Legends to attend Aaron house unveiling

Published 1:29 pm Wednesday, April 7, 2010

By By Lowell McGill
April 14 will be a big day for area baseball fans, not because of the unveiling of Hank Aaron’s renovated childhood home, but because former great Cleveland Indian pitcher, Bob Feller, will be one of the honored guests.
Feller, known back in his playing days as “Rapid Robert,” will highlight a list of several well-known former players who will be in attendance.
Aaron’s old home, now completely renovated, has been moved from Edwards Avenue to near the entrance of Hank Aaron Stadium, the home of the Mobile Bay Bears.
Bob Feller was “my hero” and I am sure he was the same to countless others. He was a member of the 1954 Cleveland Indians “Big Four” pitching staff that played in the World Series that year. Feller, along with Hartford native Early Wynn, Bob Lemon and Mike Garcia were flanked by two of baseball’s greatest relief pitchers, Ray Narleski and Don Mossi.
The flame throwing right hander also identified with Mobile while in the military. He joined the Navy not long after his baseball career began and served most of his four-year service time on the USS Alabama. And now at the age of 92, he is still active. For several years, he has returned to Mobile for the USS Alabama Battleship reunion.
Harry “The Hat” Walker, who was the UAB baseball coach and who coached my sons Steve and Mark at that university, often talked about how difficult it would have been for him to hit against Feller. The two played in different leagues. Walker, known for carrying lofty batting averages and a master of hitting to the opposite field, said he felt real lucky he never had to face Feller.
Wynn and my Aunt Norma McGill were both from Hartford. She knew the family and remembers when Early began his baseball career. He passed away in 1999 but not before winning more than 300 games as a major league pitcher.
Speaking of the Mobile Bears, the first time I met Red Vickery was at a game at old Hartwell Baseball Field. He had brought a few boys from Atmore to watch the Bears play. This was sometime in the 1940s, not sure exactly when.
My Uncle Ocie Shores and my cousin Hiram Cabiness, who was acquainted with Red, took me to see the game. On that particular night, Mobile’s Cal Abrams hit a line drive off the head of the opposing pitcher. I think the Bears were playing the Memphis Chicks. Many fans gathered near the injured pitcher who was transported by ambulance to the hospital.
I remember the opposing manager telling Hiram he was aware of his baseball talents. Hiram played for a few months in the old Class D League in south Alabama and northwest Florida.
The late Bill Minton, who died this past February, provided many hours of listening pleasure as he broadcast those Bears games. “Mobile Press Register” sports writers Dennis Smitherman and Vince Johnson also provided great sports stories.
The Mobile Bears were members of the old Southern Association League. Other teams were the Birmingham Barons, Atlanta Crackers, Knoxville Smokies, Memphis Chicks, Nashville Vols, Chattanooga Lookouts, New Orleans Pelicans and Little Rock Travelers. Did I leave out any teams?
Other well-known former players will also be on hand next week including Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Ozzie Smith.
Before I tell you about people, places from 1970, which, by the way will be last in a series of columns from that year, I want to correct a mistake I made in a column two weeks ago. Regarding Cassie Weekly, she was the aunt of Euline Cargill and mother of Advance correspondent Tola Ficklin. I want to thank that reader who drew this to my attention. I should not have made this mistake because I was acquainted with all these families.
In 1970, the Bratt Volunteer Fire Department elected these officers, Charles Lowery, Robert Stewart, Thomas Bradberry, Lamar O’Farrell, Colvin Davis, Lester Godwin, Douglas Morgan and Hubert Brown.
Rev. Dewitt Allen was called as the new pastor at Brooks Memorial Church after serving three years at Court Street Baptist Church in Montgomery.
Dr. C.S. Crawford was named chief of staff at Greenlawn Hospital.
The Huntsville youth league named its Whitesburg field the Fern Bell Park in honor of his association and accomplishments with that league.
The Atmore Jaycees captured state honors in the drive to sell honey, a project that benefited retarded children’s Partlow Camp. Terry Jones was chairman of the Atmore organization.
Jack Madison and James Charles Madison led Atmore’s Pee Wee football team to the city championship.
Sponsored by the First National Bank the players were as follows: Robby Ferguson, Jay Blackshear, Dusty Harrison, Jimmy Woods, Marty and Mike Hadley, Tommy Pickens, Chuck Madison, Pat Reeves, Ed Staff, Bryan Flowers, Allen White, Steve Dees, Doug McAnally, Steve McGill, Randy Miller and Tony Luker.
Next week we will take a look at another year depicting more glorious and nostalgic events from the “yesteryears.”
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net.

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