During the summer months baseball is never too far away from my mind, especially since our local "Boys of Summer," the Greeneville Astros, begin their 2013 season this week.
The popularity of baseball in this county is well documented. Visit the baseball museum at Pioneer Park the next time you go to an Astros game and you'll get the idea.
The Saturday afternoons of my youth (when the farm chores were finished) were often spent at the ball field at St. James or Cedar Creek. Fifty years ago just about every community in the county fielded a baseball team in the Greene County Baseball League, and those Saturdays were filled with some quality baseball, as well as some fussing and fighting that often went along with the sport.
The late Grover Malone of Baileyton was a long-time friend of mine. He often stopped by the newspaper offices to chat with me or Tiny Day. After Tiny died in 1990, Grover would still come by to drop off articles and to just talk about baseball or sports in general.
On Oct. 19, 1991, Grover, a stand-out athlete from the Baileyton community during his high school days and beyond, brought me a copy of what he considered his "All-Time Great Greene County Baseball Team." I know the date because he scribbled it down on the notebook paper that contained his list.
Somehow Grover's list got placed in a folder and into a file cabinet. I had searched for the list many times over the years, because Grover had told some local fans about it and they were interested in seeing his list.
After my retirement from full-time work last fall, I'm still searching through files that had been stocked full of notes for over 40 years. Grover's list reappeared the other day, as it had been stuffed into a folder that I had yet to sift through.
Grover passed away many years ago, but his hand-written list of an All-Greene County Baseball Team is still interesting, and I'm sure that there are many old-time fans who will get a kick out of looking this over.
As with any "all-star team," there's room for argument, and Grover knew that when he jotted down his team. He wrote on the top of the note, "These may not be the best players in your opinion, but it's my belief that they are."
It should also be noted there are a few places on the note, which has yellowed over the years, that are not legible, so instead of guessing what Grover wrote there I'll just leave it blank.
Here's how his lineup looked, and you can tell he put some thought into this as he listed the players by position and crossed some names off before listing others.
First base: Dale Alexander. (I doubt there would be much argument there from anybody.)
Second base: Walter Alexander (and Grover also had Ronnie Wilhoit scribbled in the margin here.)
Shortstop: Buster Haren.
Third base: Rance Pless. (Another choice that there would be few arguments about).
Catcher: Bert Starnes. (I used to play golf with Bert before he passed away a few years ago, and I asked him about his crooked fingers. "Too much catching over the years," he said.)
Outfield: J.B. Waddell in right; Billy Yates in center; and Wade Jennings in left.
Pitchers: Rod Hawkins, J.P. Lamb, Ray Hopson, Bill Malone, Eugene Cox, Dale Mercer, Todd Brenizer, "Dough-Eye" Lowe, "Nut" Johnson.
Utility players: John Pruitt, Billy Winter, Billy Beach, "Patch-Eye" Warden, Boots Anderson, Bill Alexander, Grover Malone.
Coaches: Junior Barkley, Brumley and Gus Greene, Wayne Justis, Hector Teague, Boots Hutton and Grant Morelock.
Grover also made a separate list of players from outside of Greene County who made the local league a success, as well as the Greeneville Magnavox team that excelled for years. Those names included Jim Constable, Danny Mack Pierce, Walter Haun, Winkie Lucas, J.C. Sells, Ray Vaughn "and many others."
I thought one of the most interesting things on Grover's note was the last paragraph. Remember this was written in 1991.
"At one time in Greene County there were 24 teams playing baseball on a Saturday. That's a total of over 240 players. Now you can't even find enough to make up a team."
It's people like Grover Malone who helped make baseball so popular in this county.
Another note that Grover left me was also interesting. I'm not sure when he passed this one on to me because it was not dated. It touched on several subjects.
"Who's going to remember when basketball players had only one dribble, then it went to two dribbles, or when after a basket they jumped the ball again?
"Who's going to remember when girls played six-on-six?
"Who's going to remember that Don "Bear" Carter (of Baileyton) was the first player from Greene County to be named to the All-State basketball team?
"Who's going to remember that Folly Malone (Grover's brother) was the first from the county to be named an All-American at Tyler, Texas Junior College, and who went on to play at the Unversity of Houston?
He went on to name a long list of former basketball players, both male and female, that should be remembered, he said.
"What about William Lister, Frank Easterly, Jimmy Pierce, Ray Parker and Joe, Charles Ramsey, Bobby Blazer, Willis Bowers, Harold Love, Edwin "Gube" Harmon, Grady Carter, Bud Cox, Billy Beach, Joe Cansler, Randolph Lowe, Peggy Lowe, Marlin Collins, Ted Wilhoit, Robert Bird, Bill Alexander, Jack Kilday, Howard "Pop-Eye" Painter, W.C. Wilhoit, Wayne Woolsey, Bobby Broyles.?
"What about Nancy Malone (Grover's daughter), Pam Kilday, Beth Maupin, Beth Parham, Mae Bell Gentry, Nicole Hopson, Mary Voiles, Harriett Roberts, Mary Ann Bailey, Trixie Hixon, Jo Ann Weems?
"These are just a few of the names that should be remembered in basketball."
Grover never touched on football "because I never played football." But he was a supporter of a Greene County All-Sports Hall of Fame, and a place where records could be stored.
As you can tell, Grover Malone was quite a sports fan.