Before the advent of television (or the internet), leisure activities in small towns such as Yorklyn included organized baseball leagues, with teams forming not only around schools but around communities and a region’s major employers. Companies sponsored leagues to enhance employee loyalty and provide entertainment for their workers and families, forming teams made up of players from their own payrolls, occasionally supplemented by some professionals.
The snuff and fibre mills constituted Yorklyn’s dominant employers in the early 1900s, and both sponsored baseball teams, including a women’s team representing the snuff mill. These leagues and teams provided both entertainment and employment opportunities. Yorklyn residents faced limited entertainment options, and local ballgames, on weekdays as well as weekends, became major social events.
Tom Marshall recalls eight community-based teams, including Yorklyn, Hockessin, Mount Cuba, Centerville and Fairville, that played weekday evenings. In the late 1930s, Grover C. Gregg Sr., who managed numerous Yorklyn teams, enrolled the Yorklyn team in an interstate league to compete at weekend games. The “season” was split in half, and Yorklyn won the first half-season while Glasgow won the second, pitting the two against one another in “play-offs.” Tom recalled attending a play-off game with his father, and while Yorklyn lost the championship, he enjoyed the game immensely.
Both the snuff and fibre mills fielded teams circa 1915. The snuff mill ballplayers here were the first to represent the George W. Helme Company’s Yorklyn site.
The men who worked in the mills were not the only employees to demonstrate their company spirit on the ballfield. The women of the snuff mills also played on behalf of the George Helme Company.
As today, baseball was also a popular sport for school children, including those at the Yorklyn School.