Al Irish has a photograph of the 1929 Falmouth baseball team, the first Falmouth club to win the Cape Cod Baseball League championship. They weren’t called the Commodores back then; they weren’t even called the All-Stars — they were just Falmouth.
Al Irish has a photograph of the 1929 Falmouth baseball team, the first Falmouth club to win the Cape Cod Baseball League championship.
They weren’t called the Commodores back then; they weren’t even called the All-Stars — they were just Falmouth.
Irish has newspaper stories dating to 1910, team trophies through the 1930s and ‘40s, old Cape League schedules and even one of those old baggy-legged flannel uniforms that are seen in photos of Ted Williams or Joe DiMaggio.
Officially, Irish has been on the Falmouth Commodores Board of Directors 12 years, but he has been their unofficial team historian for a lot longer than that.
He moved to Falmouth when he was 5 years old in 1925, two years after the Cape Cod Baseball League was formally organized.
His grandfather took him to games, which led to him becoming a lifelong baseball fan.
And now at 87 years of age, he still collects memorabilia and writes articles about the history of the Commodores and the Cape League.
Irish wrote some articles about the old Cape Cod League that “got some interest going and it took off from there.”
But the collecting of memorabilia and the organization of the team history started in the summer of 1995.
“It started when, with the Falmouth Historical Society, we put on a history night at one of the games,” says Irish.
Large boards with photographs of the Falmouth teams, plaques from championship teams throughout the years and other items were put on display at the field.
Those history nights were done for nine years.
Financial woes shut down the league
Many photographs he collected were originally part of the Falmouth Historical Society’s collection, but he added to it, buying photos and finding old newspaper stories, until he was able to put together quite a history, not only of the Falmouth team, but of baseball on Cape Cod.
“They played baseball on Cape Cod back in the 1800s. It was a form of entertainment for the residents and people who came here for summers, and the Falmouth team played mostly off-Cape teams. They didn’t call it the Cape Cod League then; it was just baseball,” Irish says.
In 1923, the Cape Cod Baseball League formally started with four teams: Chatham, Hyannis, Barnstable, and, of course, Falmouth.
“They had college players, prep school players, some semi-pros. The local guys from 1923 to 1939 — there were only about seven of them. They were drastically in the minority,” Irish says. “It was mostly college players like they have now.”
In 1930 the league expanded to seven teams.
“That was the high point,” says Irish.
Then in 1939 the league dropped back to only four teams: Barnstable, Harwich, Bourne and Falmouth because the towns were not able to financially support a team.
“They had to vote on a baseball appropriation at town meetings,” says Irish.
After the 1939 season, the old Cape League disbanded, probably due to financial effects of the Great Depression, and did not resume until after World War II.
Coincidentally, Irish kept up his interest in baseball as manager of the Northeastern University team from 1939 to 1941; he graduated in 1942.
He served in the U.S. Army toward the end of the war, but did not see combat. After the war, he worked in the Boston area, but often visited the Cape in the summer and went to baseball games.
Finally he moved back to Falmouth in 1962, buying his mother’s home, the home he grew up in.
In 1946, the Cape League started up again, but consisted mostly of local players. So between 1946 and 1960 it was truly a Cape league.
In 1946, the Falmouth team was nicknamed the All-Stars, and had players such as Roche Pires and Manny and Carlo Pina, guys Irish grew up with.
Carlo Pina played for the All-Stars from 1946 to 1950 and was the team’s general manager from 1950 until 1965.
“He just passed away and I wrote a memorial article about him,” says Irish.
In the days of the old Cape League, the players stayed around for a number of seasons.
One of the more colorful players was George Colbert, a catcher who started in Chatham in 1926, played with the Chatham-Harwich team and ended his career as a Cape League player with Falmouth after 13 years.
“He was a character, sort of a comedian. For example if a pitcher wasn’t throwing hard enough, he’d take his mitt off and catch bare-handed. He liked to keep people laughing,” says Irish. “He ended up being a teacher in the Harwich school system.”
Commodores started in 1965
In 1963, the league reorganized into the Cape Cod Baseball League, featuring mostly college players at first and then only college players as it is today.
In 1965 the Falmouth team became the Commodores.
One of the better-known Commodores in the 1960s was Steve Greenberg, Hank Greenberg’s son.
Greenberg played first base for Falmouth from 1967 to 1969 and went on to serve as assistant commissioner of Major League Baseball for a number of years.
Irish says the biggest difference between the old Cape League and now is that the players are so much more sophisticated.
“Players today have so many games. When I was at Northeastern, we had an 18-game schedule. Two games were rained out, so we only played 16,” he says. “Now they play 60 games. They have greater experience. They’re better conditioned. They get better coaching and there’s more competition.”
But what Irish really misses is the old noise.
“The players in the old days used to chatter. I can still hear some of those guys. I can pick out their voices,” says Irish. “In the ‘80s there was a player for Chatham, a second baseman. He talked all the time. I couldn’t help notice it because nobody else was doing it. We had that in the Cape League years ago.”