Sunday, July 26, 2009


L-R Tournament Director, Dublin Coach Minton Williams, Tom Perry, Don Vaughn, Reggie Belote

The 1959 District 5 Little League Tournament

There is something special about little league baseball. It’s not the heat. It’s not the bugs. It’s not the mothers exercising their inalienable rights to chastise the umpires, even when they are right. No, what makes little league baseball so special is that it is a part of America. The bonds of friendship formed in these years last a lifetime. There is something special about seeing a kid get his first hit after striking out twenty times in a row; something special about watching a kid strike out the side in his first pitching appearance; and something special about seeing your child driving in the winning run.

The late A. Bartlett Giamatti, a former Commissioner of Baseball, probably said it best: “ It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and blossoms in summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then, just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

The summer of 1959 was a special one for Dublin’s baseball fans. There was no minor league team in town that year. Little Hilburn Park was selected as the site of the District 5 Little League Championship. Four teams from Macon, two from Warner Robins, one from Wrens, and the Dublin team played against each other in late July. Playing for Dublin were: Jimmy Forte, Edward Jones, Edward Hall, Reggie Belote, Danny Camp, Joel Smith, John Cooke, and Roy Bedingfield, kneeling. Coach Don Vaughn, Joseph Rogers, Lindsey Swida, Kirk Reed, Glenn Register, Robert Swinson and Tom Perry.

Spec Hall groomed the field into one of the finest Little League fields in Georgia. Elmer Mackey and Clyde Felker served as the tournament directors. Ed Bateman handled the public address system and the official scoring. The crowds were big - about twelve hundred (yes, I said twelve hundred) people in attendance every day.

The Dublin All Stars went through two a day practices in preparation for the tournament. They defeated the Mike Belote Crackers in a practice game just before the tournament began. Dublin’s first game was against the Warner Robins Americans. Tom Perry, who paced the Pirates during the regular season with an 8-0 record, held the youngsters from Warner Robins to two hits and one earned run in the six inning game. Edward Hall led Dublin with two hits and Robert Swinson drove in two runs when he stroked a home run, which gave Dublin the victory, 4 to 1.

In the other opening game, Ralph Walters of the Warner Robins Nationals mastered the hitters from Wrens, striking out thirteen out of eighteen batters. Walters hurled a perfect game. He had to. The opposing pitcher, Tony Holley, allowed only one hit, but that one hit was a long home run over the left field wall by Ralph Perkins to give the Nationals a 1-0 victory. In the other games of the opening round, Macon squeaked by cross-town rival, Ocmulgee, 4 to 3. Two other Macon teams, South Macon and Vine-Ingle battled each other. Vine-Ingle came out on top, 3 to 2.

Dublin’s semifinal opponent was the Warner Robins Nationals. Reggie Belote went the distance for the Dublin team, striking out five and allowing no bases on balls. Belote forced his opponents to hit the ball right at his fielders with only three balls getting by them for hits. Warner Robins scored first in the top of the fifth inning. Ed Hall managed to score the Irish’s first run through a trio of National errors. The Nationals took the lead again in the top of the sixth and final inning.

The boys from Dublin wouldn’t quit. With one out, Reggie Belote doubled down the left field line and moved to third on a passed ball. Jimmy Forte walked and stole second base. Danny Camp walked to load the bases. Roy Bedingfield, Jr. stepped up and sent a bullet through the gap to plate Belote and Forte and give the Irish a ticket to the finals. In the other semifinal game, Richard Jordan hit a 230-foot home run to lead his Macon team over Vine-Ingle by the score of 7 to 5.

Fifteen hundred people turned out to see the final game between Dublin and Macon. Some of them stayed for the game after the Nationals’ victory over Vine-Ingle in the consolation game. Dublin broke out on top in the first inning when Kirk Reed singled and came around to score on a combined three base throwing and fielding error by the left and right fielders from Macon. Macon came back to tie it up in the bottom of the first. Two scoreless innings followed. Kirk Reed led off the fourth inning with his second hit of the day. Tom Perry and Reggie Belote reached base on walks to load the bases. Roy Bedingfield drew a walk, driving in the go-ahead run. It was Robert “Rabbit” Swinson’s turn to bat. Not wanting to be out done by his opponent Jordan of Macon, Swinson swatted a monster two hundred and thirty-foot grand slam blast over the left field fence, which is about 190 feet from home plate. Macon attempted a comeback in the final inning of the game, but only managed to score once. Tom Perry, who hurled twelve strike outs in the game, held on to strike out two batters for the first two outs and get the final batter to ground into a fielder’s choice. The crowd, especially the mommas and daddies, went wild.

