“Take Me Out to the Ball Game!”

In the 1920-30s in the Southeast, textile mills ruled the manufacturing industry. Close on its heels were the burgeoning electric power companies lighting up the cities and rural towns. Both industries sought ways to lure workers, and one of the most popular was sponsoring commercial ball teams.

In fact, according to Daddy, Granddaddy Bill McCune moved his family from Columbus to Manchester, GA, when he was recruited by the local textile mill based on his baseball skills. A bit strange to us nowadays, but they made the move, and that’s where Aunt Lucille was born in 1924.

What was it like playing on these commercial league ball teams? Obviously, America has had a long-term love affair with the sport, and it seems that Granddaddy Bill was no exception. He loved the game. How else could he have put in a full day’s work in the mill toiling at a machine or climb poles all day as a power linesman and then go out and play hard ball for two or more hours?

After my initial sports article findings, I kept searching for the McCune name and found Uncle Billy McCune mentioned many times in 1939, but that’s for another story! I soon found another article that mentioned Granddaddy in the Columbus Enquirer-Sun dated 6 September 1925. The headline states, “Power Company Wins First Game from Central: Flag Contest Slow Affair, Columbus Electric and Power Co. Defeats Central of Ga. by Score of 9 to 4 at Meritas.” This was the first game of the post-season championship series. Scanning through the article, I found Granddaddy’s name.

McCune, the center fielder of the Power company, was the star fielder
of the day making a good many hard chances [catches?].

And another nod to McCune came a couple of paragraphs down:

One of the most freak runs of the day was when McCune singled
through second, going out into center field, only to be fumbled by Dunbar,
and McCune came on home. Four bases on a single. [1]

The statistics from the article show Granddaddy as right fielder (evidently a typo since there are two rf listed and the article stated cf) with five at bats, two hits, two runs, five put outs and no errors. He was 26-years-old at that time in his prime playing years.  Pitching for the power company team was Tom W. Tillman, Granddaddy’s cousin.

What’s interesting is that the sports writer went on to praise all the players for enduring the scorching heat that day and chastised the fans in the packed stands for grumbling about the increase in the admission price from 25 cents to 50 cents. It seems that the industrial league had delayed a price increase for years to help out the fans after most leagues had started charging more.

Searching further, I found another article from the Columbus Enquirer dated 24 June 1938 with McCune highlighted. Hmmm… Granddaddy was now about 38 and still playing ball? The headline reads, “Saturday Loop Stars Whip Old Timers By 21-3 Score: Large Crowd Views Unique Game at Park, Outstanding Players in 1920 Compete with Youngsters.” [2] I couldn’t help but go, “Awwww.” But, get this, 900 fans watched this game in Golden Park! I can only imagine how those older players felt, once again out there playing their hearts out. “Just buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks!” [3]

While approximately 900 enthusiastic fans watched in a very amused manner,
the All-Stars of 1938, representing the Saturday Industrial league,
hammered out a hilarious 21-3 decision
over the All-Stars of 1920 last night at Golden Park.

The huge crowd accepted the crushing defeat of the old-timers with a grin
as the modern stars slammed base hits all over the lot and took advantage of

the ageing [sic] ex-stars. [4]

Reading through the article, I see Granddaddy Bill making his mark in the second inning by getting a hit to send a teammate home for the first run by the “old” guys. You go, Granddaddy Bill! They scored one more run in the second, but the younger team washed them away in the fifth with 12 runs. After a final one run score in the seventh, that was it for the old-timers.

I’m sure Granddaddy didn’t like the loss, but imagine how good he felt being out there with his old buddies, entertaining the crowds with America’s number one pastime, baseball.

1920 All Stars Lineup
1920 All Stars Lineup

What’s even more interesting is that the next year the old timers played the younger All Stars team again at Golden Park and just guess who played against Granddaddy in that game? None other than his son and our Uncle Billy (or Dad to Jim and Martha!) in left field representing Craig’s Bakery.

1939 All Stars Lineup
1939 All Stars Lineup

Thanks, Cousin Jim, for telling me about that and sending a copy of the baseball program, a Columbus Enquirer news clipping announcing the matchup, and a photo of the guys. After a couple of hours searching, I finally found the Columbus Enquirer article with the game results, “Modern Stars Defeat Vets: Old Timers Make Good Showing But Lose Annual Game by 13-9 Score.” [5] Neither of our McCunes was mentioned in the article, but wow! Father and son were out on the field together doing what they loved best. Uncle Billy certainly had a great coach and teacher!

Willie H. McCune and son Billy, 1939
Willie H. McCune and son Billy, 1939

 

 

 

 

 

1. Lamb, Edw. P., “Power Company Wins First Game from Central,” Columbus Enquirer-Sun,  6 Sep 1925, online image, Genealogybank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 2015), 4.

2. Gilbert, Leonard, “Saturday Loop Stars Whip Old Timers,” Columbus Enquirer, 24 Jun 1938, online image, Genealogybank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 2015), 5.

3. Norworth, Jack, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” lyrics, 1908; Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Take_Me_Out_to_the_Ball_Game&oldid=704045841 : accessed 21 Feb, 2016).

4. Gilbert, “Saturday Loop Stars Whip Old Timers.”

5. Gilbert, Leonard, ” Modern Stars Defeat Vets,” Columbus Enquirer, 8 July 1939, digital image, Genealogybank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 22 Feb 2016), 5.

 

Next – Rumor has it…..

One Comment

  1. Rodney Byard said:

    Love the picture of Granddaddy Bill and Uncle Billy!!

    February 25, 2016
    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *