A Tribute To
Cranberry Baseball League President and Founder
April 1911- November 2003
On November 27, 2003, a beautiful Thanksgiving Day, Connie Spillane passed away at the age of 92. Connie leaves his wife of 60 years Mary Spillane and his son, Jack.
He took over the Easton Huskies in 1930 and founded the Cranberry Baseball League in 1960. His charisma and dedication built these organizations from the ground up to what they are now- the icons of amateur baseball in southeastern Massachusetts. These are his legacy.
Since its inception in 1960, the Cranberry Baseball League has provided a venue for the areaís best amateur, collegiate and former professional players, coaches and umpires in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. To his dying day, Connie Spillane continued to be a driving force and inspirational leader within the organization. His philosophy had always been "we donít need to import players from other parts of the country, weíll grow them here."
Connie is fondly remembered by the thousands of players whose lives he touched by giving them the opportunity to play.
In 1975, he and Hank Pearson started the Brockton Invitational Tournament- a Tryout Camp held on the last weekend of the summer. The idea was to offer players an opportunity to show off their skills under game conditions to pro and college scouts.
Over 2,800 baseball prospects have participated in "The Invitational" in its 29 years. More than 100 have been drafted or received professional contracts- including Major Leaguers Tom Glavine, Mike Remlinger and Rocco Baldelli. Hundreds more have received college scholarships.
This was the first "showcase"- and the ideal was and still is to open the door for young players from around New England. Coaches, organizers, umpires and volunteers all donate their time and talent. The "Invitational" carries on Connie's dream of providing an opportunity for the "next generation" to live their dream.
There is no profit motive as there is with other baseball showcases. Massasoit Community College baseball coach Tom Frizzell, who serves as the organizer of the Invitational observes: "For $30 (entry fee), a player can play three days of baseball before college and major league scouts. I think it is one of the best deals in sports."
Known as "Mr. Baseball" around Eastern Massachusetts, Connie would more often than not be seen at a High School, American Legion or Cranberry League game on any given night. Whether the venue was Frothingham Park in Easton or James Edgar Playground in Brockton, Connie was always there- watching, coaching, sometimes growling, most times smiling.
His contributions have been recognized by many. He is a member of the Massachusetts High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. He has been recognized by USA Baseball. In 1999, the Boston Park League honored him with the President's Award for his many contributions to baseball. This year, Connie was inducted into the Oliver Ames HS Hall of Fame.
One of his dreams was to have a Hall of Fame in the Cranberry League. That dream was realized in 1995 when the league established its own Hall of Fame. Connie, of course, was one of the charter members. In fact, he was THE charter member. His name is in its own row at the top of the Hall of Fame "Perennial Plaque". His involvement in amateur baseball spans seven decades.
Many players and personalities have passed through the Cranberry League, but none have left their name on the game the way Connie Spillane has. Connie once mused about what it took to start the league and keep it going: "IOUs through major credit cards and cash through minor miracles... high schools complain about Proposition 2 1/2; we've been on it since we started."
It was Connie's tireless devotion that enabled the CBL to survive while other "semi-pro" leagues like the Old Colony, Mayflower, Hockomock, Bay State and South Shore Leagues failed. For seven decades, Connie has given thousands of young men something that no one can ever replace- a precious commodity known as time.
We can never repay Connie for the countless hours he has given to keep amateur sports alive. Few realized the task he faced each year to keep his teams solvent- reaching into his own pocket many times. He never asked for help and he never quit. He felt he had a commitment to fulfill- and time has proven that he met it.
Let's also not forget that behind every successful man is a wonderful woman. Connie and his wife Mary were a "team" for 60 years. She knew Connie was doing the thing he loved the most and that's what she wanted for him.
They are a team that we all owe so much to... the only thing we can offer is a simple "thank you"... but then again, that's more than they ever expected to get in return.