Turning the Pages

By: Paige Cline

It wasn’t as organized as the league that Kopperston and other area mining towns played in, but it was fun to watch and had some very good players. 

I’m talking about the teams and the guys who played their home games on the ball field that is now Cabot Gas, or whatever they call it now. The contests took place mainly in the thirties and up to the beginning of World War II. The need for able bodied men in the military decimated the teams. 

During the life of the league, many stories and timeless legends were born. Some were true, others questionable. Anyway, admiring kids like myself, believed every word. Still do. 

One story concerned Pete Morgan, who earned his greatest fame as a basketball player in the 1920’s, when he teamed with his brothers and led Pineville into the state tournament. At the time, Pineville had only an outdoor court on which to play and practice. 

According to the story, Pete always had a ball hidden over the bank in the outfield. If a ball was hit over the bank there was a good chance it would wind up in the river or just be lost while the runner circled the bases. Not on Pete’s watch. He would retrieve the hidden ball and get it back to the infield while the disappointed batter wondered what happened. 

On the far end of the field there was a large dead chestnut tree. The chestnut blight had hit and every tree of that species was killed. Still the trees stayed erect for years before rotting and falling. Without bark the chestnut wood took on a silvery gray color and gave the towering trees a sort of majestic look. Anyway, legend persists that Joe Jones slammed a drive that soared between the topmost forks of the chestnut. A gargantuan blast. I didn’t see it, but I believe it.

Another part of the lore involved our brother Salty. A ball was hit on the fly to ward center field where he was playing. It went over the bank in the air with Salty in pursuit. Both ball and Salty disappeared. Then Salty emerged holding the ball high to signify he had caught it. Naturally, the other team discounted that possibility and the batter was to be awarded a homerun. Then a man who was near the place where the ball went over the bank came up and said he had seen the whole play and Salty had actually caught the ball standing in the shallow water near the river’s edge. The man was a well-respected citizen so they took his word for it. I believe it.

The terrible war had more consequences than battlefield casualties. Salty was a fine natural baseball player whose playing days were interrupted by Pearl Harbor. After the war, he was offered a contract to play for the professional Welch Miners of the Appalachian League. 

still have that unsigned contract. Salty, like many others, entered the service as a young lad and came out four years later a different person. His skills were diminished and he knew it. A dream had slipped away.

They don’t pay pensions for shattered dreams.

So, is it any wonder that sometimes I stand in front of the Middle School and look across the road and see, not a gas company, but a makeshift ball field. What I hear is the sound of enthusiastic crowds cheering on their heroes in unmatched uniforms. They played their hearts out and then fought in the war the same way

Those are my heroes. Is it any wonder I believe the legends? They were real. live heroes and I got to see them at their best when we were admiring kids just….growin’up.