’s more specialized talent, players are bigger, stronger. But the biggest difference is that the Cape League has more of the best players on the field, more of the best than any other league in the country.”

     Loggins’ 1984 season with Harwich was a factor in his signing the following year with the Kansas City Royals as their third round draft pick. He earned him the league’s Outstanding Pro Prospect and All-Star Game MVP awards.

     “He was the best,” said his host mom and presenter, Joan Federici. “He was intelligent, friendly, everything I wanted my kids to grow up to be, and he had the biggest, most wonderful smile.” 

     Loggins joked about a tradition that Federici started after his first home run. She made the outfielder a London broil for each home run, until “I got greedy,” he laughed, and hit five home runs in three games. “After that, I didn’t get any more London broils.”

     Framingham native Lou Merloni played for Bourne and Cotuit before going on to play with the Red Sox for six of his nine years in the Major Leagues. 

     “If you’re from this area, before you get to the majors, you want to play for the Cape League. It’s a goal,” he said. “You play against the best, find out how good you are.” 

     The Daniel J. Silva Sportsmanship Award recipient credited his success with the Kettleers to his host family’s steamers. After struggling in his first two weeks at Lowell Park, his host parents prepared fresh steamers. The first game after eating the steamers, he had three hits, and didn’t struggle again. “It had everything to do with the steamers,” he said.

     Field manager and general manager Steve Robbins’ influence on the Cape League stretches back eight decades to his status as a player in his hometown of Wareham in 1937. In 1946, when a team dropped out of the league, Robbins lobbied to bring the town into its folds. He led the franchise through lean years, often dipping into his own pocket to purchase equipment. In 1964, he lobbied successfully to have lights and dugouts installed at Spillane Field, bringing night games to Wareham. He retired in 1966, passing the franchise on to John Wylde. 

     Tom Weir led the league in batting (.420) and RBI (35) in 1966 for Chatham with teammate and fellow inductee Tom Grieve. Though he didn’t win the MVP award, he earned a spot in the All-Star Game and the 1960s All-Decade team. Weir spent two years in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, returning home to become a dentist. But he always spoke of his time on the Cape with the highest accolades, according to his younger brother, Mike, and his widow, Lori. Weir passed away in 2007 from acute leukemia. 

     Said Tom Grieve in his own acceptance speech, “My only regret is that Tom Weir couldn’t be here today.”

     Also inducted was Wayne Granger, who was unable to attend. His plaque was accepted by Sagamore teammate Jim Winders.

     Granger hit .329 average, with 25 RBI and six home runs in 76 at-bats with the Clouters in 1962. He played nine years in the Majors with the Cardinals, Reds, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, Astros, and Expos.