Baseball in the summer of ’48, part III

Laurnie Caproni
Laurnie Caproni -

With Wald Park’s Opening Ceremony set for Saturday, we’re releasing a four-part story over four days leading up to the ceremony from guest columnist and the late Laurnie Caproni about the summer of 1948, when baseball was booming at the park.

Here’s Part III:

The Maysville Athletics and Wald Park came into being in July of 1948.

And if Glen Hardymon of the well known and highly respected Hardymon clan planted the seed, Ruben Pawsat made it grow.

Pawsat headed the Wald Manufacturing Company here and it goes without saying he was a civic leader of considerable note.

Junie Poynter and Punk Griffin said Pawsat utilized some of his top people at Wald in the effort. Herb Schlifke and Glenn Erickson were specifically mentioned. Another was long time police officer/chief Tee Rosser.

The renovation of Limestone soon to-be Wald Park, done in conjunction with city government, was both extensive and expensive.

The old park was ‘turned around’ That is, the current home plate used to be beyond the outer reaches of the old outfield. The Daily Independent reported 48 more lights were mounted on 75-foot poles to augment the 12 floodlights already in place; seating was virtually doubled with new bleachers; dugouts and concession stand were added.

Finally, a bright, green wooden fence ringed the playing field. That put the new Maysville Park cut above since such fencing was already around in local parks those days. Said Poynter. ‘I don’t recall playing anywhere that had a nicer park than we had’. Finally a redo boot was added so WFTM, relatively new to the airwaves, could broadcast the games. No less a figure than Earle D. Jones handled play-by-play.

Walter Allen Crockett of Market Street, who was a former state legislator and an amatuer pitcher at Sharpsburg of some note during his youth, was named team manager. Doug Fitch and Harry Hawley were among those helping with on field duties.

“Crowds of 1,500 were commonplace,” Poynter said. “Community leaders such as John and Laurence Browning were regularly in attendance,” he added.

The uniforms, uptown in every respect, were another story altogether.

“Homer Cablish Sr. supplied uniforms for one of the teams I played on (believed to be the blues),” Poynter said “Otherwise, we were rag-tag kind of teams, wearing what we could find.”

Not so the newly formed Maysville A’s.

Punk Griffin said Crockett was friend of A.B. “Happy” Chandler, Kentucky’s former governor and U.S. senator.

“Happy was the Baseball Commissioner” Griffin said, “and he had his offices in Cincinnati.” He said Crockett went to the heart of Reds’ country to see Chandler one fine day. The upshot was a complete set of uniforms for the fledging Maysville team.

“They were made by the Goldsmith company out near Crosley field,” Griffin said, “and were supposed to be for the old Philadelphia Athletics of the American league. I don’t know if the major league team didn’t want them or what. All I know is we got them. They were traveling uniforms with a big ‘A’ and little ‘s’ on them. That’s why Maysville was called the A’s and played all games in road grey uniforms.”

History tells us umpires really quite good and – believe it or not – popular. One was Beefy Staker.

“Beefy once gave up his job at Browning, worked as an umpire in the minor leagues, and hoped to make it to the majors,” Poynter said .

Another was “Slats” Grierson, who brought stately kind of elegance to the playing field. He was a Maysville barber.

Poynter and Griffin also remember a man from Ripley who also was a fine umpire.

“He only had one arm,” Poynter said, “and his name was Finney.” Griffin thought his name was Carl.

That leaves the players, some ordinary, some good, and a handful who were a cut above.

Some have already been mentioned. Another was Jack Chapman, a gifted curve ball pitcher from Vanceburg and a player unique, according to Poynter.

“When he didn’t pitch he was the catcher. You don’t see that very often,” Junie said.

One – not the best hitter or the best pitcher or the best player – lives on in folklore.

His name was Wilbur Hill who now lives in Florida.

“He was,” said Poynter, “the best bad ball hitter I ever saw in my life.” Punk Griffin agreed. “If you threw the ball over the middle of the plate he couldn’t hit it. But if you threw it over his head or right on his shoe tops – he might hit it into the next country.”

Oh, my, yes, Wilbur Hill.

He hit some bad babies during his career that had Big Mac written all over them.

The fourth and final part of this story will be in Saturday’s edition of The Ledger Independent.

Laurnie Caproni Caproni

Laurnie Caproni