Atmore has been hub of baseball talent

Published 9:37pm Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Local and area youth league baseball teams are in action as District and state tournaments are taking place throughout the state. We congratulate our local and area teams for such outstanding accomplishments this season.

In 1961 countless Atmore merchants and citizens contributed funds to help pay the cost of sending our Atmore Senior Little League team to the Williamsport, Pa. Senior Little League World Series. Not only did these folks raise funds, but so did local business institutions like Vanity Fair, Swift Lumber and Southland Telephone Company. That tournament, by the way, was played on a non-Little League field adjacent the world-famous Little League Series playing field.

Atmore fielded its first 13-16-year-old Senior Little Leaguer team that year. The managers were Sterling Fancher, Frank Patrick and John Holland. We earned a berth in that national series by downing Harlan, Ga. by a score of 2-1 in the South Regional Tournament in Tuskegee.

A few days later we boarded the bus for the long trek to Pennsylvania. The bus was filled with players and managers and several local residents who went along to offer support. It was especially exciting for me because I was going to do the play-by-play broadcast so that local residents could hear the game on WATM.

The trip offered us all the opportunity see famous homes and landmarks. The Eisenhower home and Hershey’s Candy factory were particularly interesting.

We were housed at the Naval and Marine Training Center near the ball park.

Some of the players on that team were Eddie Fancher, Claude Steele, Larry Troutman, Keith Russell, Ricky Webb, Leon Phillips, Rodney and William Blackburn, Robert Hughes, Todd Rodgers, John Wingard, Chuck Hagaman, Ronnie Headley, Preston Barnett, Wayne Lowery, Buddy Sharpless and Wayne Godwin (I hope I did not leave out anyone).

Unfortunately we were knocked out of the tournament by a New Jersey team in a low scoring game.

Again, back in those days Atmore was regarded a leader in community baseball teams.

There was another tournament of interest where the community chipped in. This was the 18-year-old Advance Babe Ruth World Series Tournament staged in Newark, Ohio in 1979. The All-Star team members were from Atmore, south Monroe County, northwest Florida, Brewton and Andalusia.

Atmore played in other outstanding state and regional tournaments over the years. One was the event when Lou Vickery and Ear Miller participated. Those fine players were just two of several outstanding players on that tournament team. Unfortunately, I was out of radio at that time and I did not follow those teams then as I did in earlier years. But I do know that era was just as important to the town as all the other baseball days.

As a side note, Ouida and I attended almost a dozen tournaments from 1968 through 1992 involving our three sons when they played in Little League, Babe Ruth League, Junior College and four-year college baseball tournaments. A memorable highlight of all these games was flying to Idaho to watch our youngest son, Bryan, and his AUM College team participate in the 1990 NAIA College World Series. That was the year that AUM coach and former Auburn Tiger pitcher, Q V Lowe, set a record in the number of AUM wins. This affable and highly regarded coach is still at the helm of this nationally recognized college baseball team.

While we are on sports, I uncovered an interesting article on Facebook featuring some of our very own. Grayson and Barrett, grandsons of Terry and Linda Jones, were featured with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn on a recent Auburn Media Facebook page.  They were two happy boys, indeed, not to mention the happy grandparents.
There is a spirited cadre of men here who are to be recognized for their chain emails and phone calls to their friends and associates when an associate or close friend passes away. Such was the case this week when I received emails and phone calls from Billy Gates and Wallace Byrd on the passing of Cecil Murphy. These two men, I am sure, are members of local military, veteran and Masonic organizations. There are other fine men affiliated with them who also make contacts. Charlotte Boyle, who performs in another community capacity, is recognized in the same light for her efforts in this regard. In fact, she performs community service throughout the entire county.

Now, here are a few names from the past of our friends and associates you remember who have passed on. I have written about some of these late residents and will write about others in future columns.

Claude Kelly, Don Kelly, Woodrow McCorvey ,Earl Barbarow, Joe Latham, Dr. Henry Rogers, Alton Keller, Clyde Dunn, Bo Keller,Steve Hubbard, Geronimo the crop duster, Rayford Kirby, Frank Currie, Nina Stephens, Nick Reeves, Fred George, Lawrence Cooper, Chief Calvin McGhee, Root Lowery, Gladys Middleton, Guy Martin, Wade Johnson, Jack Madison,  Gladyn Gibson, Chester Barton, Tom Miniard, Leroy Morris, Ray Lambert, Dee Gibbs, Lavon Martin, Gladys Walker, Martin Ritchie, Phil Sokol, Bob Morresette, Frances Blackburn, Jim White, Alton White, Devon Wiggins, Shirley Martin, Bill Moseley, Crockett White, Freddie Centenni, Harvey Cook, George Harris, Harold Byrd and Dewitt Parker.

Our Pink Lady this week is Ellon Lowery. A member of the Hospital Ladies Auxiliary for over six years, she is an active member of Atmore First Baptist Church, where she serves in the Preschool Department. Ellon proudly boasts of her sons and grandsons having experience in the military as well as firefighting and paramedic backgrounds. She is another of those dedicated ladies serving our hospital as well as our community.

Next week we will have more news of people places and events from our yesteryears.

Lowell McGill

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