Friday, July 18, 2008

Let's Play Ball!

There was a time when the Oil Creek valley was rife with skillful baseball players who played the game to win. Uncle Zeke reported the scores of games played by the Orlando nine. During the 1930’s, Orlando's fine baseball teams prevailed by double digit scores over teams from larger towns such as Burnsville, Gassaway, and towns in between.

As long as the trains were running with reasonable fares, travel by teams from out of the area to Orlando to play ball was fairly easy and convenient. In 1941, when the trains ceased stopping at Orlando and the roads around Orlando were in too poor condition to be relied upon, baseball moved elsewhere. Orlando's young men continued to play at Falls Mills, Burnsville, Hyre's Run.

by David Parmer

The heat of the day was over. Chores were done or forgotten. Plenty of daylight was left as a gaggle of boys took the field and began tossing a ball back and forth while another boy hit grounders to infielders who snapped up the horsehide ball and threw with precision to the first baseman across the diamond. A few people began assembling along the baselines from home base to first base and to third base and watched intently as a son, a nephew, or a brother demonstrated his skill with the baseball. The players in the field were keenly aware that they were being watched, hopefully by a favorite girl friend or a want-to-be girlfriend. Cigarettes and chews of tobacco filled the lips or jaws of many of the onlookers and some of the ball players. Women sat on the porch of the house in left field, shaded from the afternoon sun, mildly interested in the goings-on in the newly mowed hayfield. From atop the hill, above the railroad tracks, some small children stood on the bluff observing the movements of the young boys on the field below. The crack of the bat as the ball was struck reverberated in the narrow valley and punctuated the air around the children watching the preliminary practice before the game was to start. Earlier that day, the lithe young boys now demonstrating their skills with the ball had been milking cows, putting up haystacks, or hoeing corn. While the former activities were hard work, the present game was fun. It was an evening to enjoy. A tall lanky older man in dark trousers and a long sleeved white shirt moved quietly behind home base in the orderly confusion and in a loud baritone and easily heard voice yelled, “Let’ play ball.”

Baseball Was the Rage
In the 1920’s, Babe Ruth became a household legend as he took his awkward stroll around the bases after a prodigious home run. Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, Christy Mathewson, Rogers Hornsby, the Waner brothers, Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochran and Grover Cleveland Alexander - all became names which easily slipped off the lips of young men and boys who aspired to follow in their footsteps on the diamond, perhaps in the major leagues.

In the early 1900’s, cigarette companies promoted the sales of cigarettes by including baseball cards in the packages of cigarettes. These promotional items were sold in every country store in the country, including the Orlando general stores. Many Orlando boys took seriously the collecting of baseball cards, and of course, picked up the tobacco habit along with the prized baseball cards.

Orlando youth also took the game of baseball seriously and the Oil Creek valley seemed rife with skillful baseball players who played the game to win. Uncle Zeke gave some attention to the exploits of the Orlando boys in his Buzzardtown news columns. In his August 22, 1935 column of the Buzzardtown News, Uncle Zeke commented on the Orlando baseball nine:
'The Orlando “Wonders” baseball team motored to Cogar Sunday afternoon where they met the Cogar Giants on their baseball diamond. The game was well played with the Orlando “Wonders” winning 33-0. Some game, eh? John Ratliff, manager of the Cogar Giants, still says he has the best team in Braxton County. Any one wishing a game with the “Wonders,” write to Virgil Riffle, manager, Orlando.'
[Virgil Riffle, manager of the Orlando team, was the son of Ebert Riffle and Tina (Scarff) Riffle. He married Edna Posey, daughter of Lloyd Posey and Mary Clark Posey.]
Even though the straight-laced Uncle Zeke seemed somewhat dubious about ball-playing on the Sabbath, it is clear that the sport of ball-playing kept boys out of serious trouble and perhaps therefore had some redeeming qualities. Uncle Zeke dutifully reported the scores of games played by the Orlando nine. Touting a game played on a Sunday was easier for him during the 1930’s, especially since Orlando had such fine baseball teams and prevailed by double digit scores over teams from larger towns such as Burnsville, Gassaway, and other towns in between.
Playing Fields
As an unincorporated town, Orlando had no municipally supported baseball fields. Instead, local farmers or landowners opened up their fields, usually after the first cutting of grass. In the days when most Orlando residents were still farming the land for a living, it was a substantial sacrifice to dedicate good farmable flat land for the purpose of recreation rather than the production of food. Dale Barnett reports that one playing field used by Orlando youth to play hardball was on the “Kelly” farm, one of the first farms on Clover Fork, just above Orlando. Uncle Zeke mentioned in his brief acknowledgement of the Sunday games that a field was frequently used located on Road Run, west of Orlando. Dale Barnett fixed the location of this field as between the farms of Linzy Strader and Mary McNemar. Ivy (Strader) Gibson recalls the field to have been on the land of her father, Linzy Strader. Cecil Mick recalls his father, Beauford Mick, talking about a baseball field at Kemper, just north of Orlando at the mouth of Bennett Hollow. A field beside St. Michael’s Catholic Church also served well into the 1960’s as a playing field for baseball and softball.

