With spring training season here, I thought it would be a good time to send out an article on
Blackstone Valley baseball.
First, though, I want to mention some changes I’ve made to the Hopedale history website. I don’t know
much about putting a website together except what I learn as I go along so I’m frequently finding things
that need to be changed. The site looked fine on my monitor but I wasn’t thinking about those of you
who had screen resolutions set for 600 x 800 or something other than 1024 x 768 which is what I use.
You should be able to read it now without dragging the page back and forth. Also, I took care of some
links that weren’t working.
Now, on to the baseball story written by Doug Reynolds and published in Labor’s Heritage in 1991.
Below, is the first paragraph of the main article and an interview with Joe Morgan. Click here to read
the entire article.
Reflecting on a lifetime in baseball spent as a player, front office executive and part owner, Hall of
Fame member Hank Greenberg recalled, "If you could visualize East Douglas, Massachusetts and the
East Douglas ball club and the Blackstone Valley League you would understand much of the United
States in the 1920s" Before the former first baseman signed a professional contract with the Detroit
Tigers, he played for the East Douglas team, hitting a home run his first time at bat. Walter Schuster,
who owned the East Douglas team, the woolen mill and just about everything else in town was so
impressed with this feat and so desperately wanted to make sure that Greenberg would continue to
play for his team that he gave the teenager $175 on the spot, an amount equal to two months' wages
for the average working man at the time.
Remembering the End of an Era
Telephone interview with Boston Red Sox manager Joe Morgan
December 16, 1990
The legacy of Blackstone Valley baseball endures even today in the major leagues. Boston Red Sox
manager Joe Morgan played shortstop for the Draper Company team in Hopedale, Massachusetts,
during the summers of 1949, 1950 and 1951. He recalls that an acquaintance, Johnny Turko, asked
him to consider playing in the Blackstone Valley League when he was eighteen years old and
preparing to start his college baseball career at Boston College. Morgan found the skill level of league
players higher than any he had ever experienced. "You got a rude awakening in that league...college
ball wasn't as good as the Blackstone Valley League, no comparison." Teams "had a ton of guys that
played professional ball."
Morgan credits three main factors for the high quality of play in the league. The first was the
willingness of managers to pay for professional baseball services. In addition to average mill wages
for a forty hour a week job as a grounds keeper, Morgan received $25 for each baseball game -- the
payment rate for infielders and outfielders. I" worked two years for the mill and one year for the
Larches. That was a bar just across the Hopedale town line. Hopedale was dry in those days." [I'm
sure most who were familiar with The Larches would object to Morgan's description of it as a bar. It
had been the George Otis Draper mansion and was being used by Draper Corporation as an inn and
restaurant at the time Morgan worked there. It was said that the town line ran through the middle of the
building and alcohol was served on the Milford side.] Pitchers and catchers on the Hopedale team
received $35 per game and sometimes bonuses. Team officials also made sure players had housing
and food. Morgan spent his first year in a Hopedale boarding house and succeeding seasons with a
A second reason league teams were exceptionally good in the Morgan era was the age and maturity of
a lot of the players. Many had "already been in the army for four or five years" where they found the
opportunity to hone skills on semi-professional military teams during and after World War II. Nearby
Fort Devens had a team "that was something" and regularly played Blackstone Valley League teams.
Most players in the late 1940s under the G.I. bill continued baseball careers on college teams after
leaving the service. The better industrial teams recruited players from the colleges. "It was tough,"
Morgan explains, "on a high school kid. For a guy leaving home for the first time it was quite an
A third reason for the quality of play in the league was the recruiting activity of mill officials. The
Hayward-Schuster Mill in East Douglas drew southerners. Whitinsville had "some connection with the
Phillies" organization. Hopedale was "mostly Holy Cross" when Holy Cross was still a national power
in college athletics. "That was a good league in those days There were an awful lot of really good
players in it."
Why did mills join the Blackstone Valley League and recruit the best players they could?
"Entertainment. It definitely was entertainment. A real good crowd [in Hopedale] might have been
1,000 or 1,200" and in a mill village of fewer than 6,000 people, that was something.
And why was the league discontinued? Morgan does not know. But his statements provide a clue.
Draper Field, the ball park his team played in, "...was a beauty. They made a parking lot out of it and
sent the lights down south somewhere. [Well, they didn't make a parking lot out of it but they did send
the lights south. I believe they went to Spartanburg where Drapers had a large plant.) Indeed, the
prosperity of World War II and its aftermath did not continue in New England mills. With the migration
of textile and related industries to less expensive labor markets, mill owners no longer had a reason
to continue the league.