Falmouth Commodores’ History in the Cape Cod Baseball League
Baseball has long been part of Falmouth’s history, most notably with the Cape Cod Baseball League, having fielded a team every year of its existence.
For the first 63 years of the twentieth century, baseball was played at the Central Park grounds in Falmouth Heights. The games were well attended and people sat on the grassy hill overlooking the field or in their cars parked along the first base side. The only drawback was a short right field where balls would occasionally bounce off a house on Central Park Avenue and be scored as doubles.
At one time the team was called the Cottage Club, derived from the many summer cottages that were built at Falmouth Heights and where the players were lodged.
During the early years, games were primarily played against off Cape teams from Southeastern Massachusetts. It was at this time, in 1919, that Harold “Pie” Traynor played shortstop for Falmouth. The next year Traynor joined the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League, commencing an illustrious career which culminated in his being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1948.
The old Cape Cod Baseball League, which dated from 1923 to 1939, was first formally organized into four teams from Falmouth, Hyannis, Osterville and Chatham. Harry Albro, publisher of the Falmouth Enterprise, served as Secretary. Other towns eventually joined the league and the high water mark was reached in 1930 when there were seven teams from six towns. The league was made-up of collegians, prep schoolers, semi-pros and a collection of locals.
Like today, several Cape League players reached the majors. An example was Cape Cod native “Deacon” Dan MacFayden, who pitched for Falmouth in 1925. That season he came within one out of pitching a no-hit, no-run game. MacFayden went on to play 17 years in the majors, including time with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Deacon was inducted into the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame in 2012.
Falmouth won its first Cape Cod League championship in 1929, despite a managerial change in mid-season, and later, a threat of a team walkout due to the release of a player. Fortunately, the decision was reversed, which averted the crisis. The Cape Cod Baseball League picked up several semi-pro players when the New England League disbanded after the 1929 season. One of them, Jack Walsh, joined Falmouth as a catcher in 1930 and proceeded to lead all team players in batting. Walsh managed Falmouth from 1931-1936 and, under his guidance, won three Cape Cod League championships in 1931, 1932 and 1935.
On July 19, 1939, at Falmouth Heights ballpark, the first night game in Cape Cod Baseball League’s history was played between Falmouth and Barnstable under portable lights. The same teams contested the next night under floodlights in Hyannis. These were the only night games played during the time of the old league and, although they left something to be desired, it was a sign of things to come.
The year 1939 also turned out to be the swan song of the old Cape Cod League. Faced with declining attendance and only four remaining teams from Falmouth, Barnstable, Bourne and Harwich, the outcome was inevitable and voters from the constituent towns refused to renew the baseball appropriation.
After World War II, the Cape Cod Baseball League was revived in 1946 with Upper and Lower Cape Divisions consisting of local players. The team representing Falmouth was called the All-Stars and selected its roster from top players in the active Twilight League. The All-Stars became Cape Cod League champions in 1946. Since Falmouth had won titles in 1938 and 1939 during the waning years of the old league, it represented a string of three consecutive championships.
A team of local players called the Falmouth Falcons was organized in 1950, but their games against Cape Cod League teams were not reflected in the standings that year. From 1951 through 1953 the Falcons and All-Stars both played in the Upper Cape Division, the only time that Falmouth was represented by two teams in the league. With the organization of Little League in 1951, the town eventually felt it could not support three separate entities, so the All-Stars became the sole Falmouth entry within the league in 1954.
In 1963, the Cape Cod League reorganized and the policy of recruiting college players and coaches was resumed. This was also the last year that Falmouth played baseball at the Falmouth Heights ballpark. With the goal of generating more fan support, the All-Stars were given permission to use Guv Fuller Field in 1964.
Sporting the new name Falmouth Commodores, and with a new manager, William “Bill” Livesey, Falmouth’s baseball fortunes turned around in 1965.
Livesey remained at the helm through the 1972 season and during his tenure Falmouth won five Cape Cod League championships, including four in a row from 1968-1971.
Night baseball came to Fuller Field on August 8, 1966. On that night the Cape Cod League All-Star game inaugurated the first contest played under permanent lighting before a large crowd. The Commodores continued to play the rest of the home season under the lights.
In 1973, Fuller Field was enhanced by the installation of an electric scoreboard and an announcing booth behind home plate. These changes made attending the games more enjoyable for spectators.
Following the college format, the Cape Cod Baseball League experimented with the use of aluminum bats over a ten year period starting in 1975. The designated hitter rule was also introduced that same season which gave a decided advantage to the offense. The league reintroduced wooden bats in 1985 and several college players struggled with the transition from metal to wood.
After a nine-year absence, Falmouth won the 1980 Cape Cod League championship under first year manager Al Worthington. Future major leaguers Steve Lombardozzi and Sid Bream were in that team’s lineup.
The Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 2000. Those with Falmouth connections who have been inducted through 2016 include: Mike Flanagan, Darin Erstad, William Livesey, Paul Mitchell, Noel Kinski, Eric Milton, Sam Nattile, Manny Pena, Steve Balboni, John “Jack” Walsh, Roche Pires, Harold “Pie” Traynor, David Aardsma, Doug Fisher, Danny “Deacon” McFayden, Billy Best, Daniel Carte, Bob St. Pierre, and Jim McCollum.
In 2004, the Falmouth Commodores played its home games at then newly named “Arnie Allen Diamond at Guv Fuller Field” in honored memory of Arnie, who was the team’s loyal batboy and equipment manager for 46 years. In recent years, the Press Box was re-dedicated as the “Eric Palmer Press Box” and, in 2016, the Broadcast Booth portion was re-named “Pat’s Loft” in memory of longtime volunteer and Broadcast Coordinator, Patrick Loftus.
Although Falmouth teams have not produced a Cape Cod League championship since 1980, they have provided spectators with an exciting brand of baseball. The Cape Cod League attracts top college players and is considered one of the leading amateur leagues in the country. Fan interest, local participation and gate revenues have steadily improved in recent years, providing the team with avenues to improve the ballpark for players and fans alike. Bolstered by a group of dedicated volunteers, baseball fans can look forward with optimism to each upcoming season.