As long as the trains were running with reasonable fares, travel by teams from out of the area to Orlando to play ball on the local fields was fairly easy and convenient. However, the trains ceased stopping at Orlando in 1941 and the generally poor condition of the roads caused baseball to move elsewhere. .

Falls Mill
What person in central West Virginia during the mid twentieth century did not know of the allure of Falls Mill for the sport of ball playing and swimming? This small town on the Little Kanawha River had long been a recreational mecca, and on weekends in the 1930s, with the completion of the paving of U. S. Route 19 and the availability of the cheap automobile, it became a haven for the young men of baseball clubs to play their games, while their families swam in the Little Kanawha and explored the falls. Many Orlando residents became quite familiar with the Falls Mill baseball diamond. According to “Chick” Mick, the Falls Mill recreation area was owned by Mr. Marsh of Weston, a Pure Oil distributor. The baseball field included bleachers which cost ten and twenty five cents for a seat. The swimming area included dressing rooms for men and women. Mr. Marsh also owned the service station and beer tavern located on Route 19 adjacent to the ball field and sponsored the Falls Mill team which was a member of the Central West Virginia Baseball League which played at Falls Mill into the mid 1950’s. The Falls Mill baseball team was comprised of players from throughout the area, including boys from Orlando.

Above rt: baseball players at Falls Mill ca. 1936. Individuals are unidentified.

Above, left: An example of the inviting water of the Little Kanawha at Falls Mill. Photo from the early 1960s.

To the left and below right are two photos of the Falls Mill Baseball Team from the 1930s.

Left: Back Row: Mr. Marsh, Unknown, Claud Mick, Jack Graff. Middle Row: Si McQuain, Big John Blake, Unknown, Unknown. Front Row: Sam Stalnaker, John Graff, Ike Garrett, Bill Garrett.

Right: Claude Mick is in the back row on the left. John Graff is front left and Jake Graff is the third from the left in the back row.

John and Jake Claud Mick was Orlando born and raised, Jack and John Graff lived on Orlando's Rt 1, the rural route in the Flesher Run area. .
Claude Mick
Claude Mick, the Orlando postmaster, was an inveterate baseball player. A skillful fielding first baseman and pitcher, Claude donned the uniform of Falls Mill baseball team during the mid 1930’s. According to his son Chick Claude played the hardball game until he was around thirty-nine years of age, at which time he gave it up. Chick reports, however, that his father briefly played one last game when he was in his early fifties but realized that he was well past his prime and hung up his spikes for good.
Geral “Popeye” Puffenbarker
A familiar sight in Burnsville around noon on a summer Saturday or Sunday was Geral “Popeye” Puffenbarker driving a cattle truck with high railings loaded with Orlando boys on their way to play baseball at Falls Mill. “Popeye” always made an obligatory stop in Burnsville to enlist the local boys to fill out the rest of the Orlando team or to find enough players to complete the roster of the opposing team in case it was short of players. A left-handed pitcher, “Popeye” frequently had control problems with his pitches, which made batters somewhat nervous to dig in at the plate. Perhaps his habit of throwing his first pitch as hard as he could and as wildly as he could, was merely a message to the hitter to not become comfortable at the plate, to decrease the batter’s confidence and increase his fear of being hit by a hard-pitched ball.

