Summers in the Philadelphia area feature a wealth of rituals that are known throughout the region. The shore, fudgy wudgy, and Fourth of July on the Parkway are just some of the annual rites of the Delaware Valley. Few pastimes in Philadelphia have entertained more summers than baseball. With the exception of the Phillies, no formal baseball organization has a deeper history than the Delco Baseball League.
The semi-pro Delco League was established in 1908, just seven years after the formation of Major League Baseball’s American League. The league has crowned champions in every year except 1918, 1928, and 1933. Notable players include Hall of Famers Frank “Home Run Baker” and Charles “Chief” Bender.
In 1917 Babe Ruth threatened to jump to the Delco League as leverage in a dispute with the Boston Red Sox. Even though he contemplated signing a lucrative contract to pitch for the Chester Shipyards, Ruth remained in Boston and became one of the most important icons in American sports.
The organization currently has teams in Narberth, Wayne, Aston Valley, Concord, Springfield, Marple Newtown, Middletown, Upper Darby, and Chester. Narberth and Aston Valley will begin a five-game championship series on August 5.
Even for an association that has been swinging sticks since the Theodore Roosevelt administration, the league is still capable of producing drama. I first became aware of the Delco League in 2016 when I was asked to help with the championship series. The series between Narberth and Wayne not only featured good baseball, but it was also capped by a memorable clinching game.
A close fifth game was decided in the top of the final frame. With Narberth up 4-3 in the seventh inning and waning daylight threatening to postpone the outcome of the game, Wayne’s Brian Giacobetti lined into a double-play and gave Narberth its first-ever title in Delco League history.
The teams, players, and scope of the league have changed over time, but the game remains the same. The Delco League may not garner the attention that the Phillies or events like the Manayunk Arts Festival do, but it is just as much a part of summer as they are. It is a great experience for fans and families looking to enjoy a good ballgame and a unique tradition.