Pam Dudding-Burch
|Contributing writer

Handshakes, hugs and pats on the backs were recently in abundance among a flock of old school baseball players. They drove in and walked over to meet their buddies, with smiles as big as one could get and laughter that permeated the entire area.

On Saturday, September 30, at 1 p.m., players and their families from the Baseball Leagues of the 60s, 70s and early 80s gathered at Shelter #2 at Moncove Lake for a ‘baseball family’ potluck picnic. This was their second reunion. Unlike the rainy day last year, this year presented them with a beautiful blue sky day.

The teams were from; Upper Craigs Creek, New Castle, Paint Bank, Waiteville, Sweet Springs, Gap Mills, Boiling Springs, Gold Bond, Big Stoney Creek and Sinking Creek. Though most played on the same team each year, many shared that if a team was short a player, they would just jump over for the afternoon. “We liked the competition but we enjoyed the sport more,” many agreed.

Everyone that came carried delicious homemade foods and desserts to the tables. Danny Lucas was thanked for providing the majority of ham and chicken. Several others brought deer and bear meat, as well as every vegetable, casserole and dessert imaginable. “It’s a good thing we’re not playing ball now,” one player said. “I couldn’t get up from the table after eating all of this.”

Most of the former players were between the ages of 65 and 90. All could not attend, but they were definitely mentioned amongst the continual happy chatter and stories. Everybody was warmly welcomed and encouraged to sign the address book that they started last year.

They even had many of the old score books handy so people could look through them and remember the hits, outs and steals! “That Donnie Dudding was one of the fastest little runners I ever seen,” several mentioned. “He was a great player too.”

Ernie Galford played first base, starting in 1968. “I played every year and only missed one ballgame until it ended.” He admitted that he and Ronnie Porterfield went to Baltimore to see their girls. “He married his but I didn’t marry mine,” he said with a grin.

His uncle, Dorcy Galford, was a coach at Gap Mills until the league ended in 1983. “I enjoyed every minute of it,” he shared. John Honaker played second base for Gap Mills and Richard Carter played the entire years starting with Gap Mills and then for Sweet Springs. “I liked to play second but played anywhere I was needed.”

Gray Porterfield sat in his chair, being accused of his fellow Waiteville players of telling tall stories, being ‘deaf as a gourd’ and also not able to stop talking. When he was asked what they called him during his baseball years (as many had nicknames), he said ‘out’.

Melvin Porterfield played baseball for many years, starting in left field for Waiteville before joining the Paint Bank team. He said that Gary Porterfield, known better in his ball playing days as Chester, called him ‘Knucklehead’. Some of the guys were trying to remember whom ‘Peanut’ was, that pitched for Stoney Creek.

Wayne Howard and Ralph Bradley were chatting and Howard said he played ‘tailback’ for the team. Bradley corrected him, saying he played left field and center field for Boiling Springs. Howard explained, saying, “Every time I got a chance to get a ball, the coach would holler at me to get my tail back on the bench.” Laughter immediately rang out when that happened.

Bradley, who played catcher for Sinking Creek, said he couldn’t believe that Johnny Beane told the story on him, about him warning Beane during a game that the pitcher, ‘“I told all the kids that he may not try to but if he hits you I can’t help it,” he said with a smile. “I just didn’t know Beane was going to get hit that time.

Howard continued talking about Eddie Hall that played for Boiling Springs who pitched for a while. “He was a little short guy with no neck and we called him ‘no neck’,” he said.

“He had big muscles?” Bradley asked. “Yeah, that’s him!” Howard answered and continued with his story. “Charlie didn’t like the guy that was batting and said ‘hit him’ and Eddie did and I was thinking, ‘Holy Macaral, I don’t want to play against him!’”

Jack Shumaker played third base for Sweet Springs and said he was in the group of the first ones to start playing. “That was a long time ago!” Another teammate standing by said, “Now they had a baseball team I tell ya…He and his brother Junior could knock the fire out of it!”

He added what many shared. ”That was our Sunday activity and I truly wish it was still going on!” he said. “This generation needs to have something like this instead of what is going on in the world.”

Arnold Harry was a coach, and started in the 60s. “We played right after Irene and I got married,” he said. “My two daughters, Cindy and Rita, would stand behind the backstop and yell at Ralph,” he added with a smile.

Another player for Paint Bank was Gail Meadows. “I really enjoyed it and my father was a coach too.”

The Hans Creek Band from Greenville played during the reunion. “They play the best bluegrass music around this area,” many shared. Stanley Asbury Jr. was on the bass, Stanley Asbury on the guitar, Burt Ellison playing the banjo and Rachel Johnson on the fiddle. Stanley Sr. said he had been playing since he was 11 and now in his 70’s and his son, Stanley Jr. has been playing with him since he was 14. “We were porch pickers in the coal fields,” Stanley Sr said. “That’s all we had for entertainment.”

As the day ended, people slowly started leaving. Multiple pictures were taken and the hugs and handshakes ritual repeated itself. “Invite anyone you know who wasn’t here today.” Porterfield shouted. “We hope to see all of y’all next year!”

John Honaker, Richard Carter, James Galford Wayne Sowers, Ralph Bradley, Paul Carter, John B. Carter, Gray Porterfield, Jack Shumaker, James Dudding, Danny Lucas, Roger Clarkson, William Sowers, Johnny Nida, Dorcy Galford, Arnold Harry, Marshall Miller, Melvin Rock, James Dudding, Dwight Bradley, Gary Kessinger, David Shumaker, Ernie Galford, Stuart Johnson, Justin Harry, Gail Meadows, Johnny Beane and Wayne Howard

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