In September of 2007, Wareham Gatemen President John Wylde was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer of the liver. John’s goal at that point was to make it to 70 years of age and to lead the franchise that he rescued 25 years ago through the 2008 Cape Cod Baseball League season. Exceeding expectations, John not only accomplished those goals but continued his familiar and distinguished role as the public address announcer and official scorer for the franchise that he helped rescue 25 years ago. Even during his most difficult struggle, John Wylde remained the same dedicated and passionate leader that the town of Wareham, the Cape Cod Baseball League and the baseball community throughout the country had learned to admire and respect. Sadly, John Wylde has died at the age of 70.
John’s impact on the Wareham Gatemen and Cape Cod Baseball League will be felt both on and off the playing field for years to come. While the League has grown in popularity over the past 25 years, Mr. Wylde’s commitment and priority has always remained the same – providing an opportunity for the best collegiate players in the nation to showcase and develop their skills by putting them in the best position possible to fulfill their dream of playing professional baseball. While it is easy to get caught up in the day-in and day- out matters of directing a CCBL franchise, John’s vision never lost focus, and despite his tenure and years of service, he remained thrilled to be working beside and somehow helping along future baseball stars, something that never felt routine and continued to drive his enthusiasm.
This genuine enthusiasm and humble demeanor set a tone that will continue to drive his Wareham Gatemen; a franchise that has won the League’s prestigious “Commissioner’s Cup” twice. The Award is given annually to the franchise that “demonstrates the highest level of integrity & professionalism on and off the field, ensuring and enhancing the championship caliber of the Cape Cod Baseball League.” On the field, Mr. Wylde’s Gatemen were equally impressive over his 25 years at the helm; winning 5 League championships and making the playoffs a total of 17 times; including a League record 13 consecutive years between 1990 and 2002.
Inducted into the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame in 2007, John Wylde served as the League’s baseball statistician and his belief in providing precise and impeccable statistics has resulted in recognition at all levels of baseball. At the conclusion of each game, when most players, coaches and fans were heading home to catch some sleep, John’s night was just beginning as waiting for him on his fax machine were the box scores of the games from across the Cape. When the rest of us woke up, those box scores and updated stats were “magically” available.
Behind the scenes, John Wylde formed relationships and trust with a network of college and professional baseball coaches and scouts that more times than not, resulted in one of the most talented group of college baseball players in the nation. The list of professional baseball players that took their position at Spillane Field, Wareham’s home field, for one or two summers is endless and very impressive. Coaches from Texas and Florida and Louisiana or California and Georgia or his beloved Harvard didn’t send their most talented kids to Warehambecause of some magic recruiting technique. They sent them to Wareham because of John. They knew that they were going to be taken care of and that John would do everything that he could to ensure that their players would have the very best opportunity to develop not only as ballplayers but as young men.
The Town of Wareham is especially fortunate that John and Patty Wylde moved to the town of Wareham in 1974. John became one of Wareham’s most generous and distinguished citizens; not only becoming a critical sponsor of the Gatemen but serving the town in many other capacities. John served on the town’s board of selectman, finance committee and even taught tennis at the Wareham Recreation Department. His contributions and generosity have turned Spillane Field into a multi-functional athletic complex that is among the best in the area. From state of the art lighting to the press box that now proudly displays his name, one of John’s greatest legacies is his commitment to ensuring a quality facility not just for the Wareham Gatemen, but for Wareham High School and other athletic organizations that have had the privilege of utilizing Spillane Field. This commitment came in many forms but is best exemplified by memories of John mowing the infield or politely asking on-deck hitters to kindly stand on the mats rather than on the grass surface!!
John established a tradition at the annual, season-ending Gatemen clambake that is held the day after the team’s last regular season game each year. If the team missed the playoffs and as a result, the clambake was the last formal gathering of the players, family, staff and organizational members, he asked that everyone line up to shake hands as teams do at the end of a game. This was a simple, symbolic and fun way of exchanging good-byes and thank yous. If the team made the playoffs, those good-byes and thank yous were done at the ballpark – a place, after all, that John preferred; as long as we didn’t walk on the infield grass for too long!!
It will sound different at Spillane Field this year. A new voice will announce the next pitching change or the next batter; or make mention that “The Gatemen will be eating at Kool Kone tonight.” In fact, it will never sound the same as John’s distinctive and unique voice is an irreplaceable memory that thousands will never forget. Starting lineups will be turned in to someone else this season, college stats of incoming Gatemen players will be handed out by someone else during off-season meetings and another dedicated volunteer will burn the midnight oil entering box scores and statistics. However, every time the Wareham Gatemen take the field this year and in the future, it will be a tribute to John Wylde; a simple way of validating his impact and honoring his passion.