Jim Cantrell submits this look back at community baseball in P’ville —
Between the late eighteen hundreds and the mid-nineteen sixties baseball was truly the American pastime. This was true in the Palmersville area, with many small communities having their own baseball team. During World War II these activities were no longer possible.
After the war teams were again organized in several communities. The make-up of the Palmersville team consisted mostly of players of the thirties and players of the late forties, with the occasional players from the twenties being available to pinch-hit.
In l947 Kuron Hooks and his wife Bernice had opened a general store with lunch counter in the old Willis Lee saloon building. Kuron had been a star catcher and heavy hitter on a team in some county South of Weakley County and wanted Palmersville to have a community team. We soon had a good local team and played teams organized at various times in Cuba, Ky., Dukedom, Latham, Dresden, Gleason, Huntingdon, Cottage Grove, Liberty, Midway, Skull Bone —— etc.
Kuron was our very capable catcher, with Ben Cantrell beginning to develop in the late forties and early fifties; later he was a catcher on Bethel College’s team. Keg Dawson was our star pitcher. He was in his mid thirties at the time and before World War II probably the best pitcher in Weakley County. Ruben Grubbs and Willy Griffith were also in their mid-thirties, very good pitchers, and were used in most of our games.
Hayden Watts and Punch Harris could also provide some relief pitching. Punch was a good fielder and our regular first baseman. Carl Hurt was a slow-footed second baseman who seemed to always know just where the hitter was going to hit the ball. Jim Cantrell was our short stop and later was a third baseman on the Bethel Basil Griffith was our third baseman, sometimes relieved by Hayden.
One day, down at Skull Bone, Basil turned the only triple play that I ever personally saw. There were runners on first and third with nobody out. A real hot liner was hit near third base. Basil caught it, stepped on third base and quickly tripled off the runner on first base.
Hayden was notorious for swinging at the high balls. In describing a home run that Hayden hit at Midway, Kuron said that Hayden had to jump off the ground to hit the ball.
The outfield was well covered by two excellent fielders, Hugh Brann in left field and Charles Henry McWherter in center field. Hugh and Charles Henry could cover most of the outfield. This allowed us to play the heavy- hitting and poor- fielding Billy Mack (chocolate drop) Stephenson in right field. One day a high fly ball was hit down the right field line. Billy Mack danced around under the ball with his glove up, missed the ball, which then hit him on top of his head and bounced twenty feet up in the air.
We had two heavy hitting players from the nineteen twenties team to call on for pinch hitters, the McWherter cousins, Mayo and Joe Boyd. Joe Boyd hit one of the longest balls I have ever seen. He was a left handed batter, batting from our home plate near the old drainage from the cheese factory. He hit a drive over the right fielder’s head that landed on the parking area near the gymnasium and rolled on between the school building and the gym. Joe Boyd shuffled along with slow steps and finally made it to second base. As usual, of course, we put in a pinch runner for Joe Boyd.
By the early fifties, more mobility and more opportunities for entertainment, FM radio and television, led to the lack of interest and finally to the demise of community baseball teams.