Down at the end of Linden Street in Cambridge, a neighborhood stadium is nestled behind a cinder block enclosure which seems to have stood forever. J. Edward Walter Park was named to honor the city's longtime postmaster and Parks and Recreation founder, who helped foster youth baseball.
Over the past few generations, the place has provided special memories for area youngsters, their parents, plus amateur adult team players.
But the hallowed grounds also contain echoes of glory days reaching back 100 years, through the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, when the Cambridge Canners, Cardinals and Dodgers played, along with other Eastern Shore League Class D professional teams filling fields of dreams across Delmarva.
Yes, Hall of Famers and bona fide Major Leaguers played here, in our proverbial back yard.
There were Delmarva Peninsula-born heroes destined for greatness, such as Jimmie Foxx and Frank "Home Run" Baker, as well as those who came to settle locally, like Robert "Ducky" Detweiller and Fred Lucas. Some who spent time playing in Cambridge became nationally known household names, such as managers Don Zimmer and Danny Murtaugh.
Earlier this month, the Dorchester County Historical Society provided a guided tour down a diamond studded memory lane, courtesy of Seaford native Mike Lambert, author of the 2010 book “Eastern Shore League,” part of Arcadia publishing's Images of Baseball series.
The talk nicely dovetailed with the Historical Society's Baseball in Dorchester County exhibit which opened in September 2021, curated by and courtesy of board member Donnie Davidson's mammoth memorabilia collection. The exhibit also features a tribute to Baseball's Negro Leagues.
Informally styled but highly informative, Lambert shared a wealth of photos, facts and anecdotes to an equally dedicated group of baseball faithful, many ready with stories of their own to share, including "Ducky" Detweiller's daughter Gina and noted Cambridge artist George Wright, who has painted portraits of Harold Barnes, Eddie Murray and Ted Williams.
Wright pointed out a picture of his grandfather in one of the exhibit photos on display and shared his childhood memory of playing street baseball for hours, courtesy of a baseball handed out daily to him by Fred Lucas, owner of a sporting goods store downtown after retiring.
For years, Lambert's been on a personal mission to pursue and preserve whatever memorabilia from this era he can put his hands on, attending auctions, searching eBay sales, using his vast knowledge of the cast of characters involved, from players, coaches, owners, umpires, mascots and more, to amass a treasure trove of authenticated artifacts helping tell the story.
Lambert takes pride in discussing those who, while not household names, received recognition for setting records with stellar performances. Among these is Cambridge-born Jake Flowers, renowned for coaching the Salisbury Indians to the league pennant in 1937 and ‘38.
He delights in sharing fun footnotes, mentioning Brooklyn cops who came here to play ball, and one Cambridge player who became a Hollywood character actor. But he doesn't shy away from sharing the less than savory details of those caught cheating and banned for life.
His reputation as a passionately serious collector has also helped him unearth heretofore unknown tidbits from the least expected sources.
In one case, Lambert's wife Kara was contacted by a woman who'd found signed pictures of several well-known players linked to a dentist who owned the Milford, Delaware, team and had been friends with legendary manager Connie Mack.
When some of Mack's players needed relief from debilitating toothaches, he sent them down to be seen by the friend.
One telltale clue confirming the story was a signed picture of Philadelphia A's pitching great George "Rube" Walberg inscribed with "Three strikes out on bad teeth."
In recognition of Lambert's tireless efforts in helping keep the local history of America's pastime alive, he was inducted into the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame, whose headquarters and museum are located at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, home of the Delmarva Shorebirds, an Orioles minor league affiliate.