John Allman, grandson of Gaver Allman, the long-time Orlando telegrapher and depot agent, who played on the Orlando team in the early 1950’s, recalls vividly “Popeye’s” attributes as a pitcher as well as his volatility. John recalls one game when a teammate committed an error at a crucial moment which upset “Popeye” to the extent that he walked off the field in disgust. An aging Claud Mick had to complete pitching the inning. John reported that Claud’s arm was sore for two weeks following the relief pitching stint.

Doris (Riffle) Snyder recalls that “Popeye” was notorious for losing his grip on the baseball bat during his vicious swings at the ball. Doris was sitting under a tree near home plate, watching a game in the late 1940’s at Orlando, with “Popeye” at the plate. “Popeye” took his usual trademark swing at a ball and lost his grip on the bat, which went flying, striking the tree just above Doris’ head. Doris remembers that the bat skinned the bark off the tree behind her.

Left: Doris Riffle.

John Gibson IV recalls that his father told him that “Popeye” drew the attention of a major league scout. With the scout present at a Saturday game, “Popeye” pitched an excellent game and a contract signing was nigh. Ill-advisedly, “Popeye” also decided to pitch on the following day. Again with the scout present, “Popeye’s” arm could not stand the strain and that day he suffered an arm injury which short-circuited “Popeye’s” dream of pitching in the big leagues.

The ruddy complexioned “Popeye” was a real lover of the game of baseball and is first mentioned of all Orlando area players by those interviewed by this writer for this story. “Popeye,” a resident of Three Lick died in 1993 at the age of 62.
Johnny “Kiner”Allman
Ralph Kiner was a Pittsburgh legend in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. A slugging home run king, Kiner delighted Pittsburgh fans with his long home runs to left field at Forbes Field. John Allman, grandson of Orlando’s well-known Gaver and Misha (Mills) Allman, grew up in his early years in Orlando and lived with his grandparents but moved to Pittsburgh with his mother and stepfather in the mid 1940’s. John looked forward to visiting his grandparents in the summers and delighted in playing baseball. His Pittsburgh connection led locals, especially the girls, to refer to him as “Kiner.” The first two sports fans of the female gender interviewed by this writer for this story both referred to John as “Kiner,” a nickname long-remembered. John was a catcher for teams of an Orlando flavor, whether they were playing as a strictly Orlando team or as a Falls Mill team.

