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Baseball has always been enjoyable

This week, I spoke with Mrs. Mabry Sanchez who lived here for two years back in the early 1960s.

Mrs. Sanchez told me she and her late husband, who worked in Pensacola, were very avid baseball fans and would often sit with Larry Fisher at our ball park watching our Little League and Senior Little League games.

Recalling my writing about the 1961 tournament, she asked me to repeat that column I wrote three years ago. I don’t believe I can repeat it, but I will make a few comments about that team playing in the Senior Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1961.

I am not sure who all the coaches and league officials were but I do remember Tony Albert, Sterling Fancher, Frank Patrick and John Holland were among that group.

The players 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.)

Several from here made the trip on Alfred Brown’s bus. I went along to broadcast the game back to WATM. I remember seeing all the beautiful farm lands, tulip fields and Amish farms and that attractive Pennsylvania countryside.

We were housed in the Naval and Marine Training Center located not too far from the ballpark.

I believe this was the first year for Senior Little League teams. Later we affiliated with the Babe Ruth organization.

Even though we lost to New Jersey it was an adventure we would always remember.

In those days, and up to a few years ago, Atmore’s youth teams played in numerous state, regional and national tournaments. We went to so many tournaments back then I cannot remember them all. I do remember three tournaments going on at different locations at the same time throughout the state and my wife and I drove like crazy to see our three sons playing in each one of those events.

In 1979 our area All-Star team went to Newark, Ohio where our son Mark (and several other local boys) played in the Advanced Babe Ruth World Series.

In 1990 we flew to Seattle, Washington and then drove all the way over to Lewiston, Idaho to watch Bryan and his Auburn at Montgomery (AUM) team play in the NAIA College World Series.

One of my big thrills was meeting and becoming friends with Harry (The Hat) Walker who coached my son Steve at UAB. The Leeds native was one of the most likeable people I ever knew.

I envy all of you who are involved with your children in youth baseball. Some of you, I am sure, experience the pleasures my wife and I enjoyed with our three sons. I am sure some of you have followed the same pattern we experienced. For us it was minor league, Little League, Babe Ruth League, Advanced Babe Ruth League, Junior College and four year college. I cannot comprehend the amount of money those baseball scholarships saved us. I am sure it would be a couple hundred thousand dollars for educating three boys.

So moms and dads keep those sons interested in baseball. It may be their ticket to a college education.

Speaking of baseball, Steve Kittrel who was the long time baseball coach at the University of South Alabama, retired last week.

The affable mentor had the uncanny ability of signing and developing a number of players who went on to major league fame. But the coach, who some said gave preference to friends and kin of former players, seldom assembled all his star pupils into a “team mold.” Yes, they accomplished some good feats, but never “jelled’ into College World Series champions. He, in my opinion, should have left the scene years ago.

By the same token Q.V. Lowe, the former Auburn ace pitcher and highly successful coach at AUM, has reached that World Series plateau, and should have been named the head coach of Auburn University years ago. He is just that good.

And now we go from baseball to insurance premiums. If you have been reading my columns lately you know I wrote to “watch out for a rise in property insurance premiums.”

Did you see the announcement last week about Alfa “cuts up to 73,000 policies in Alabama?” I am sure the recent tornado losses caused this. But look out. It’s not over yet. If we get a hurricane in this state this year you can look for your property premiums to parallel those premiums of residents living below 1-10.

I want to say goodbye to Adam. I wish him well in his new position in Columbia, Miss. Located near the Pearl River, it is a progressive town. He will only be a short distance from the interstate down to New Orleans. He and his family can also travel that same interstate for a relatively short trip right into his hometown of Birmingham.

It won’t take him long to become aware of “the mighty Pearl’s” flooding capabilities. And, he will have the opportunity to sneak down to the Southern Miss campus to watch some Golden Eagles ball games. It was nice having you here, Adam.

Come back to see us when you can. And, keep little Ethan involved in Little League. He’s going to be a good ball player.

Finally, let me toot our horn for an informative and nice looking Web site. I heard a very favorable comment about our Web site at church Sunday. I can already see Kerry’s input into the Advance operation. Perhaps she will let me contribute to that website in a small way.

I read about five newspapers online each day and I often see names of former residents mentioned in these papers. At my age I am probably the only person in Atmore who can identify with some of these former residents.

In any event, I see great things happening on our Web site.

I’ll have more news next week from Atmore’s yesteryears.

“….yes,….it always whispers to me….those days of long ago….”

Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net