George Donnelly Sunset League
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On July 28, 1919, Dr. Peter Integlia of the Newport Recreation Department started the Sunset League. The first elected officials of the League were William A. Kelley as secretary, Arthur Leland as treasurer, Michael McCarthy as chairman, Howard Langley and Emil E. Jemail as official scorers and Hayward Williams, umpire. The Sunset League became official the next day.
The original six teams in the league were the Braves, Richmond’s, Automatics, Tigers, Clean-Ups and Ironsides. The first league contest was held on August 4. Games rotated between the Basin (now Cardines) and Wellington Park. The Braves won the first League championship.
After that initial season, the bleachers from Wellington Park were moved to the Basin and all games from then on were played there. From 1919-1922 roughly $5,000 worth of improvements were made to the Basin.
Throughout the early years, attendance at all games averaged over 60,000 annually. Many different teams representing both civilians and military personnel have played in the Sunset League, along with teams from different towns throughout Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts.
All games ended at dusk until floodlights were installed in 1938. The transition to night games helped keep attendance at historical levels. From 1942 to 1945, the floodlights went dark for fear of attracting the attention of German U-boats roaming the Atlantic.
In 1936 the City of Newport purchased the Basin. On September 20, 1936 the Basin was officially renamed Bernardo Cardines Field, after Private Bernardo Cardines, the first fatality from Newport in World War I. With the help of the Works Progress Administration additional grandstands were erected in 1937. Hockey-style dugouts were installed in 1938, a gift from Jack O’Brien.
The 1940s through the ‘60s were some of the best Sunset years, with the league having up to nine teams comprising some of the best players ever to play in the area. Those years benefitted greatly from the military presence in Newport.
The 1970s and ‘80s saw declining attendance, but the quality of League play was still at the top of US leagues. In 1977 the city of Newport discussed the possibility of tearing down Cardines Field for a parking lot, but that idea was defeated and Cardines stands today. The ‘80s were also dominated by Precision Woodworking, who won seven League championships in a row. In 1992 the League name was officially changed to the George Donnelly Sunset League in honor of longtime player/scorekeeper/historian George Donnelly.
In 2000, a new set of renovations took place throughout the ball park, everything being upgraded from the lights to the playing surface. The renovations were led by Ronald MacDonald, a former player and manager and current sponsor of two Sunset League teams.
Throughout the years, players from all across the USA have played at Cardines Field, either in the Sunset League itself or against Sunset League All-Star teams. Currently the League has seven teams and is regaining its historical competitiveness as it enters 2013 and its ninety-fourth season.
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