Pen-Mar, Blue Ridge begin new era Saturday!
The Pen-Mar/West Virginia League and the Blue Ridge League, two semi-pro leagues that have combined to win eight Maryland State Championships, have merged into one, with the regular season set to begin on Saturday.
Both leagues have rich baseball histories.
The local Pen-Mar League is the second-oldest semi-pro league in Maryland, and among the oldest in the nation, having debuted in 1947 with regular seasons and playoffs every year since. The Cumberland Orioles are the defending league champions and Maryland Semi-Pro State Champions. The Oakland Oaks won last year's regular-season title.
The Pen-Mar League has sent several former players to the Major Leagues, including Bob Robertson, a World Series champion with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1971; John Kruk, a three-time NL All-Star and career .300 hitter with the Padres, Phillies and White Sox; Sam Perlozzo, former Baltimore Orioles manager and coach of the World Series champion Reds in 1990; and Leo Mazzone, pitching coach of the World Series champion Braves in 1995.
The Blue Ridge League was named in honor of the original Blue Ridge League, which was a Class D league in the old classification system that included Class D to Class AA in the minor leagues. That league had teams from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland, including the Cumberland Colts in 1917 and 1918, and the Piedmont/Westernport Drybugs in 1918.
For a short time, several Major League teams had affiliations with teams in the Blue Ridge, including the Cleveland Indians (Frederick); Detroit Tigers (Hanover, Pa.); New York Yankees (Chambersburg, Pa.); St. Louis Cardinals (Waynesboro, Pa.); Philadelphia Athletics (Martinsburg, W.Va.); and the Washington Senators (Hagerstown).
The league debuted in 1915 and continued until 1930. The current league debuted years later. The Brunswick Orioles won last year's league championship and has had a vice-like grip on the league title. Since 2000, Brunswick won league championships from 2003 to 2013 and again in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
The Pen-Mar/Blue Ridge merger has formed a seven-team league this year.
The Pen-Mar teams will be the Cumberland Orioles and Wheelhouse Titans, who will play home games at the Hot Stove Complex at the Allegany County Fairgrounds; the Oakland Oaks, who will play home games at Garrett College; and the Clarksburg Generals, a new team that will play its home games on the artificial turf Frank Loria Field in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
Although the Generals are a new team, the Pen-Mar League has had Bridgeport, Morgantown, Elkins and Buckhannon teams in the past from West Virginia, in addition to Keyser, Moorefield and Petersburg.
The Blue Ridge teams are the Brunswick Orioles, who play home games at Brunswick High School; the Martinsburg Blue Sox, who play at Martinsburg High School; and the Maryland Bay Crabs, who play home games at Babe Ruth Field in Thurmont.
Terry Helbig, Pen-Mar League president, is hopeful of additional expansion in coming years, including the return of former local teams. The Pen-Mar has had teams in many towns in the past, including Westernport, Frostburg and Mt. Savage in Maryland; Hyndman, Bedford and Salisbury in Pennsylvania; and Keyser, Moorefield, Petersburg, Elkins and Morgantown in West Virginia.
A 24-game schedule, with doubleheaders on weekends, begins Saturday with the Bay Crabs playing the Cumberland Orioles at the Hot Stove Complex, and the Oaks playing the Blue Sox in Martinsburg.
On Sunday, Clarksburg hosts Oakland, Martinsburg plays the Cumberland Orioles at the Hot Stove Complex, and Brunswick faces the Bay Crabs in Thurmont.
To reduce travel time and costs, games involving Clarksburg and the new teams from the Blue Ridge League will be played at the Hot Stove Complex.