A Small World
So I read the other day that the Nationals designated Justin Maxwell for assignment. That reminds me of my favorite baseball story, a very personal and ironic one. Itâ€™s not about Justin Maxwell per se; in fact, itâ€™s not about him at all, although thereâ€™s a loose connectionâ€¦ very loose, as a matter of fact. Actually, heâ€™s just the vehicle to get to the story.
Maxwell grew up in Olney, Maryland, a small town just 20 miles due north of the Nationals Stadium in D.C. and was a fine athlete at Sherwood High School.
There, thatâ€™s the end of Maxwellâ€™s involvement in the story. Now, on to chapter two.
For twenty years I lived in Gaithersburg, Maryland, just over ten miles from Olney. For many of those years I drove daily through Olney on my way to work. Just two miles east of Olney is the tiny village of Sandy Spring. As you travel Rte. 108 through Olney, you also pass through Sandy Spring. About 100 years before Justin Maxwell played at Sherwood High School, a ballplayer named Jack Bentley did, too. Bentley was born and raised in Sandy Spring and was, in fact, a member of the first uniformed Sherwood High School baseball team. He was a bust with the Senators in the early 19-teens, became a phenom with the old Baltimore Orioles, then returned to the majors with the Giants after John McGraw paid an exorbitant amount of money to Baltimore owner Jack Dunn to acquire Bentleyâ€™s services.
Okay, stay with me. Next point: my grandfather, Nelson Greene, was a lanky lefthander (it seems like those two terms are frequently linked. Why is that? Arenâ€™t there lefthanders who arenâ€™t lanky?) who pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1924 and â€™25. While Nelsonâ€™s time in the majors was brief (only fifteen appearances), he did make one start in his career. It happened on June 3, 1924, when manager Wilbert Robinson, desperate for a starter after several games when his staff had been heavily used, called the rookie from the bullpen to start the second game of a doubleheader against the Giants at the Polo Grounds.
Okay, Iâ€™ve introduced you to the principles; now back to the presentâ€¦ or at least the more recent past. When Jack Bentleyâ€™s father died in 1913, he willed to Jack the family farm in Sandy Spring, and thatâ€™s where Jack spent his entire life. When Jack died in 1969, he willed the farm to his wife, Helen. Upon her death in the early 1990s she willed a portion of the land for the creation of a museum to honor Sandy Spring. Given that the land once belonged to Jack, the Sandy Spring Museum, the address of which is Bentley Road, honored him with his own display, featuring memorabilia Helen had donated. Thereâ€™s also a bronze bust of Jack, and the central courtyard of the museum is the named after him.
The Sandy Spring Museum fronts Rte 108. In all the years that I drove through Sandy Spring, I passed the museum literally hundreds, if not thousands, of times. Throughout all that time, though, I never knew about the Bentley connection or display, so I never went in. One day a friend asked me if I was aware of what was in the museum. When they told me about the Bentley history, I immediately went inâ€¦ and was fascinated.
So, guess who opposed my grandfather as the starter for the Giants at the Polo Grounds way back on that day in 1924? Did I mention that Bentley was also a southpaw hurler?
Itâ€™s a small world, isnâ€™t it?
You can read Chip’s bios of both Nelson Greene and Jack Bentley at the SABR bio project.