Manager Minton Williams hoisted Tom Perry on his shoulders. The was no hollering at the umpires that day. Larry Schenk brought along three other “blues” to make sure that they were on top of every call.

The Dublin Irish had made it. They were going to Marietta for the state tournament. Tournament officials held a banquet for the teams the night before the tournament began on August 6th. Dublin was joined by teams from Albany, Buckhead, Winder, Columbus, Cascade Heights, Rome and Marietta. Dublin’s first opponents were the all-stars from Buckhead, a suburban team from Atlanta. The Buckhead boys were loaded. It was the big city boys against the little city boys. The Irish got their first hit in the fifth inning and managed their only other hit in the sixth inning. Ten Dublin boys went down on strikes. Despite the best efforts of three Dublin pitchers, the boys from Buckhead plated ten runs to send Dublin home empty handed. There was no joy in the Emerald City that night, but there was no shame either.

All of Dublin was proud of its little leaguers. They had risen to become one of the best teams in Georgia. That was enough, there were no losers on this team. Don Lamb, of the Dublin Rotary Club, organized a fete at the Dublin Country Club for the all-star team and the Dublin Pirates. The Pirates had been under the sponsorship of the Rotary Club for five years and who established a record of eighty four wins and only eight losses. Playing for the Pirates were Perry, Swinson, Reed, R. Belote, and Smith of the all-stars along with Pat Reed, John Strickland, Vic Belote, Johnny Grier, Bobby Wanner, Tommy Wanner, Harry Graham, Billy Bracewell, Billy Beam, Rickey Eberhardt, and Buddy Jones.

Take in a little league game, even if you don’t have a child playing, even if you don’t particularly like baseball, and even though you don’t like hot weather. You will never regret it. It is baseball where the players play for free. It is baseball where anyone can be a hero. It is simply, baseball at its best.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Jesse Owens
Oscar Charleston


The recent public appearance by Evander Holyfield at a D.A.R.E. graduation at Southwest Laurens Elementary brings to mind a day, nearly sixty years ago. On that day two of the greatest athletes in the history of the world displayed their talents for thousands of admiring fans, who for the first time got to see their heroes up close and in person. One man was one of the greatest track and field athletes of all time. The other man, whose career was thwarted by baseball commissioner Kennesaw Landis’s refusal to allow black athletes in major league baseball, was one of the greatest players in the history of the Negro Leagues.

The friends of Washington Street School were raising money for athletic programs at the school. On April 10, 1940, a special benefit was planned at the fairgrounds on Telfair Street. The fairgrounds had seen great athletes and spectacles before. In 1918, the New York Yankees defeated the Boston Braves on the fairground diamond. The St. Louis Cardinals stopped in town on their way back to St. Louis after spring training to play a game against the Oglethorpe University Petrels in 1933. Two years later, the Cardinals returned to play the University of Georgia Bulldogs. In all, eight members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Miller Huggins, Frank "Home Run" Baker, Dizzy Dean, Rogers Hornsby, Leo Durocher, Frankie Frisch, Joe Medwick, and Jesse Haines played on the sandy field located at the northwest corner of Telfair and Troup Streets. County fairs, circuses, and even a performance by cowboy legend Tom Mix had drawn thousands to the old 12th District fairgrounds.

The feature attraction of the day was billed as "the world's fastest human." His name ranks among the greatest athletes in Olympic history. In the 1935 Big Ten Track and Field Championships, he broke five world records and tied one in a forty-five minute period. In the 1936 Summer Olympics, he won four gold medals. At the time he held the world record for a long jump, 220-yard hurdles, and 220-yard dash and had tied the world record for the 100-yard dash. He also had tied the world record with a time of 10.3 seconds in the 100-meter dash. A 20.7 second time in the 200-meter dash gave him another Olympic record. He was put on the 400-meter relay team at the last minute. The team set a world and Olympic record.

Interestingly, it was one of the German competitors who gave him a helpful hint which allowed him to beat the German in the long jump. The German jumper told the American track star to make a mark a few inches short of the foul line and to jump from that point. It worked. He set an Olympic record that stood for twenty-five years. He won the Gold medal - and the German, won the Silver. He stated that all of the medals he won wouldn’t replace the friendship he had developed with Lutz Long, the German athlete. Long was killed in the Battle of St. Pietro on July 14, 1943. Adolph Hitler was so enraged that he stormed out of the stadium refusing to present the medals.

