Happy MLB Opening Day! Today we celebrate baseball’s first pitch of the season with Allegany County’s very own baseball Hall of Famer (1947) and arguably the finest left-hand pitcher in history, Lefty Grove. In fact, you can really honor Lefty Grove today by visiting his gravesite in Frostburg’s Memorial Park; strolling the streets of Lonaconing, MD, where Lefty grew up and returned (be sure to check out the George’s Creek Regional Library where his memorabilia is on display); or
raise a glass in his honor at 1812 Brewery as they serve up an MLB Opening Day Lefty Grove Party with the cover charge being donated to the Lefty Grove Memorial Committee.
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Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove was born on March 6, 1900. in the Charlestown suburb of Lonaconing, Maryland. His father John Grove was a coal miner. Lefty’s mother was Emma Catherine Beeman. The family’s surname was spelled “Groves” at the time. The “s” was dropped from Lefty’s last name in the early days of his professional baseball career.
The story of Lefty’s early baseball experiences at “First Field” in Charlestown are chronicled in part one of Ruth Bear Levy’s two-part article entitled “Recollections of Lefty Grove: Baseball’s Greatest Left-Handed Pitcher.” The article was published in the Maryland Historical Magazine in the summers of 1987 & 1988. The article is posted on the Western Maryland Historical Library website – www.whilbr.org.
Life in the impoverished coal town of Lonaconing did not allow luxuries like real bats and baseballs. According to Ruth Bear Levy’s article, baseballs were usually homemade from a piece of cork, wound with yarn, and wrapped with tape. A fence paling was often called into service as a bat. The local youngsters would flock to First Field when Lefty pitched. A former Lonaconing native, interviewed for Levy’s article, remembered that Lefty’s fastball was like a “shot out of a gun.” Years later, major league scouts came to the same conclusion. Ford Christopher Frick, who served as the 3rd Commissioner of Baseball, later said that Lefty Grove was the fastest pitcher who ever lived.
Lefty played in his first organized league as a member of the Midland team in 1919. Beginning as the first baseman, Grove was soon moved to the pitcher’s mound, when they saw how hard he could throw. After hurling a no-hitter against the powerful B&O team at the end of the year, Grove’s ascent to greatness began.
Lefty was hired by the B&O in 1920, but before he could play a game for them, he was recruited by the Martinsburg Mountaineers of the Class D Blue Ridge League. Grove played only six games for Martinsburg before his contract was purchased by Jack Dunn of the International League Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles won the league pennant each year during Lefty’s tenure. In 1923, Lefty set a league record of 330 strikeouts, that still stands today. The International League is currently the governing body over all of the minor league teams on the east coast.
In 1925, Lefty’s services were acquired by Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics, for a record sum of $100,600. This was more than the New York Yankees paid for Babe Ruth. Lefty experienced the only losing season in his career during 1925, winning 10 games, while losing 12. This left many to wonder if Connie Mack’s expectations for Grove were unrealistic.
In 1926, Grove began to find the control to go with the speed of his fastball. In 1927, Lefty began a string of seven consecutive 20 win seasons, including an incredible two-year record of 59 wins and nine losses in 1930 & 1931. Lefty’s 31-4 record in 1931 earned him the very first American League MVP trophy that was ever awarded, beating Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the process. The Athletics won two consecutive World Series titles in 1929 and 1930. They nearly won a third, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in a seven-game series in 1931.
After suffering an arm injury in 1933, Lefty developed a curveball and a forkball, to compensate for the loss of velocity on his fastball. In 1934, Lefty was traded to the Boston Red Sox, where he played for eight seasons. Remarkably, Grove won four of his nine American League ERA titles during his stint with the Red Sox, after his career-changing arm injury. On July 25, 1941, Lefty Grove got his 300th win, in a game against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park. Of the 24 pitchers who have won 300 or more games, Grove still has the highest winning percentage.
Lefty retired on December 7, 1941. Consumed with the news about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the nation paid scarce attention to Grove’s departure. Coupled with the misfortune of playing in an era before games were televised, Lefty seemed to be consigned to an obscure legacy.
Awards bestowed after his retirement revived Grove’s legacy. Lefty was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947. During baseball’s centennial celebration in 1969, he was named the left-handed pitcher on the All-Time All-Star Team. In 1999, Lefty was named to baseball’s All-Century Team. His nine ERA titles still stand as a record today.
In Bill James’ book Historical Baseball Abstract published in 1985, James rated Lefty Grove as the greatest pitcher of all time. In the newer version of the book, released in 2001, James reversed the order of the first two pitchers and ranked Grove’s hero Walter Johnson first, and Lefty second. Either way, Grove would surely have been flattered just by the comparison to Walter Johnson.