John recalls that his grandfather loved to watch him play. When the teams played in the field beside the Catholic Church, Gaver watched the game from his car on top of the hill overlooking the ball field and didn’t visit the field itself. John recalls on one occasion when he was playing a game at Falls Mill, his grandfather was watching the game along the third base line. During the game, John hit a “Kiner-like” home run to center field which landed on the swimming raft anchored in the middle of the Little Kanawha River. As the ball left the park and his grandson rounded the bases, Gaver, as the result of a congratulatory pat on the back from another fan, swallowed a sizable portion of the chewing tobacco which he usually kept in his jaw.
Fred Riffle
A traveler through the Posey Run area in the mid 1950’s usually saw him sitting on the front porch of his small house which hugged the Orlando Road, watching traffic go by. In his middle age and later years, you would never have suspected that in his youth he was an outstanding ballplayer. The son of R. M. “Boss” and Idena (Skinner) Riffle, Fred Riffle was born in 1908. As Fred came of age, Babe Ruth, the ‘Sultan of Swat,’ was swinging for the fences and becoming a childhood hero to American youth. The 1920’s were a glory age for baseball, and Fred became actively engaged in the game. A number of people from Orlando interviewed for this story mentioned the name of Fred Riffle as a person of interest in the lore of baseball in Orlando. A left-handed pitcher, Fred supposedly had a fantastic curve ball which, according to Bill Beckner, was wicked enough that major league scouts became interested in the Orlando boy. Fred, reportedly, referred to his curve ball as the “old hog snoot” and later in life when he was a mere observer rather than a participant in the game, Fred would urge the Orlando pitcher to throw the batter the “old hog snoot.” In his pitching days, “Chick” Mick recalls that Fred’s nickname on the ball diamond was “Chevalay,” presumably because in his youth he owned an automobile of that pronunciation.
Lambert Beckner
Bill Beckner also recalls from family tradition that his father Lambert Beckner was a notable catcher for Orlando teams during the early and mid 1930’s. Red Beckner, Lambert’s father, and Bill’s grandfather, however, had strong convictions about the playing of ball on Sundays, as did Uncle Zeke, Red’s fellow United Brethren congregant. Bill recalls that his grandfather would not permit Bill and his brother Neil to play ball on Sundays, although it was acceptable for them to act as umpires. Bill seemed to grasp the distinction his grandfather made in ruling out the one, but ruling in the other.
Charlie Mick
In the middle of the 20th century, the name of Charlie Mick was often mentioned as a sportsman of the diamond. Although Charlie’s expertise was more connected with the game of fast-pitch softball, he nonetheless deserves mention as a notable figure in the game. Charlie’s brother, Cecil Mick, himself an excellent hurler in fast-pitch softball, was tutored in the game by his older brother. Cecil remembers that although he mastered the inside and outside curve balls which rose as they sped toward the plate, he could never duplicate his older brother’s effective “drop” pitch. Cecil recalled that his older brother’s pitching career was cut short when he suffered a serious knee injury during a collision in the quest for a pop-up during a game at Weston State Hospital. After the injury, Charlie served more as a manager rather than a player. Cecil also had his pitching cut short by a disabling case of bursitis which affected his pitching arm. Cecil remembers a Weston State Hospital team comprised of several Orlando boys which in 1963 finished in second place in a state softball tournament at Anmoore. In this game, Cecil recalls that he hit a grand slam home run, but his team came up one run short of being the tournament
Leonard "Lindy" Keith
Another Oil Creek ball player from the Peterson area, mentioned both by Cecil Mick and John Allman as a dandy baseball player, was Leonard Keith, son-in-law of John Wooddell and Daisy (Bennett) Wooddell of Clover Fork. According to Allman, Keith was an excellent pitcher. Leonard’s son, Larry, tells of his father participating in a fast-pitch softball league in Aiken, South Carolina and that he used to catch practice pitches for his father. Despite the extra padding his father put in the catcher’s mitt, Larry can still feel the burn of the pitches to this day.

Left: Lindy Keith is to the right. Ross Gay, Blaine's brother, is on the left and Mary Stutler (daughter of Oras and Edith (Skinner) Stutler) is in the center.
Blaine Gay
Orlando store owner Charlie Knight’s grandson, Blaine Gay, was an outstanding left-handed pitcher with a blazing fastball and baffling curve, according to John Allman. Although Blaine pitched for Orlando teams, he is most remembered as pitching for the Gilmer/Hyre’s Run team sponsored by R. A. Darnall, a businessman of Gilmer Station. This highly successful team was a member of the Central West Virginia Baseball League and played their home ball games at the baseball diamond at Hyre’s Run. The Gilmer/Hyre’s Run team’s manager, Virgil Knight, was a long-time postmaster in Burnsville and was also managed by Harry Love. Blaine’s daughter Betty Daffron remembers when she was seven or eight years of age going to Sutton and Falls Mill to watch her dad play ball. When her dad went to Ohio for employment, he continued to play baseball in a semi-pro league in the Akron, Ohio area. During the war years, Blaine had received a deferment from the military draft because he had employment as a railroad engineer for Republic Steel which was deemed essential for the war effort. As a result of his outstanding play in the semi-pro league while he was employed by Republic Steel, he was offered a contract by the Chicago Cubs. However, because of his employment deferment from the military draft, Blaine was unable to accept the offer of Cubs.
Blaine’s son John Gray recalls that his father established strike out records while playing for the semi-pro Akron team which probably was the basis for the Cubs’ contract offer.

