Baseball in the summer of ’48, Part IV

LAURNIE CAPRONI
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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 IV:

The Maysville A’s played their first baseball game shortly before mid-summer 1948.

Games were played under the lights every Tuesday and Friday.

The Flemingsburg VFW team, one of the best in local circles, came to town and pinned a 9-7 loss on the home team.

Johnny Crockett, son of the A’s manager, pitched the opener. “Johnny had a good fastball,” said Punk Griffin, “but you didn’t know if he was going to throw it over the plate or over your head.”

Maysville did win its second game.

The A’s spotted Owingsville a five-run lead, then rallied for a 10-6 victory.

Lefty Wilbur Hill pitched for the A’s and apparently was all over the place. He surrendered a half dozen walks to go along with his five strikeouts.

Shotsie Tolle, son of the old BMC player a generation before, hit a triple in the game. Earl Wheat of Germantown, Spud Davis and Hill rapped doubles for the A’s.

Hill’s two-bagger may have come off a strike, but more than likely it came off a pitch that was chin high.

Or eye high.

Or top-of-his cap high.

Remember, he was according to Griffin and Junie Poynter, a notorious bad ball hitter. He also, for the record, hit baseballs where mortals only dreamed of.

Said Poynter:

“There was a big sycamore tree at the old park, 400 and something feet away. Nobody ever hit one there until Wilbur did one day. He hit, as I recall, a pitch over his head.” Earlier, at Ripley, while in high school, Hill hit one which apparently has yet to land.

“How far did it go over the fence?” the Punkin was asked.

“There wasn’t any fence,” he said. “But there was some trees in right field about a block away.”

“Did he hit it into the trees?”

“No,” said Griffin. “He hit it over the trees. It was the damnedest thing I ever saw.” Again, when I was the A’s batboy, Hill jumped out of his shoes and attacked a ball at ear level. He hit it so hard the crowd was stunned into silence.

There was a player on deck, I can’t remember his name, who said it all by not saying a word. He looked as if he had witnessed the explosion of a nuclear device.

The ball climbed into the night sky, rose above the lights and disappeared into the dark. We knew it went a long way because it didn’t break any windshields or hit one of the countless dozen of cars stacked up behind the green fence.

It eventually was found up by the railroad track to the left of the old trestle. If Hill had hit one of the rock-hard balls in use today, that rascal might have landed on top of the Home Warehouse.

There were just so many players, BMC, Blues and A’s alike. Bubby Parker, from out Lewisburg Way, was a catcher. Edwin Pollock of Washington was a fine outfielder and a good hitter, Poynter said. He also said Tommy Tabb from Dover was a “super shortstop” who once had a tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Kenny Reeves, a first baseman, did likewise with the Detroit Tigers. Fats Tolle came late to the A’s, an almost apple-checked youngster. But few, before or since, had a better glove.

In addition to those mentioned before, there were pitchers Buddy Gilvin, Jack Kresser and “Seedy Atherton”, Dick Whalen, a catcher-outfielder, Homer Cablish Jr. and Gus Stergeos, shortstops.

Yet another was Jack Frank of Higginsport.

“He played second base,” said Poynter, “and he could hit in clutch situations better than any batter I ever saw.”

That leaves Poynter himself, trim to this very day, looking for all the world like he could go out and shag balls just like he did when he was a wee lad.

“Junie was first-rate.” Said the Punkin. “He was a good fielder and a heads-up all-around player.”

Later the A’s did a little recruiting in the Falmouth area. They came up with Myron Reinhardt (Mason County basketball fans are sure to remember him!) and an absolute brilliant left-handed pitcher by the name of Allen Flaugher.

They got Flaugher after he came here with a Falmouth team one night and blew the A’s to Kingdom Come.

Flaugher gave up a home run to George Cooke in the first inning – and nothing thereafter.

Nothing.

Along the way, he struck out 21 batters, a remarkable feat – then or now.

“I probably struck out four times.” Said Poynter. “I couldn’t touch him. I doubt I even hit a foul tip.”

Flaugher generally is considered one of the four best “modern era” pitchers ever to work the local mound. The others were Heb Moford who pitched mostly for the Brooksville area teams before making it to the majors; Woodie Fryman of Fleming County, another who made it all the way to the Bigs; and the late Allen Smith, formerly of Maysville.

The A’s played for a number of years, even though the crowds began dropping after 1950.

“That”, said Griffin, “was when the drive-in theater opened in Aberdeen.”

Oh.

Then came television.

Oh-oh.

The world was changing.

People changed, too, Poynter said.

“Guys had been out of the service for three, four, five years. They got married, had kids. They just got away from it…”

So now the sights and the sounds and the smells-the hit-and-run, the roar of the crowd, the hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn-are only a memory.

But you never know.

All it takes is Glen Hardymon and Ruben Pawsat.

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LAURNIE CAPRONI