Even though some pitchers posted better numbers than Grove, Bill James gave particular emphasis to the fact that Grove played in an era that predated the existence of specialized relief. In the era when Lefty played, the starting pitcher was also expected to be available to pitch in relief. Lefty has 55 saves, in addition to his 300 wins. Grove completed 48% of his major league games, which is 50% more than modern pitchers Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens, combined. Bill James also ranked Grove 19th among the greatest of all baseball players in history.
In a testament to the accuracy of Bill James’ calculations, the 2002 Oakland Athletics employed James’ statistical model to build a team that won 20 consecutive games. At the end of the 2002 season, the Boston Red Sox hired James as a player analyst. Two years later, the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years.
Grove never relinquished his residency in Lonaconing during his professional baseball career. He returned to Western Maryland each year during the offseason. Lefty supported youth baseball in Lonaconing, and he donated his 1931 American League MVP trophy to his hometown. The trophy is now displayed behind bullet-proof glass, in a specially designed $25,000 showcase, at the Lonaconing Public Library.
To quote Bill James, in his book Historical Baseball Abstract: “what argument, if any, can be presented against the proposition that Lefty Grove was the greatest pitcher who ever lived.”
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Guest Author: Bucky Schriver
Plan For Vacation Day is here, January 30, 2018. While we know you are daydreaming about your next getaway, have you actually started planning? If not, let us help you narrow down the choice for your next mountain escape – choose Allegany County, Maryland’s Mountain Maryland!
1. Bike the Great Allegheny Passage
150-mile bike trail from Pittsburgh, PA, to Cumberland, MD, featuring trail towns – Frostburg and Cumberland along the way. Learn more.
2. Enjoy the water on Lake Habeeb
Rocky Gap State Park and the 243-acre Lake Habeeb is the ideal location for year-round outdoor recreation. Enjoy kayaking, canoeing, hiking, mountain biking trails, and camping. Insider secret: Rocky Gap State Park features dog-friendly beaches and an Aviary program featuring a Bald Eagle.
3. Ride the Rails
Enjoy a train ride from Cumberland, Md, to Frostburg, Md, with the historical Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Year-round programming features Moonshine Trains, Beer Dinner Trains (yes, they have a Chef and kitchen on board!) and the ever-popular Fall Foliage excursion. Insider Secret: The Hands on Throttle is an experience not to be missed. Guests 18 years and older can experience what it is like to handle the locomotive.
4. History Comes Alive
Allegany County, Md, is rich in history and heritage. In fact, our region features three centuries of American history including the start of the National Road with mile marker zero and the Tollhouse, George Washington’s headquarters, C&O Canal, coal and railroad heritage, and much more. Insider secret: Gunter Hotel in Frostburg, Md, is over 100 years old and features an actual speakeasy from the 1920’s in their basement!
5. Eat, Drink and Be Mountain Merry
Breweries, Wineries, and a Distillery are all part of the growing food culture in Mountain Maryland. Our food scene is growing in reviews and accolades. Five local area food and beverage options are currently recognized at the Best of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. These include 1812 Brewery (Best Brewery), Clatter Coffee (Best Coffee Shop), Dante’s (Best Bar / Pub), SHiFT (Best Farm-To-Table Restaurant) and Toasted Goat Winery (Best Winery). Learn more.
6. The Music Scene
Mountain Maryland is becoming known as a music mecca. With DelFest kicking off the summer scene each Memorial Day weekend, to the year-round music concerts at nearby Rocky Gap Casino Resort, from hip, eclectic and up and coming music at Frostburg’s Dante’s Bar to the international acts that line-up Frostburg State University’s Cultural Event Series, we should consider renaming us Mountain Music Maryland.
7. C&O Towpath
Cumberland, Md, is the terminus for the GAP Trail and C&O Towpath. Start, end, or continue your biking journey with us. The C&O Towpath is a 184.5 miles bike trail from Cumberland, Md, to Georgetown, Md.
8. The Arts are Alive!
With two of Maryland’s 26 Arts & Entertainment Districts, Frostburg and Cumberland, an active and educational focused Allegany Arts Council, and many galleries and art exploration spaces, Mountain Maryland is a gathering space for those who love and appreciate all forms of the Arts. Inside secret: Two theatres, the Cumberland Theatre and Embassy Theatre feature performances throughout the year.