Blaine ’s sister-in-law, Wanda Gay of Roanoke, recalls that a photograph of Blaine in baseball uniform hung in the living room of Blaine’s Ohio home. Wanda also recalls having seen a certificate in Blaine’s possession concerning his baseball tenure. A nephew of Blaine Gay, Bill Freeman, was also an excellent ball player, as was Blaine’s brother-in-law, Vaden Grove, according to Cecil Mick.

above left: Dad Blaine with Betty and John.

right: without Blaine, the Gilmer/Hyre’s Run Baseball Team on Virgil Knight’s Farm at Hyre’s Run.
Back Row: Kenneth Sumpter, Junior Snyder, Junior Kuhl, Kit Carson, Coy Parson, Pudge Snyder.
Front Row: Wilmer Anderson, Herbert Young, Russell Losh, Ray Parsons, Junior Love, Buck Pritt.
Manager, kneeling: Harry Love.

Arthur "Jeff" Riffle
Cecil Mick remembers that his father, Beauford Mick, often mentioned the name of Arthur Riffle of Riffle Run as an outstanding Orlando ball player. Arthur’s sister, Lovie Bush, recalls that her brother, who answered to the nickname of “Jeff,” would walk to Orlando from Riffle Run to play ball. Lovie remembers that her brother also played for the Falls Mill team with his neighbors, John and Jake Graff, who were also excellent ball players. Cecil’s father mentioned that Arthur frequently would play at the ball field located at Kemper. Cleve Conrad, another fine ball player according to Cecil Mick, would often accompany Arthur for the weekend games.
The Grove Brothers
The American Baseball League had Lefty Grove, but Orlando had three Grove brothers, who, according to Cecil Mick, were outstanding ball players based on the stories told by Cecil’s father, Beauford Mick. Vaden, John and Dana Grove lived on Oil Creek about a mile and a half above the mouth of Three Lick near the present home of Garrett Ramsey. All three brothers were highly successful ball players on Orlando teams. The brothers were sons of George and Daisy Grove. George was a cousin of Hayward Grove, a long-time storekeeper, whose general store was located near the mouth of Bear Run and Red Lick. Vaden Grove married Cora Gay, daughter of John and Dessie Gay. Vaden is presently ninety-eight years of age and resides in Florida.
Charlie Tulley
Dale Barnett remembers that Charlie Tulley, son of Sandy Tulley of Tulley Ridge, was an excellent baseball player in his day. Charlie was a bachelor for many years until his late in life marriage to Ernestine Hyre, and often had time for a little baseball. From all reports, he excelled in the sport.
Ronald Riffle
Ronald Riffle was the son of Layton and Bertha (Mick) Riffle who lived just below the Orlando Cemetery. Ronnie was a friend and contemporary of the Gibson brothers and never missed an opportunity to play hardball. Ronnie was a slick fielding infielder for the Orlando teams of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

Jack Riffle
A son of Joe and Betty (Skinner) Riffle, Jack Riffle grew up in an athletic and sporting family. Dale Barnett remembers Jack as an excellent infielder and pitcher for various Orlando teams. Jack, along with Charlie Mick, was often an arranger of ball games between Orlando nines and Burnsville teams in the early 1960’s.

