Every spring, one can count on three consistent things being in bloom—trees, flowers and baseball. A place you can certainly find the latter is Frederick's Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium. It's a cumbersome title for a sport venue but we are used to names of this variety with Oriole Park at Camden Yards just 45 minutes to the east. Although, when you think about it, Oriole Park is self-explanatory, and Camden Yards is a geographic locator based on history—the former train and freight yards of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. What is Nymeo? Who was Harry Grove? And how are they related?
For starters, Nymeo is a federal credit union. Harry Grove was a former Frederick resident. Both can be said to be "key" supporters of Frederick baseball. That's simple enough, isn't it? Well, I will let you research Nymeo on your own time, but I'm happy to tell you about Harry Grove, as he is among the 40,000 residents of Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Let's start with briefly exploring Frederick's strong affinity for the national pastime, one that dates back to the 1800’s. A perusal of old newspapers can yield box scores from “days of old” featuring local teams of all varieties and names. I found one called the Crickets.
In 1907, Frederick had a semi-professional ball team, named the Hustlers, in the Sunset League which lasted until 1911. Three years later, a meeting occurred on April 6th, 1914 at Frederick's original YMCA location on the corner of W. Church and Court streets. This is the site of an M&T Bank branch parking lot today. Anyway, the meeting brought together "a body of national game enthusiasts at what is considered the most enthusiastic baseball rally ever held in this city" according to the Frederick Post. The purpose of the meeting was to temporarily organize a Frederick baseball association and appoint temporary committees and officers to draft plans and prepare for a permanent organization. The true aim of this event was to gage the level of interest the community had in having a paid baseball squad—a professional team. Seventy-five season tickets would be sold to accomplish this task.
The chief promoter of this effort was Col. E. Austin Baughman, a Frederick native and prominent resident who would serve as Maryland's Motor Vehicle Commissioner from 1916-1935. By the colonel's side was a 45-year-old man, short in stature, but a giant in business acumen and his love for the baseball diamond. His name was James Henry "Harry" Grove. Both men made a motion to send a committee (representing Frederick's interest in having a professional baseball team) to an upcoming meeting to be held in Hagerstown. This group wanted a local team to be part of an established, four-six team, organized, Class D league. Or it would also consider having an independent team.
The push was successful and Frederick would receive another semi-pro squad in a league, at first that only included teams from Frederick, Hagerstown and Martinsburg (WV). This was known as the aptly named Tri-City League. Plans would soon be underway to form a professional baseball league featuring these three teams, and three additional clubs (Chambersburg (PA), Gettysburg (PA) and Hanover (PA). They needed to gain official recognition by the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. Thus, in 1915, the Blue Ridge League was born.
The Frederick team would take the nickname of Hustlers, but would also be known as the Champs and Warriors too during the 15 year history of the Class D, Blue Ridge League.
Seventy-four years after that "enthusiastic meeting of April, 1914," Frederick City acquired a professional baseball franchise from the mecca of Little League Baseball—Williamsport, PA. This happened in April, 1988. A firm called Baseball and Sports Associates, Inc. successfully negotiated to get this team into the Carolina League (of minor league baseball) as a Class A ball club of the Baltimore Orioles. Actually, the AA affiliate (Williamsport) went to Hagerstown and the A affiliate (Hagerstown Suns) came to Frederick in a "triple-play" of sorts.
Many locals didn't want the Frederick franchise to keep the name Suns, in hopes for something new and perhaps, "Frederick-centric." Some pulled for the name of the original Frederick team—Hustlers, but a negative connotation with an adult magazine title may possibly have nixed that idea or so said Frederick News-Post sports reporter in an article dated November, 1988. Finally the team received its name a month later. It paid homage to our hometown hero Francis Scott Key, the man who gave us “the Star-Spangled Banner”— the greatest song baseball has ever known, with “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” a close second, of course. As an aside, other potential team names that received consideration were the Frederick Spires and the Frederick Fritchies.
“In an April 1990 interview in the Baltimore Sun, Mr. Grove told sports reporter Thom Loverro:
“My father was very active in baseball. After we read about the $250,000 needed for the stadium and how a donor could name it, my wife and I thought it would be a very nice thing to do. My father was really an avid baseball fan and always supported baseball around here.”
James Henry “Harry” Grove
James Henry Grove was born in southern Frederick County on December 4th, 1869. He was the son of Manassas Jacob Grove, the man responsible for starting the M. J. Grove Lime Company in 1858. This operation was located at Lime Kiln, about five miles south of Downtown Frederick, on Carrollton Manor, just west of the Buckeystown Pike. The company produced crushed stone, lime and allied products and was one of the first road building firms in the state.
Harry, as he came to be known, grew up at Lime Kiln vicinity and attended local public schools, culminating with the Frederick College located on Counsel Street. Soon after, he began his career in “the family business,” eventually serving as manager of the Frederick plant and director of the company, having additional operation locations elsewhere. The Tercentenary History of Maryland (published in 1925) states that the company was one of the largest in the country. “He (Grove) now has charge of the company’s interest in Frederick, an important and responsible position, requiring all of the aptitude for commercial work and business acumen of a successful executive and administrator. Thoroughly progressive in his methods, Mr. Grove has been no small factor in the development and extension of the Grove manufacturing interests.
