Play Ball!!

On a hot, humid evening in a small, west-central Georgia city skirted by the murky Chattahoochee waters, a batter approaches home plate, knocking the red dust from his scruffy shoes with the tip of his wooden bat. Bottom of the ninth, and it’s now or never. Removing his cap to wipe the sweat from his brow, he grounds his feet into the dirt at home plate setting up for his left-handed batter’s stance.  After warming up with a few practice swings, he faces the pitcher, sees the perfect ball coming, swings hard and sends it soaring into right field. As he takes off for first, never losing sight of the ball, he knows it’s in the bag, and rounds the bases to the cheers of the crowd. Home run for the win!

I’m seated at my laptop at the dining room table which is loaded down with piles of genealogy papers, file folders and books, having my second cup of morning coffee, and searching an online database of newspaper archives for obituary notices for our McCune ancestors. Wow, loads of fun, you’re thinking! But I’m after the facts so I trudge ahead.

I find one or two helpful articles, but what keeps popping up over and over is the McCune surname in the sports section of the Columbus, GA, newspapers. So I table the obit search to find out what this is about.

Suddenly, I see a large headline in the Columbus Enquirer dated 4 August 1933: “McCune Homer Gives Georgia Power Victory” with the sub-header, “Electrics Win From Gassers in 9th Inning.” Here’s the lead sentence:

McCune’s home run in the last of ninth inning broke up a brilliant hurling duel
between Luther Stanton and Jack Ramsey and gave the Georgia Power company
a 3-to-2 victory over Pan-Am Oil company and its third straight triumph without
a loss in the Commercial night diamond ball league.

And reading further down, this:

It took two extra innings for the Georgia Power company and Pan-Am to settle their argument,
the Electricians getting the last word when McCune crashed his long drive to right field. [1]

I remember my Dad telling me that Granddaddy Bill played commercial-league baseball for both textile mill and Georgia Power teams back in the 1920s and 1930s. Is the McCune playing for Georgia Power in 1933 Granddaddy Bill? I read through the entire article and all the stats, and unbelievably, McCune’s first name is never mentioned. My goodness! Is this player so well known in the community that a first name’s not necessary?

I had to give this some deductive reasoning. Granddaddy Bill would have been about 31-years-old, a bit older than most players probably were, and Granddaddy did have a couple of male McCune cousins about his age, Lawrence and William, sons of his uncle John McCune. The 1930 U.S. federal census tells me that William McCune, 38, is living in Columbus and works as a salesman in a grocery store, [2] and Lawrence is at sea as a merchant seaman. [3] The census also shows that Granddaddy Bill is living in Phenix City, AL, and is a lineman for a power company. [4]  In the 1940 census, he’s still a lineman. [5] It’s a pretty good chance that this is Granddaddy playing for the Georgia Power team.

Looking in the stats at the end of the article, I see McCune, 1b, or first base. I also see another name in the article I recognize, Tillman. This could have been one of Granddaddy’s cousins from his mom’s side of the family, maybe one of his Uncle Tom Tillman’s sons.

I call Daddy and tell him about the article. He believes it’s Granddaddy Bill. One, he worked for Georgia Power at that time, and two, he played first base. In fact, Daddy recalls a man in Columbus once telling him that Granddaddy Bill was the best first baseman he’d ever seen! Two more interesting tidbits Daddy shared were that Granddaddy threw with his right hand, but batted left-handed, and that he coached Uncle Billy’s youth league baseball team. Now the search is on!

  1.   Columbus Enquirer, 4 Aug 1933, online image, Genealogybank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 2015), 8.
  2.   1930 U.S. census, Columbus, Muscogee County, Georgia, population schedule, ED 108-9, sheet 14B (stamped), dwelling 174, family 216, William McCune; image, Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com: accessed 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 377.
  3.  1930 Census of Merchant Seamen, San Francisco, California, ED 19-1599, sheet 58A, digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication roll 1932_1.
  4.  1930 U.S. census, Phenix City, Russell County, Alabama, population schedule, ED 4, sheet 7A (stamped), dwelling 135, family 147, W. H. McCune; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed: 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 47.
  5. 1940 U.S. census, Columbus City, Muscogee, Georgia, population schedule, ED 106-21, sheet 10B (stamped), household number 204, Willie McCune; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2015), citing NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 697.

 

Next – “Just buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks!”

2 Comments

  1. Jan Dykes said:

    I have it in my head they Granddaddy played “minor league” ball. I don’t know who told me that. I also believe it was him!

    February 22, 2016
    Reply
  2. Rodney Byard said:

    Athletic ability must run in the family. I recall that my Uncle Billy (Jim’s and Martha’s dad) was a very good fast-pitch softball player. I stayed with Billy and Vivian several times as a child and went to quite a few softball games with them.

    February 22, 2016
    Reply

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