The world champion American athlete’s name was, of course, Jesse Owens. In Dublin, Owens was scheduled to compete in a dash around the baseball diamond, a one hundred yard dash against a race horse, a running broad jump, and a one hundred twenty-yard low hurdle race. After his exhibition, Owens gave an interview over a loud speaker answering questions from his fans. Owens never enjoyed the attention that should have been given to him. In the mid 1930s, he was ignored when national amateur athletic awards were handed out. He later fell from grace with some who disagreed with his comments and beliefs on social relationships in America.
Preceding Owens' feats of human speed that day, there was an exhibition baseball game between the Toledo Crawfords and the Ethiopian Clowns. Jesse Owens was the business manager of the Crawfords. The game was played before fans, both white and black. The two teams traveled the country stopping nearly every day to play a baseball game - some times before a few hundred fans and other times, before tens of thousands.

The Crawfords began playing on a sand lot in Pittsburgh in the 1920s. In those early days, legendary catcher Josh Gibson was on the team. Their owner, Gus Greenlee, used the profits from his gambling and liquor activities to buy the best players in the Negro Leagues. Greenlee built and equipped a lighted stadium, years before the Major Leagues began playing at night. The Crawfords joined the re-organized Negro National League in 1933. It was the first year of the Negro League All Star Game - the East-West Classic, which was created by Greenlee. The Crawfords won the National League championship in 1935. In 1937, their star players, led by Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, left the team in a salary dispute. The team was never the same. Greenlee sold the Crawfords, and the team moved to Toledo, Ohio. One star remained with the team. His name was Oscar Charleston, known by the press writers as "The Hoosier Comet."

The Crawfords were led by Oscar Charleston, who was playing in his last season for the team. Charleston was a slick fielder with a lifetime average of .380. Many regard him as the greatest Negro League player of all time. John McGraw called him "the greatest player ever." In 1921, he batted .446 with 14 home runs for the St. Louis Giants. In one nine-year span, Charleston batted over .350 in all nine seasons, twice hitting over .400. Charleston joined the Crawfords in 1932 and consistently hit around .350. Charleston was a fan and player favorite. As a fielder, he was known as "The Black Tris Speaker"; as a runner, he was known as "The Black Ty Cobb;" and as a power hitter, he was known as "The Black Babe Ruth." Oscar Charleston, who ended his career with a .376 batting average, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976.

The Ethiopian Clowns were a true barnstorming team. They were the clown princes of Negro League Baseball, comparable to the Harlem Globetrotters’ basketball team. While they had no great stars, the Clowns, who eventually moved to Indianapolis along with the Crawfords, were fan favorites all over the nation. One popular routine was called Shadow Ball. In this routine, the players pantomimmed an imaginary game of baseball with outlandish movements and stunts. Fans were thrilled when one player would pick up four baseballs and throw them at the same time to four different players. The Clowns toured the country until the early fifties. Their most famous alumnus was a young Mobile, Alabama outfielder by the name of Henry Aaron, who led the American National League with a .467 average - a miraculous feat considering he batted cross handed.

Dubliners had seen good Negro League players before. The Dublin Athletics, members of an independent Negro League, played on a field on East Mary Street near the Dudley Cemetery. They were a pretty fair team in their own right, but nothing could compare to that April day when two of the giants in the world of sports played on our field.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


WILLIE JONES -All American

One former Dubliner took a keen interest in Florida State University’s victory in last month’s national college championship in the Sugar Bowl. Willie Jones played for the Seminoles in the 1970s, when winning seasons were few and far between. Willie Jones, born in Dublin on November 22, 1957, spent his first decade of life here, attending Susie Dasher School and playing football. At the age of twenty one, he was one of the best defensive college players in the country.Willie’s mother, Daisy Jones, worked long and hard hours at the Canady Restaurant and Motel in East Dublin. Willie’s sister worked with their mother.

In the latter years of the 1960s, the Jones family left their home and went south - about as far south as one can go in the continental United States. The Jones family established their home in Homestead, Florida, just south of Miami. Willie attended South Dade High School, where he was a two-sport star in football and basketball. Willie’s size and speed led to his being awarded a scholarship to play football at Florida State.Willie started in his freshman year at Florida State in 1975. At six feet four inches tall and two hundred and forty pounds, he was small as defensive lineman go. His speed was one of his best assets. In his first season, the last for head coach Darrell Mutra, the Seminoles had a dismal record of three wins and eight losses. In that year and the two years before, the Seminoles won only four games out of thirty three. The football program was in trouble. The university had to find someone to turn the program around.School officials hired a coach, who had coached winning teams at Samford and West Virginia.

Sportswriters called the period before his arrival in January of 1976 as "B.B.," before Bowden. In his first season at Florida State, Coach Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles won five games and lost six. Jones again started at defensive end in 1976 and gained his first honor of being named to the All South Independent team. In his junior year in 1977, Jones was named to the All-South Independent Team and as an honorable mention on the Associated Press’s All-American team.

The Seminoles had their best season in many years, going ten and two with impressive victories over bitter rivals, Auburn and Florida. Jones played in his first and only bowl game, the Tangerine Bowl, following his team’s best season. For his outstanding play in the 40-17 stomping of Texas Tech, Willie Jones was named the game’s most valuable defensive player.A collage painting of Willie Jones graced the cover of the 1978 Florida State Press Guide. School boosters and Coach Bowden touted Jones as one of the best defensive ends in the country. Opposing quarterbacks and running backs feared the big number 88 on the garnet red jersey. Offensive tackles did everything they could to keep him out of the backfield.

The 1978 Seminoles slipped to eight and three, though two of their losses to Houston and Pittsburgh were by a total of ten points. Once again, the Seminoles dominated their bitter intrastate rivals, the Florida Gators. Willie Jones was on everyone’s All-America list. For the third straight year, Jones was named to the All South Independent Team. He was named Southern Lineman of the Week for his outstanding performance against Southern Mississippi. The United Press named Willie to its Second All American Team. The Associated Press and the Sporting News gave Jones honorable mentions on their collegiate all star rosters. Following his successful career at Florida State, Jones was selected to play in college football’s top two All Star games. In the Senior Bowl, the granddaddy of college football all-star games, Jones sacked the North quarterbacks six times and garnered the Most Valuable Player Award. In doing so, Jones became the second Dubliner to win the coveted award. Twenty years earlier, Theron Sapp, Dublin born, Brewton raised, and a Georgia Bulldog legend at running back, won the same award.

Jones was selected to play for the East team in the Hula Bowl in the paradise of Hawaii. Professional scouts took notice of Willie Jones’s ability. The Oakland Raiders selected Jones as their first pick, which came in the second round of the 1979 NFL draft. As a rookie, Jones played in all sixteen of the Raider games, nine of which were victories. They included a fifty to nineteen romp over the Falcons, who were only slightly better than they were last season. In his sophomore season, Willie again played defensive end in all of the Raider’s sixteen games.

The Raiders improved their record in 1980 to eleven wins with only five regular season losses. The Raiders breezed by Houston in the Wild Card game, squeaked by the Browns 14 to12 in the Divisional playoff, and defeated intrastate rival San Diego 34 to 27 to win the AFC Championship and a berth in Super Bowl XV in the New Orleans Super Dome on January 25, 1981. The Raiders were the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl after beginning the playoffs as a wild-card team.

The 1980 Raiders were a tough defensive team. They led the league in interceptions, ranked sixth in fumbles caused, and stymied their opponents in the last half of the season. Willie Jones scored his second and last career touchdown when he scooped up a fumble and ran it into the San Diego end zone in the second game of the season. Wearing number 90, he played left defensive end behind legendary Oakland Raider, John Matuzak. Also playing with Jones in that 1980 season were Hall of Famers, Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Ray Guy, and Ted Hendricks. Several other members of that team will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the future.

Oakland jumped out to a 14 to 0 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles after the first quarter. This wasn’t the first NFL title game that a Dubliner had played in. Once again, Theron Sapp beat Jones to that honor when he played for the Philadelphia Eagles in their defeat of Vince Lombardi’s powerful Green Bay Packers in the 1960 NFL Championship game. The Eagles managed to put a field goal on the board in the second stanza, but fell behind to Oakland by the score of 24 to 3 after the end of the third quarter. A fourth quarter field goal ended the scoring and when Willie Jones intense pass rush forced Eagle quarterback Jaworski into throwing an interception. That fatal mistake iced the 27 to 10 victory for the Raiders in the first of only two victories by a wild card team in the Super Bowl game.Willie Jones played in only eight games in his third and final season with the Oakland Raiders in 1981.

The Raiders failed to defend their Super Bowl championship. They posted a seven and nine record and failed to make the playoffs. In 1989, Willie Jones was elected to the Florida State Athletic Hall of Fame.