A mix of fact and fiction… mostly fiction.
The Cumberland Athletic Club has its origins as the recreational sporting teams for employees of the Western Maryland Railroad (The Wild Mary) which operated into the coal country of Appalachian Maryland. At the peak of operations of WMR in the early 1900s, the recreational teams were supported by the railroad with some employees hired more for their in-season athletic prowess at the expense of their off-season railroad operations skills. With baseball, basketball and rugby teams all operating as semi-professional operations along with the soccer team, the tenacious reputation of the Western Maryland Railroad spread far and wide. People learned of the famous Helmstetter’s Curve engineering feat and the innumerable tunnels and over-grade stretches of track from fans in the stands as the “Wild Marys” gave as good as they took on the field. The good times did not last long, however as economic conditions lessened demand for coal and the company had to reduce costs. Sponsorshop ended in 1922 (a strike being the final straw) with the teams continuing as labors of love by the players and fans. Renamed the Western Maryland Athletic Club the steadily eroding economic conditions and loss of population lead to the closing of the WMAC in 1935.
|Western Maryland Railroad "fireball" logo|
In the late 1960s and early 1970s local attention grew along with the athletic successes of division III Frostburg State College, particularly in soccer and track and field. Former Real Salt Lake coach John Ellinger was MVP of the Frostburg State soccer team in 1972. Combined with the North American Soccer League surging in popularity, soccer clubs began to re-emerge across the nation and Cumberland jumped on the trend with the restoration of the Western Maryland Athletic Club in 1976 with a soccer team playing in regional adult leagues. Due to conflicts with a local health club of the same name, the name changed to its current Cumberland Athletic Club in 1978. Local businesses recognized the opportunity to revitalize the economy of the area and began strong sponsorship of the team. A stadium was built in 1982 in LaVale, Maryland near the site of Braddock’s Army’s first camp on their march to Fort Dusquene during the French and Indian Wars (Seven Years War for you Eurosnobs). Hence, one of the team’s nicknames was The Campers, shared with a local high-school where the team had previously played. The financial burden of the stadium was too much for the team in the early years and it went into bankruptcy in 1991.