By James VanBever
Today, the Little League baseball field in Graniteville features well-groomed baseball and softball diamonds that are well lit so that boys and girls can play at night. On most summer evenings, there are usually 3 or 4 games in progress. But when the Westford Little League first started in 1953, there was only one field that was not very well groomed and used a snow fence to mark its homerun boundaries. That diamond is now known as the Geoffrey Hall Field which the league dedicated to former State Representative Geoffrey Hall in 2008. The league was originally known as the Westford Small Fry League because the National Little League Association required a fee to join, and the town lacked the funds to do so.
The man most credited for founding the Westford Small Fry League was Father Bobby Wall. You may have noticed a small sign when you drive into the field that states: “Fr. Bobby Wall Way, founder of the Westford Little League, 1953.”. Since it has been 70 years since Father Wall founded the Small Fry League, the sign is the only time that most folks have ever heard of Bobby Wall.
Robert M. Wall was born in 1931, and grew up on First Street in Graniteville, near the Graniteville ballfield. He was the son of Raymond and Irene Wall. An all around good athlete, Bobby attended Keith Academy in Lowell and graduated from Keith in 1949. After graduating from High School, Wall continued his education at St. Bernard’s College in Alabama where he graduated from in 1951. Bobby then continued his education at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland where he continued his education for the priesthood. Wall would later receive a M.S. degree in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University.
But it was in the summer of 1953 while home from his studies that Fr. Wall left his mark on the town of Westford. Prior to 1953, there was no organized baseball in town for boys to play. Bobby Wall would soon change that. He and his family went to work raising funds for a new Small Fry League in town. The new league held Whist parties at the Legion Hall in Graniteville to raise funds for uniforms and equipment. Legend has it that Wall would often visit the local clubs in town to solicit funds for the new baseball league.
During the summer of ’53 the Wall’s home on First Street became the de facto headquarters of the Westford Small Fry League. The league stored uniforms and equipment at the Wall home and Wall’s family phone became the League’s phone number. Bobby’s mother Irene Wall held food sales at her home to raise funds for the fledgling league. Bobby Wall was now the official manager of the Westford Small Fry League.
Through the efforts of Bobby Wall and others the Westford Small Fry League officially opened its inaugural season on July 20, 1953 at the Abbot Field in Graniteville. The original teams were the Cubs, coached by Arthur Bellemore and Fred Courchaine, Cards, managed by Jim Regan and Jack McDonald, Tigers, led by Richie and Bruce Holmes, Giants, coached by Phil McLenna and George Gower, Red Sox, led by Tony Diver and Mark Mulligan, and Braves, headed by Jim King and Dave Jewett.
At the end of the ’53 season the Small Fry League held its championship game at the Abbot Field. The Red Sox were the first team to win the Westford Small Fry League championship. All members of the champion Red Sox received a white emblem shaped like a baseball with green lettering. At the end of the game, the Small Fry League treated all its players to tonic(soda), hot dogs, cake, and ice cream. To conclude the day, Edwin Evans presented Wall with a large sum of money earmarked for the league for his efforts in starting youth baseball in Westford.
In the 1957 Westford Town Report the Westford Recreation Commission paid tribute to Fr. Wall for his efforts in founding the Small Fry League by stating: “We are grateful to Mr. Wall for his overwhelming endurance in adapting this program in our community, starting with a handful of players and supporters, he was successful in creating the interest needed to form an organization.”
On May 24, 1958, Bobby Wall became an ordained priest at St. Catherine’s church in Westford. Following his ordination, Father Wall oversaw radio and television shows for the Diocese of Mobile-Birmingham, Alabama. Both of Wall’s television and radio programs won awards from the Catholic Broadcasting Network. Later, Father Wall would serve in a number of churches in New Hampshire and in 1985 he would become pastor at St. Peters church in North Walpole and St. Joseph’s church in Walpole, New Hampshire.
Father Bobby Wall died on April 1, 1992. But for all those who have ever or will ever play ball at the Graniteville ballfield, his memory lives on.
“To study for Priesthood,” Lowell Sun, June 3, 1951, p.61.
Ibid. “Westford,” July 13, 1953, p. 13.
Ibid. “Forge Village,” July 20, 1953, p. 10.
Ibid. “Forge Village,” September 10, 1953, p. 22.
Ibid. September 12, 1953, p. 2.
“The Rev. Robert Wall,” Nashua Telegraph, April 3, 1992, p. 8.
“Father Wall in Westford,” Westford Eagle, April 23, 1970, p. 4.
“Report of Recreation Commission,” Westford Town Report, p. 79.