Written for the July 2008 Historian Newsletter
Tales from the Society’s Rhodes Committee
by Susan B. Jayne
The game of baseball has been intertwined in the history of the Three Villages. One can attest to this by looking at the old photos of teams from Setauket and Stony Brook throughout the last century. It was more than a game it was a social event for the community.
Little League did not exist in Setauket in the years prior to World War II. There was no set schedule, kids would just spread by word of mouth a “pickup” game at the field on “Chicken Hill”. A time and date would be set and the boys would gather and play. Nothing fancy just kids being kids. This grew into Junior and High School games for Setauket playing Bay Shore, Amityville, Northport and Port Jefferson. Port Jefferson High School Principal E. L. Vandermeulen was to have said that they (PJHS) did not want to play Setauket because Setauket kept winning.
But the big social aspect of local baseball was the Sunday afternoon men’s town league game. With Blue Laws in effect and stores closed on Sunday people needed a distraction or something to do. The Sunday game was that for the locals just after World War II. The Sunday routine was church in the morning then baseball in the afternoon. The team everyone came out to see was the Setauket A. C. The crowd usually numbered near two hundred people a game. People could see in front of them a game that they heard on the radio and it now made sense. They could see what little nuances were part of the game but never described to them.
The schedule was set by the Town of Brookhaven with regular umpires George Bruce and Leland Gaylor, a teacher at PJHS. They played teams from Rocky Point, Gordon Heights and Echo. Setauket had a strong team and won the league in 1947. Men came from all around wanting to play for the Setauket A. C. team and the team looked for talent all over Long Island. Other teams did as well occasionally bringing in “ringers”.
When asked who the best local player was Lenny Addis was the first name mentioned followed by such talent as Jim Krause (who was later in the Red Sox organization), Emmett Lyons, Jess Eikov, and Harold “Red” Kerwin. Kerwin had pitched a perfect game for Port Jefferson High School in 1943. Several young men had tryouts with Major League teams. Both Carlton “Hub” Edwards and his brother Leroy “Beeb” had tryouts with the Dodgers. Everett Hart had a tryout with the Tigers but chose instead to play multiple sports at Michigan while he got his education.
Sheppard’s Bar and Grill was the team sponsor it was obvious. After the game everyone headed over to Shepp’s whether it was to celebrate a victory or to cry in ones’ beer after a tough loss. There was the rare fight that broke out and spilled into the street. But usually it was a time to talk over the day’s game. Sometimes players could be found still sitting at Shepp’s at midnight still in their uniform from earlier that day.
The other local team the Suffolk Giants Juniors was an all black team. They played all over Long Island, against teams of all nationalities. They played from Huntington to Lindenhurst to West Babylon. Several players moved on and played for the Setauket A.C.
Why did this all come to a close? Several ideas were tossed around. The fact that baseball is a young mans’ game and life was moving on. The influx of softball leagues forced baseball out. The ending of Blue Laws. The popularity of the television. But most likely it was a combination of these reasons that brought the end of the social event called Baseball.