Mr. Grove married Anna Forsythe of Howard County on June 12th, 1900. The couple would be the proud parents of three boys: James Henry, Jr. (born May 12th, 1901), William Jarboe Grove (b. January 19th, 1903) and the fore-mentioned stadium donor of $250,000, Manassas Jacob Grove (born February 16th, 1906).
The Tercentenary History of Maryland continues: “Mr. Grove has taken an interest in the commercial development of Frederick aside from the advancement of affairs of his own family firm, and has given of his capital and time in support of other business enterprises, among them the Mountain City Garage, which conducts one of the largest auto supply and repair stations in the city. He is president of the company. Politically Mr. Grove is a staunch supporter of the party of Andrew Jackson and is ever willing to lend his support to the democratic cause. He is a Roman Catholic in religious faith, a member of St. John’s parish of this city and a Knight of Columbus. Fraternally he is also affiliated with the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, belonging to Frederick Lodge.
Harry Grove was a big sports fan. He influenced a love for athletics in his boys. Son William Jarboe played baseball and football at Frederick High School, and college baseball at Cornell University. James Henry, Jr. particularly enjoyed outdoor activities such as golf, hiking and fishing. M. J. “Jacob” would become the top athlete in the family, but more on that in a moment.
Harry was “intensely interested” in baseball—especially on the local level. He became associated with Frederick pro-ball clubs, including the Hustlers, from the onset as a founder, and board member.and continued his affiliation with the team up through the time of his death.
1909 Frederick team with Harry Grove pictured in center of back row with fancy hat (4th from left). Col. E. Austin Baughman is pictured second from left. Future American League umpire Richard "Dick" Nallin is the gentleman standing to the right of Grove. Ironically Nallin would eventually live only two doors down from Grove on W. 2nd Street.
Mr. Grove died at his residence located at 107 W. Second Street on July 14th, 1930. He was only 61. Grove first started feeling ill after a July 4th outing with friends. He would eventually suffer a stroke, which rendered him in critical condition before succumbing to a cerebral hemorrhage. James Henry “Harry” Grove was duly laid to rest in Mount Olivet Cemetery’s Area LL/Lot 210. The location is roughly 300 yards from home plate of his namesake stadium.
Harry's Son M.J.
Born in 1906, at Lime Kiln, M. J. "Jacob" Grove was named for his grandfather, Manassas J. Grove (1824-1907). M. J. "Jacob" Grove was a member of the first co-educational class that graduated from Frederick High School. He excelled in track events, lettered in four sports his senior year and was awarded a Silver Cup as the best all-around athlete in Frederick County.
Jacob graduated from Yale University where he played varsity baseball for three years and competed in track as a broad jumper. It should come as no surprise that he would hold the school’s record for stolen bases from 1929 up through the early 1990’s. He also held the record for most consecutive games with a hit (21). He hit two grand slams as a member of Kennebunkport (Maine) Collegians in 1926.
Grove worked for the investment banking firms of Brown Brothers, Harriman & Co. in New York. He then worked at Alexander Brown & Sons of Baltimore. In May 1941, he was drafted into the Army. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the US Navy, following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served at naval aviation training stations during the war, principally as officer-in-charge of the Naval Light Preparatory School in Austin, Texas from 1943-44 and as a member of the staff of the Chief of Naval Training at Pensacola, until his discharge as a lieutenant commander, USNR in 1945.
M. J. “Jacob” Grove married Miss Noreen Grote of Brenham, TX. On May 1st, 1945 in Walnut Grove, CA, a suburb of Sacramento. The couple came to back to Maryland where he joined the Mercantile Trust Company of Baltimore. Grove was elected Vice President in 1947, and remained until 1955. After a brief stint of teaching at Catonsville High School, the Groves moved back to Noreen’s home and the Lone Star state. Jacob Grove would work in the endowment Office of the University of Texas (Austin) as an investment specialist from 1957 until his retirement in 1971.
Jacob and Noreen would again return to Maryland (and Frederick) in 1984. They would take up residence at Crestwood Village Senior Community, just a short drive from the Key’s baseball home named after his father. On the beautiful night of June 8th, 1993, M. J. Grove enjoyed a night at Harry Grove Stadium, taking in a game in which the Keys were hosting the Durham Bulls. This was no ordinary game, however. At Mr. Grove's side was a very important guest, the President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. The two men had plenty in common to talk about aside from their love of baseball. Both had attended Yale, and served in the Navy during the World War. Both also had connections to Kennebunkport, Maine and the state of Texas.
Noreen passed in 1996 at the age of 85. M. J. Grove would relocate to Homewood at Crumland Farms. He would die seven years later on September 17th, 2003 at Frederick Memorial Hospital. Grove's body would be buried next to his parents and two brothers (William Jarboe Grove died in February, 1997; and James Henry Jr. died in 1990).
You know, on any given game night, you can stand at the Francis Scott Key monument and hear the National Anthem being sung at Grove Stadium. In the same vein, one can also hear the "crack of the bat" and the "roar of the crowd" from the vantage point of the Grove family burial lot in Mount Olivet. Some things are just meant to be.
Thanks again to these two gentlemen and the extended Grove family for their part in providing us with a fine stadium for our hometown team, now celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Very special thanks should go out to Ms. Helen Haerle of Middlebury, Vermont, a granddaughter of J. Harry Grove and niece of M. J. "Jacob" Grove. She provided the several family pictures used in this piece. I'd also like to thank Kim Selby at the YMCA of Frederick County who assisted me in getting images from the Alvin G. Quinn Sports Hall of Fame collection.