Updated: June 23, 1951

North Eastern League History

Frank Ruscitti’s idea of a winter league came to fruition in 1926. Mr. Ruscitti (Coney Island Kings), Jesus Diaz (Lewistown Diesels), Jon Simonds (Hartford Hens), and Alan Levine (Cadillac Mountain Whales) formed the original clubs. Todd Greene (Lewistown) became the first player chosen in the draft. On October 24, Coney Island bested Cadillac Mountain, 6-3, in the historic first game. Eric Davis hit the historic first home run, for the Kings. ¶ Without a commissioner, the NEL turned renegade in dealing with day-to-day matters. For example, the owners abolished the playoff format with a week left in its inaugural season. ¶ Internal bickering and financial woes forced the cancellation of the 1927 campaign. More changes followed in 1928, including the disbarment of Mr. Levine, who left to Florida. A year later, Billy Prine, of the Prine Consortium, gained control of the barren franchise and moved to Fly Creek. ¶ Still, the league-where-anything goes remained influential. It beat the established BVL in the technology race. Hal the computer was first introduced, and e-mail games were first played. ¶ By signing with the MLB, the NEL introduced the Affiliation Draft. Oakland (Fly Creek), Boston (Hartford), Cleveland (Lewistown), and the New York Mets (Coney Island) formed the affiliates. ¶ Despite its negative label, the NEL exhibited conservative tendencies. Promising loyalty above all else, players of the NEL were never traded or released. How about that!

Seasonal briefs:
1926 -- The monthly magazine 5e88 folded before its debut. Lewiston won Game 71 against Coney Island to clinch a tie. Three Kings players were called out at home plate. In the season finale (Game 72), Jeff Manto hit a 2-run home run off King reliever Matt Karchner to erase a 7-6 deficit. MVP Jack Howell followed with a solo homer. Lewistown won the first NEL championship. ¶ 1927 -- The BVL raided the NEL talent pool. Former Cadillac Mt. pitcher Al Leiter became the second player chosen in its draft. Coney Island lost 10 players, including fan favorite Luis Lopez, at #108 of the 1927 BVL Draft. ¶ 1928 -- Lewistown dominated the 3-team league with a 13-0 start (15 straight wins). David Dellucci hit an amazing .481 (51 for 106) for the two-time champions. Tony Fernandez (Hartford) finished second, .361. ¶ 1929 -- Billy Prine took over Cadillac Mountain. Twenty-five players were selected in the first Affiliation draft. Heckler and rock critic Robert Christgau briefly interrupted the draft. “Would you (Diaz) like to get the (Gary) Giddins proof despite this slave trade that’s taking place?” he asked. Commissioner Joeseph Josef Jesselli allowed players of the NEL to fight in the 2nd War against Al-leiter terrorists. Members of the Elks Club Tank Unit (John Frascatore, Fly Creek, New York Pick Three #002; Jeff Shaw, Coney Island, #004) and the Brick Church Pistol Brigade (Rob Ducey, Lewiston, #001; F.P. Santangelo, Hartford, #003) returned to safety after their 2-month tour. Luis Sojo (Fly Creek) won the league batting title (.341). Teammate and MVP Gil Heredia went 6-0 with a 2.44 ERA for the new champions. ¶ 1930 -- Hartford made David Cone its first overall pick in the draft. Calvin Pickering became the second player to crack the .400 barrier (.416, 57 for 137). Karim Garcia (Lewistown) set the home run mark (16) while batting .372. Jimmy Haynes (Hartford) won the strikeout title (46). Lewistown captured its 3rd title while Hartford boss, Jon Simonds, continued his folly of drafting only the worst players left behind on the discarded pile of ex-BVL players, aka The Bum Pile. Built to fail, the laughingstock Hens proved to be Simondsí most profitable venture ever. The Hens would outdraw the BVL Mighty Hawks in attendance. ¶ 1931 -- The late Darryl Kile became the latest of Hartford’s number-one picks. The owners agreed on a round-robin playoff format to determine the league championship (won by Lewistown). Hartford defeated Coney Island in a 1-game playoff for the No. 3 spot. Karim Garcia (Lewistown) won the MVP again and became the first Triple Crown winner (.394, 21-55). ¶ 1932 -- Lewistown's Eric Karros missed hitting a dramatic 2-run home run (1-18HR, 19-20 out) and flied out to end Game 7 of the double-elimination tourney. Fly Creek celebrated their championship. Jimmy Foxx's crew reached the finale by outlasting surprising Hartford, 10-9, in Game 6. ¶ 1933 -- League owners ruled against the use of steroids. Dave Roberts (Lewistown) led the league in stolen bases (17) but was busted after he failed a drug test. And yet, fans voted him MVP. Speedster batted .327, 5th best. John Halama (Coney Island) was named Cy Young. He went 5-0 with a 2.38 ERA. John Lieber (Fly Creek) led the circuit in ERA, 1.48. Other leaders: Jamie Moyer, 40 strikeouts; Rondell White (Lew), .356 BA; Tony Clark (Har), 8 HRS, 23 RBI. ¶ 1934 -- As a result of Prine Consortium inactivity, Lewistown owner Jesus Diaz pulled off a successful coup, stripping the Prines of ownership at Fly Creek and Coney Island, respectively, and Jon Simonds' rule at Hartford -- without notifying the three owners. "The NEL is now a renegade league," said Diaz. "You need people like me. I am the bad guy." Diaz called upon Tom Lavin in the hopes of running the league by themselves. But their relationship quickly failed. Mr. Lavin left the BVL in a huff. ¶ 1936 -- Al Luplow, with HAL, restarted the NEL without any fuss. Led by former BVL veterans, Frank Thomas and Mike Timlin, Hartford ended years of pathetic finishes to capture its only NEL title. MVP Thomas topped the loop with 8 home runs. Timlin was voted Cy Young by posting a 0.41 ERA and 14 saves. The ownerless league received little attention and declared bankruptcy. The NEL was dead. 1938 -- New ownership bought the naming rights; nine BVL Triple A clubs joined the new venture. Clubs filled their rosters with players not on BVL rosters. The Arkansas Black Travelers defeated Henry Street in a playoff to gain the title. Bronson Arroyo (12 wins, 1.65 ERA) won the MVP and CY Young awards. It took 25 innings before Sarasota defeated Grand Rapids, 10-3. 1939 -- Arkansas won its second straight title. Billy Butler was named MVP and led the league in batting, .314; Cole Hamels won the Cy Young (10 wins, 1.55 ERA); Shawn Marcum was the ERA king (1.42).