Warren McCauley
Warren McCauley grew up on McCauley Run, the son of William and Lucy (Hinkle) McCauley. Born in 1912, Warren experienced the early excitement of major league baseball as a young boy and was bitten by the baseball bug early in life. Gene Brown, Warren’s cousin, is eighty-four years old and lives on McCauley Run and was a neighbor of Warren as he grew up. Gene recalls that Warren played baseball at Falls Mill on early teams, but believes that Warren’s first love was fox-chasing, instead of baseball. Warren was killed in a work-related accident on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1947.
.French Conrad
The head of Riffle Run is just over the hill from the lower reaches of Clover Fork. In the early part of the 20th century, Riffle Run residents came over the hill to shop at the Orlando stores. Many Riffle Run boys also came to Orlando to play baseball. One of premier sluggers who played ball in Orlando was French Conrad of Riffle Run who played on some of the earliest Orlando teams. French was born in 1885 and was in his early 30’s when he married Rachel Blake in 1917. By that time he had already earned a reputation of a slugger who could knock the ball out of the park. Dale Barnett remembers stories from his youth about the long home runs which were hit by French for the early Orlando teams. Surprisingly, French’s sole surviving child, Pauline Richardson, and his grandchildren were unaware of their grandfather’s participation in the game, but were aware that he loved to watch the game.
Johnny & Bobby Gibson
John Gibson III and his younger brother Robert were just two years apart in age and both were athletically gifted. As they were growing up in Orlando, the sons of John Gibson Jr. and Lona Gay Gibson looked forward to the hot days of summer and games of baseball. The elder brother graduated from Burnsville High School in 1950 and the younger graduated in 1952. Inseparable as boys growing up in Orlando, with a love of baseball, after graduating from high school and going to Akron to work Johnny and Bobby looked forward to driving eight hours from their homes in Ohio back to Orlando on Friday evenings so they could play baseball on Saturday and Sunday at Falls Mill.
John Gibson IV recalls many stories that his dad told about the ball games during the hot days of summer. Bob Gibson, the story goes, was a very good pitcher and a very good hitter but ran with feet of lead. John on the other hand was a very fast runner. In a game at Falls Mill, Bob was on third base with his brother John at the bat. John hit a long fly ball. Perhaps it was inattentiveness by Bob or an abundance of caution about the long fly ball and the fear of being doubled up if the ball were caught, Bob crossed home plate with his brother only a step behind. John attributed the closeness of the runners to Bob’s “lead feet” while Bob attributed it to “prudent base running.”
left above: John III, Jimmy and Bob Gibson downtown Orlando.
left below: John Gibson III
right below: Bob Gibson.
Madeline Brown, widow of Sol Brown, formerly of Flesher Run, recalls that her husband was a player-manager for the Falls Mill team. In the early 1950’s Falls Mill was playing a team from Weston which had a player who had been a former major-leaguer. The game coursed along with Weston up by one run 1-0. In the top of the last inning, Falls Mill tied up the game when Sol Brown drove in Sam Stalnaker from first base. In the bottom of the inning, a Weston batter got on base. The runner then went to third base on a hit despite a ground rule which only permitted the runner on first to go to second base. The runner on third base refused to retreat to second base. In the course of the discussion, or argument, and without a time-out having been called, Madeline recalls that Bobby Gibson, the Falls Mills third baseman, tagged the errant runner with the ball who was promptly called out by the umpire. Madeline remembers that the Weston team packed its bags and went back to Weston without finishing the game.

In another game at Falls Mill, Bobby Gibson was pitching against a team of All Stars and his brother John was catching. A batter, supposedly a player from West Virginia University, was crowding the plate and leaning over into the strike zone. John warned the batter to move off the plate but the warning was not only disregarded, but also the batter made a derogatory remark about the pitcher being a “hayseed.” Promptly, Bob plunked the batter in the ribs with a fast ball. Much to the batter’s chagrin, the pitch was called a strike by the umpire who noted that the batter was leaning into the strike zone. After a short rhubarb, the batter resumed the bat but stood much farther back in the batter’s box. Bob’s next two pitches skinned the outside corner of the plate and the batter was out on three pitches. The same batter also struck out his next two times at bat. So much for the all star and the hayseed!

John IV also recalls his father telling him about his uncle Bob hitting two balls across the Little Kanawha for home runs in a game, during which “Popeye” Puffenbarker also decked a ball into the woods on the other side of the river. These home runs conservatively would have traveled at least four hundred feet.

Later, Bob Gibson played semi-pro baseball in Akron along with Blaine Gay, another Orlando boy who was employed in Warren, Ohio. Although Blaine was a little older than Bob, he was still a very effective left handed pitcher. It was during his stint with the Akron semi-pro team that Bob was approached by a major league scout with the proposition of a contract as a pitcher. Bob however wanted to play third base rather than pitch. The scout insisted that his major league club was only interested in him as a pitcher. The indecision was resolved by Uncle Sam who sent a draft notice to Bob, and the choice was thereby settled.
The Ninth Inning Wrap-Up
The crack of the bat on Saturdays and Sundays is not heard in Orlando anymore. Nor do the words, “Let’s play ball,” echo across the narrow Orlando valley. The Corps of Engineers has so screwed up the former beckoning baseball field at Falls Mill to the point that leaves will drop on what is left of the playing field, but no foul balls or pop-ups will fall there. The Falls Mill baseball field, once user friendly, now seems an alien place, unfit for recreation and unwelcoming to the few boys left with bat and ball in hand and a desire to play nine innings.

