2018-08-23 / Around Town

Sunset League Celebrates 100 Years

By James Merolla


Historical images similar to the one above can be seen in the book "Newport Baseball History, America's Pastime in the City By The Sea." See page 10. Historical images similar to the one above can be seen in the book "Newport Baseball History, America's Pastime in the City By The Sea." See page 10. On the day after finishing the playoffs, the George Donnelly Sunset League will hold an Old-Timer’s Game on Aug. 25, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Cardines Field, its fulltime home since 1920.

The Sunset League celebrated its 100th season on Aug. 4. It began in 1919, a year after World War I ended, and is the oldest continuous amateur baseball league in the nation.

Originally named because games ended at dusk, it was renamed after George Donnelly in 1992. Donnelly, who was nattily attired in a business suit behind home plate for 61 years, started as a teen catcher in the league, led it several times in RBIs, became league scorer, statistician and historian from 1929 to 1990, and was also the city’s recreation director from 1943 to 1969.

Old-timers may wax poetic about this particular home run, or this steal of a base, or this player, but the league’s history, still so pastoral at the time of day that marks its very name, is perhaps best summed up by league Commissioner Chris LaRose.

“Truly nothing beats sitting in the third base stands, watching a game as the sun sets over Newport Harbor,” LaRose told Newport This Week. “You can see what a great place the City by the Sea is, all while watching a truly Newport icon in the George Donnelly Sunset League.”

Prior to playing at Cardines Field, which was originally known as The Basin, the league split playing time at Wellington Park for one season.

Each year, LaRose works the schedule around the popular Newport Gulls, that other great Newport amateur league filled with high school and college players with professional aspirations.

The league has been busy this month. Beyond the playoffs that go through Aug. 24 and the special game of ex-players the next day, there has also been the centennial recognition, best framed by the league’s official T-shirt with the original six-team names like, “Ironsides,” “Clean-ups” and “Automatics” on the back.

The league also announced its fourth Hall of Fame class in August. LaRose said the date of the induction ceremony has yet to be determined.

The influential players in the 2018 class include Chuck Paiva, who enters as both a player and a coach. He was a member of Atlantic Beach Club 1995 championship team and also served as league president.

Also named were William Warren, who laid out the playing field at the Basin/Cardines Field; Andy Andrade, who led Middletown to consecutive league championships in 1981-82; Chris Patsos, a threetime all-star catcher and a key contributor to the Atlantic Beach Club 1995 championship team; Paul Riaboushinsky, who managed Broadway Hardware to three league titles; Haywood Williams, one of the original league umpires; and pitcher Frank Pollitt, named to the first “Sunset Dream Team.”

Others selected were Howard Langley, who was associated with the league for more than 45 years as a scorer and scheduler; Robert Johnston, who had a career .329 batting average over 10 seasons; Robert McFee, a 10-year sunset league veteran with a career .344 batting average; and Clarence Butler, the league home-run leader in 1935.

Finally, Katie Grovell was named. She was interviewed in the Aug. 16 edition of Newport This Week. Grovell was an original batgirl who warmed up pitchers in the 1940s and ‘50s. She was known for her spirit and her spectacular catches in the outfield during batting practice.

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