Valley Fans Have a Long-Standing Love Affair With Baseball
The day that many Shenandoah Valley residents have eagerly awaited since last August will arrive tomorrow when the Valley Baseball League begins its 89th season. The Haymarket Senators pay a call on the Strasburg Express to kick off the latter’s inaugural season, but the passion of Valley fans for their local teams is nothing new.
The Northern Virginia Daily, headquartered in Strasburg, has chronicled this love affair since the paper’s inception in 1933, which happened to be the year of the very first major league all-star game. The July 5th edition ran a composite photo of the American League team, but the headline on the sports page that day referred to the local scene: “Strasburg Shuts Out Invaders in Two Games; All-Stars Win” referring to a doubleheader defeat of a team from Washington by Strasburg, and another victory in a string of many for Front Royal’s All-Stars.
The June 21st edition of the NVA announced that Woodstock’s team, in order to accommodate its fans, went so far as to erect a grandstand at the county fairgrounds, but due to the fact of heavy overhead expenses a team has [in order] to compete in organized baseball . . . a charge of 25 cents will be made to those entering the grounds. It was also noted that the scoreboard was donated by Mr. Dalke of the Woodstock Theater.
In that same issue, an ad appeared heralding the “Front Royal All-Stars New Deal Days Games” to be played Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of that week. All games started at 3:30 when lights were a luxury few local teams could afford.
While the Depression affected many facets of life in the Shenandoah including baseball, it most definitely did not quell the pen of one W. B. Allen, a Northern Virginia Daily correspondent, who in the May 25, 1933 edition filed this wonderful account of a game that took place in Woodstock.
The score was 4-3 in favor of the Woodstock Rotarians against the Woodstock Athletic Club in a hot game of baseball played on Seibert Field in Woodstock yesterday. And when we say hot, we mean thermometrically and temperamentally caloric, for the sun beat down pitilessly on the quasi-decrepit players of other years and caused plays which would make Connie Mack enter a monastery. It was a good game however, with plenty of thrills from long drives toward the cemetery which was the deadline, to the bursted pants of Third Baseman Rotarian Tavenner and the attempts to retrieve the pill by Rotarian Ott Pence, whose movements were as pachydermic as they were graceful. . . . Johnny Luther Lytton, who knows more about baseball than Mugsy McGraw, and whose vocabulary was acquired outside of a Sunday School, with B. W. Coffman umpired the game.
Gone are the days when correspondents were more concerned with the third baseman ripping his pants than with who knocked in the winning run. Major League baseball has also changed a great deal since 1933 when a trip to Chicago to play the White Sox was described as the Washington Senators’ final invasion of [the] West (my italics) in an August 16th edition of the NVA. What has not changed, however, is the passion Valley fans have for baseball. Today, the Valley Baseball League proudly carries on the local tradition of the grand old game and soon fans in Winchester and Woodstock, Front Royal and Luray will once again enjoy the true new year–Opening Day of the 2011 baseball season.
[Safe at Home: A Season in the Valley, Austin's chronicle of the 2009 New Market Rebels of the Valley League is now available on Kindle as well as other e-readers. Visit the Kindle Store or Smashwords.com to order your e-copy.]