My father liked baseball. He liked playing baseball and watching baseball. I have pictures of him and his cousin playing ball as young men and I also have pictures of him playing while in the Army. Baseball was one of the few things that he and I did together when I was a kid. We would play “pitch” in the yard.
Little League baseball was basically unheard of when I was a kid but the elementary schools had a league in the county in which I lived. Most of the schools in the county had their own baseball fields and the ones in the city had use of several municipal fields for games.
I played baseball for two or three years in the elementary school program. I don’t believe my father ever saw me play. He was always at work when the games were played after school and I don’t think he had any interest in seeing a game. I doubt that it ever occurred to him to take off early to come to a game.
After my dad came home from the Army, he played ball on a couple of the local semi pro type teams. He played for Heath Ice Company and for the Hamlin Lumberjacks. I can find no records of either team. I imagine that someone has pictures of some of the games and I would like to see some.
My dad was a pretty good pitcher and also played outfield. He played with people like Nat Hamlin, Ray Green, Fred Green, and others from the area.
He liked to attend the Macon Peaches games occasionally at Luther Williams Field in Macon. This was a Cincinnati Reds farm team and people like Pete Rose played in Macon. Once in a while he would take me to those games.
We watched the pro games on TV. There was the Game of The week on Saturdays and one of the announcers was Jerome Herman “Dizzy” Dean, after whom I was named. He played a number of years for the St. Louis Cardinals and was one of the last pitchers that they allowed to pitch so many games and he was also the last major league pitcher to win 30 games in a season. His real name had been Jay Hanna Dean but he changed it somewhere along the way. I listened to Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese call the ball games on TV for years as a kid. He murdered the English language with such phrases as “he slud into second”.
When my dad got home from the Army, before he and my mother bought a house, we stayed at my grandfather’s house. On Sunday afternoons a big flatbed truck would come by and blow the horn and it would be loaded with guys going to play ball somewhere. I do not know how they communicated since few in the rural areas had a phone. No one had a phone on the road my grandparents lived on at that time. Nevertheless, the truck would show up and my dad would climb on and occasionally his brothers would be on there as well. They would play in places like Reynolds, Roberta, and Butler.
In Roberta, they played on a ball field that is about where the Roberta Evangelistic Church on Lowe Rd. is now. The Lowe’s had a service station on the corner and the new schools are on that road now. I cannot find any sign of that old field now as it has grown up. On this particular afternoon, this is where they were playing when they left the house.
There was no organized league, as far as I know. These were more like “pick up” games and they did have umpires and tried to play by the basic rules.
The details of this game are pretty sketchy and I don’t know if there is anyone still alive who saw it first-hand. But, sometime, late in the afternoon, we were all on the back porch at my grandfather’s house. The back porch was a place where a lot of work went on. Shelling peas and butterbeans, canning vegetables, and making homemade ice cream in the hand cranked churn.
We heard the truck stop and in a minute, my dad walked around the corner of the house and I will never forget the sight! He had on what was supposed to be a white “T” shirt, only it wasn’t white anymore. It was blood soaked and my dad looked like he had been in some wreck or other major accident! Everyone was swarming around and wanting to know what happened. My dad kept saying not to get excited, everything was fine and he was not seriously hurt. My grandfather was very upset.
My dad went on to explain that there had been a brawl at the ball field. The Roberta team and the county team had gotten in an argument over a call, we think, and it escalated into a fight and a number of players were involved. It gets a little fuzzy after that but we know there were some Thaxton’s , Moulton’s and others involved as well as my dad and players who were on the truck.
One of the Roberta guys, Willie B. Moulton, picked up a hoe and hit my dad in the head a couple of times. My dad was down on the ground duking it out with one of the Thaxton’s. This had caused a lot of blood from the scalp wounds to cover my dad. Somehow, things had gotten somewhat under control and my dad and his team mates loaded up on the truck and got the heck out of there.
Now, here he was at home all bloody and beaten up. He kept saying not to worry about it. Everything was all right. I don’t believe anyone ever declared victory, by the way.
In a few minutes, my dad’s dad arrived in his car with one or two of my dad’s brothers. They were mad, had their shotguns and were looking for justice! They were going to go to Roberta and see the sheriff. If the sheriff wouldn’t do anything, then they would take matters in their own hands! Off they went. Both grandparents, my dad and his brothers. All the while, my dad was saying that “everything was all right.”
They found Sheriff O’Neal and told him that something had to be done! Those “city” players needed to be arrested! The Sheriff was already aware of the situation because some of the Roberta team had already been to see him. They, too, wanted the Sheriff to take action and arrest the “county” players. It seems that they had some bloody players, too.
When my dad got up from battling the Thaxton guy on the ground and having been hit in the head with the hoe by Willie B, he had grabbed a baseball bat and hit Willie B in the mouth with it. (The very thought makes my skin crawl). Mr. Moulton had lost several teeth as a result.
Sheriff O’Neal suggested that it would be best if everyone called this a draw and clean up their wounds and move on. So, that is what they did. There would be no more bloodshed that day. The ballgame was over! Something like that today would result in about 20 lawsuits.
Mr. Moulton ran a grocery store on the courthouse square that served the pulp wood trade and others around that area. They sold a lot of potted meat, Vienna sausage, and sardines. It’s hard to describe to the younger crowd how many “pulpwood trucks” there were going to Macon every day.
In later years, Mr. Moulton and my dad became good friends and would sit on Willie B’s front porch and talk about the “good old days”. They both had some physical scars from that battle till the day they died. But they had put aside any ill feelings long ago. After all, it was just a game!
My wife’s folks were related to a lot, if not all, of the Thaxton’s. No one apparently carried any grudges! But, I don’t think we’ve had
anymore ballgames, either!