The early days of St. George baseball

The Ripley Creek ball field

The first official documentation of the game of baseball dates back to the 1830s, although the mention of it can be found in the late 1700s. The first pro baseball team–the Cincinnati Red Stockings–was formed in 1869 and baseball soon became the national pastime. When the game first appeared in St. George is not known, but the local newspapers of the 1890s contain stories about games between the villages of Port Clyde, Tenants Harbor, Smalleyburg (now known as Smalleytown), and Elmore. Baseball was the main event at many of the Fourth of July and Labor Day festivities.

An 1890s photograph shows a baseball field in the area of Ripley Creek in Tenants Harbor. Across the creek can be seen the buildings along Main Street and the field up on the hill in the back is where the St. George School now sits. The date of this picture is probably in the mid-1890s.

In the October 5, 1894, issue of the “Traveler,” a Tenants Harbor newspaper of that era, there is a news item about a recent game between the Port Clyde and Smalleyburg teams. Smalleyburg beat Port Clyde with a score of 20-3, but the game was not without controversy. It was reported that the team from Port Clyde was made up of all Port Clyders, while the Smalleyburg team had a Boston pitcher and a Rockland catcher. “We would like to see the Smalleyburgs have their own team and try the Ports” opines the reporter, implying the Smalleyburgs brought in some ringers. The Smalleyburg team included Smalleys and Piersons, while the Port Clyde team had names such as Teel, Skinner, Hopkins, Dunbar, Wilson, Pierson, Thompson, Marshall and Tupper. The “Traveler” said the game was held “here”–meaning Tenants Harbor–and was probably played in the Ripley Creek field.

We have two photos of teams from the same era—one with StG uniforms and the other is of a Port Clyde Baseball team, taken around 1895. From the buildings in the background, it appears the StG team photo was taken at the Ripley Creek field.

This photo of a StG team appears to have been taken at the Ripley Creek field.

In 1924 the Port Clyde Athletic Association purchased property from Franklin Trussell, the land being what is known in Port Clyde village as the ball field and is located on Ballfield Road. Four years later a mortgage for $149 was given on the field–probably to make field improvements. This mortgage was foreclosed on in 1943 and a few years later the ball field property was later added back to the abutting property at the end of Ball Field Road.

A Port Clyde team, photographed around 1895.

Between the late 1890s to 1930 it appears that the Tenants Harbor ball games were played at the field down behind the Sail Loft. In 1931 Ernest Rawley, as trustee of the St. George Baseball Association, Inc., purchased another piece of land from the heirs of Dodge Hall. This is the location of the current field and tennis courts on Port Clyde Road. The old Hall residence was torn down, the field was built (along with the grandstand), and in 1948 the property was turned over to the Town. A series of photos taken from Barter Hill Road showing the progression of the development of the property in the early 1930s can be found at the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum.

The ball field behind the Sail Loft

The Knox County Twilight League was active from 1924 to 1964, and the St. George Torpedoes were prominent in this baseball league. The St. George Historical Society was given a scrapbook kept by Alice Wheeler in the 1930s with many newspaper clippings of the activities of the Twilight League, especially the Torpedoes. This scrapbook has been copied and can be seen at the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum. It also appears that sometime in the early years, there was a baseball team in the Twilight League from the village of Clark Island. The team had a ball field out behind the Union Hall. —John M. Falla

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