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March 23, 2020

A Kinder Gentler Era

by Justin Myrick

“If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?”  Oh yes, I’m a Yogi Berra fan and a Mickey Mantle fan and a Yankees fan! The thing is I’m also a Braves fan, a Sounds fan, a Commodores fan and just in general…always a baseball fan!

Baseball is in the family blood. As summer approaches, I make a trip each year to San Antonio to see my brother. A big agenda item is always attending a game or two somewhere in Texas.  We have frequently visited the Astros and Rangers as well as the Corpus Christi Hooks, San Antonio Missions, and Round Rock Express.

Benefitting from work travel, we have enjoyed baseball games (and the hot dogs) from the Red Sox in Fenway to the Padres at PETCO Park; from the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine, to the NATS at Nationals Park. While the dogs might be cheaper at Costco, the experience of a major league ballpark is priceless! We have taken advantage of living in different parts of the country – – southern Connecticut near the Yankees and Mets, central Missouri close to the Cardinals and Royals, and Atlanta with the Braves.  Other highlights include games at Sulphur Dell in the 1950s, World Series games in Atlanta, a visit to Cooperstown and even Olympic Baseball in 1996. I’ll admit that watching Cuba drub the Netherlands by a score of 18 to 2 wasn’t the highlight of Olympic competition, however Cuba did go on to win the gold medal.

Nashville’s Sulphur Dell – Exhibition Game, Milwaukee Braves vs. New York Yankees

Our family baseball pedigree goes back to our father and our great uncle who lived across the street in our little town of Saint Joseph, Tennessee with a population of 500.  My great uncle would take my father to Sulphur Dell to see the Nashville Vols. All the little communities in southern middle Tennessee loved baseball and had a team. It was big entertainment to play as well as go out and watch. I’m not sure what fueled my great uncle’s early interest but he played as a young man, coached his military team in World War I in France, and coached both the adult rec team in St. Joe and the teenage teams. I can distinctly remember him at the bat running infield practice. He would throw the ball up, hit a ball to the second baseman and yell, “Coming home!”  The catcher would catch the throw, tag and flip it back to my great uncle to hit another grounder. We ate lunch every Sunday after church with my great uncle and aunt. He would be the first one to leave the table for the living room to watch the CBS “Game of the Week” with the colorful Dizzy Dean who made comments like “He ‘slud’ into third.”

My father was formerly an elementary school teacher and principal as well as the volunteer town fundraiser.  While he played baseball as a younger man, he remained very active in promoting community baseball. He created the St. Joe Community Park Association and raised $25,000 in 1950 to build a baseball park that would seat the whole town plus the visitors. He also raised money for the volunteer fire department and numerous projects for the school.

At the ballpark, my father was one of the more vocal fans in the stands.  Right field fence was 302 and left field was 334. You had to be on steroids to knock it out over the center field fence. There was the award of $100 to the player who knocked the ball out over the “American Bank” sign in center. No one ever did. Our young adult neighbor, Tommy, frequently came to bat and my father would yell, “Knock it out of the park, Tommy!”  Tommy would foul one off directly back over the bleachers and yell back, “How’s that, Alf!”

The community connection was baseball.

Somehow it was a kinder gentler era.


FEATURED IMAGE

July 4 , 1950
Grand Opening – St. Joe’s BallPark
Provided by Justin Myrick


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March 23, 2020

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