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America's Pastime

Baseball team, ca. 1915

Avid ballplayers might play on multiple teams, representing their employer at some games and their community at others. Organized leagues would sometimes seek a sponsor to cover the cost of team uniforms. This photo shows men sporting jerseys from many teams, ca. 1915. Photo, courtesy John R. Harrison.

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.

Snuff mill team, ca. 1915

Back row: Frank McVaugh, Curtis Hannun, Ed Pukhaver, Walt Grace, Phil Toughey, Joe Kayne.
Middle row: Frank Benge (manager) and Mr. Haiderick (business manager).
Seated: Merrill Hutchinson, Les Adair, George Brown, Roy Benge (bat boy), Bayard Hughes and Walter Brown. Photo, ca. 1915, courtesy John R. Harrison.

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.

Snuff Mill Ladies Baseball Team, 1920s

The snuff mill women's team, ca. 1925. Photo, courtesy John R. Harrison.

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.

Yorklyn School baseball team, c. 1948

The Yorklyn School baseball team circa 1948. 
Back row: Harold Brown, Jim Garretet, Bob Schutt, Goerge Press, Junie Greg, Lew Chambers, Jack Tappie, Lew Miller, Walt Rutter, Jack Quinn. 
Front row: Ray Barker, Howard Fulton, Buzzy Lafferty, Ben Lloyd, Harry Hammon, Dallas Jordan, “Chief” Cota. 
Seated front: Roger Trimble (bat boy). Photo, courtesy John R. Harrison.

As today, baseball was also a popular sport for school children, including those at the Yorklyn School.