9. 60,000 Acres
Allegany County 60,000 acres of public wildlands. In fact, 1 in every 4 acres is public. Green Ridge State Forest is the largest contiguous forest in the state of Maryland and is an outdoor enthusiasts dream. Hiking, geocaching, floating the Potomac River, mountain biking and more are available. Inside secret: Green Ridge State Forest includes multiple scenic overlooks with incredible views. Stop in the Park’s Visitor Center and ask for a self-guided driving map.
10. Small Town Life
Small town charm, well it is made here! From quaint shopping in Downtown Cumberland, featuring clothing boutiques like Lew Lew Belle and antique shops like Fort Emporium, to Frostburg, with its hip main street, Allegany County is filled with unique, locally owned, specialty businesses, storefronts and Made in Allegany County products.
The Mountains are calling! Start planning your next vacation and adventure. For more information, visit mdmountainside.com.
Tags: Allegany Arts Council, Allegany County, Allegany County Maryland, C&O Canal, Cumberland, delfest, Frostburg, Frostburg State University, Gordon Roberts House, Great Allegheny Passage, Green Ridge State Forest, Gunter Hotel, Mountain Maryland, Rocky Gap State Park, Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
Enterprise-Rent-A-Car Films Digital Content Pieces on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath Cumberland, Md.
For Immediate Release
For more information, contact:
Bryan Perry, Allegheny Trail Alliance – 724-309-9334
Ashli Workman, Allegany County Tourism – 301-876-9595
Greg Phillips, Enterprise Rent-A-Car – firstname.lastname@example.org
Enterprise-Rent-A-Car Films Digital Content Pieces on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath Cumberland, Md.
(Nov. 29, 2017): Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the country’s largest transportation solutions provider, released a pair of new video shorts featuring bicyclists on the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage and 184.5-mile C&O Canal Towpath. Filmed in Allegany County, Maryland, in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, and in Pittsburgh, “The Cumberland Connection” videos highlight a father-daughter duo who ride the Pittsburgh-to-Washington, D.C. journey and make their return trip by renting a vehicle from Enterprise’s Cumberland location. The shorts are featured on Enterprise’s website as part of Pursuits with Enterprise, the brand’s digital magazine designed to inspire and enable more purposeful travel experiences. One of the videos is narrated by Larry Brock of Mountain Maryland Trails.
Production took place during the summer of 2017, and the final cuts feature shots of the Great Allegheny Passage along the Cumberland Narrows, over the Salisbury Viaduct, through the Pinkerton Tunnel, across the Ohiopyle Low Bridge, and in Point State Park.
“We’re pleased that Enterprise highlighted Cumberland as a premier trail town along the Great Allegheny Passage,” said Bryan Perry, Executive Director of the Allegheny Trail Alliance. “For many cyclists, renting a car for a return trip is a convenient choice that makes a thru-ride seamless and attractive.”
“With our location right off the connection point of these two legendary bike trails, we’ve had the opportunity to create a bond with the cycling enthusiasts, families and friends that come through our doors before embarking on their journey,” said Conrad Suter, Enterprise branch manager in Cumberland. “These video pieces showcase what’s special about this destination – not just the beautiful countryside and picturesque views, but also the community of cyclists and friendships developed along the way.”
The video shorts are available at https://www.enterprise.com/en/inspiration/weekend-adventures/cumberland.html.
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About the Allegheny Trail Alliance
The Allegheny Trail Alliance is a coalition of trail owners and trail groups that built and now steward the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile rail-trail connecting Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md. The Great Allegheny Passage is the longest rail-trail in the eastern U.S., and welcomed over a million visits in 2016. 2 It connects with the historic C&O Canal Towpath in Cumberland, allowing cyclists and hikers to complete a 332-mile journey to Washington, D.C. For trip-planning ideas, visit www.GAPtrail.org.
About Allegany County Tourism
Allegany County Tourism is the official tourism office for Allegany County, Maryland. A comprehensive listing of area attractions, lodging options, and community events can be found at www.mdmountainside.com.
The Enterprise brand – which comprises Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Enterprise CarShare, Enterprise Truck Rental, Enterprise Car Sales, the Exotic Car Collection by Enterprise, Zimride by Enterprise and RideShare by Enterprise – offers customers a total transportation solution. Its flagship brand, Enterprise Rent-ACar, was founded in 1957 and is known for an extensive network of convenient locations, affordable rates, and outstanding customer service. Enterprise Rent-A-Car was ranked on BusinessWeek magazine’s annual list of “Customer Service Champs” for four years in a row. Enterprise operates not only as a key provider for insurance replacement, weekend getaways, and special occasions but also as a local transportation alternative. With more than 5,800 fully staffed airport and neighborhood offices located within 15 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population, Enterprise can meet whatever transportation needs customers may have – renting, buying or sharing.