The olden days in Orlando were the glory years of baseball. We're fortunate to have the stories of “Popeye”, the Gibson boys, “Kiner” Allman, Blaine Gay and his brother-in-law Vaden Grove, Charlie and Cecil Mick, and all the other young men and boys who learned to play the game on Saturday and Sunday afternoons on the hayfields of the Oil Creek valley or the sand and red clay of Falls Mill. They are a part of history, and particularly a part of our history.

Note: The entry Fish Stories tells other stories of some of the Orlando boys mentioned in this entry.

. . . . .
Comment 1 by David Parmer
In the Riffleton News reported in the Burnsville Kanawha Banner on June 21, 1911, it was noted that Charlie Moran incurred a broken jaw in a Saturday baseball game at Orlando and was taken to a Clarksburg hospital for treatment.
Writer’s Note: “Riffleton” was the name for the community in the area of Riffle’s Run which is just over the hill from Orlando. This community also was known as “Stop.”
Comment 2 Jim Kuhl
I grew up near Gilmer. Most of the local men used to belong to the Gilmer baseball team of that era. My father, Earl Kuhl, and his brothers Junior and Willard, all played for the Gilmer team. My uncles, the Snyder brothers, and the two Love brothers also played for the Gilmer team. Most of the games were played at Falls Mill so that all the families could swim and picnic each Sunday. Dad would haul all of us to the game in the back of his coal truck which I also used to drive to Burnsville to see the Saturday night movie.
My uncle Jack Snyder married Doris Riffle of Orlando. My uncle Jack and I used to hunt on the hill behind Doris ’ home.
Note: Jim is a cousin to lots of Oil Creek folks: all the Coles in the Oil Creek area as his 2g grandfather was Conrad Kuhl, uncle of Henry Harrison Cole who settled on Threelick, the Godfreys, including Stone Soup contributor Pat Rechart, "Uncle Zeke's" wife Lorena Godfrey and the Buzzardtown Tonguetwisters Olive, Charles and James Henline, and even Dick Skinner. who owned the Orlando restaurant. -dwg
comment 3 by John Allman
I remember when I was around eleven or twelve years old, attending a baseball game at Hyres Run during the 1940’s. The pitcher for the Hyres Run team was Blaine Gay from Orlando. Blaine had a tremendous fast ball and could really “bring it” to the plate.

I recall during the game that the other team had a runner on first base. The catcher for the Hyres Run team was Web Goodwin. Web was a very big man and was an outstanding catcher. As Blaine was in his delivery to the plate, Web noticed the base runner starting toward second base on an attempted steal. Web prematurely whipped off his catcher’s mask as Blaine ’s fast ball was coming toward the plate. The batter swung at the pitch and ticked the ball, changing the course of the ball from Web’s mitt to Web’s forehead. The ball struck with a dreadful sound. Web was knocked unconscious and had blood running from his eyes and ears. Web suffered a concussion but recovered from the rendezvous with Blaine ’s fastball.

After World War II, I spoke with Blaine who I knew had earlier been offered a major league contract with one of the Chicago teams. He advised me that because his employment at that time was vital to the war effort he could not accept the major league contract. After the war, Blaine was advised by major league scouts that he was then too old to begin a baseball career. .
comment 4 by Leonard Keith
My father, Leonard “Lindy” Keith, was an avid baseball player in his youth in Orlando. As a young man before World War II, he played for local teams, and, as did many young men from Orlando, donned the uniform of the Falls Mills team. After service in World War II, my father, who worked as an assistant station master for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in Burnsville, continued playing baseball for the Falls Mill team from around 1946 until 1949.

When I was around eight years old in 1949, my father pitched his last baseball game for the Falls Mill team. During this game, at which I was present, my father suffered an arm injury which ended his pitching days. After this game he was no longer able to throw a baseball overhand.

My family moved to South Carolina in 1950. Although unable to throw overhand, my father took up fast pitch softball and was a very successful pitcher in fast pitch softball leagues in South Carolina. I would frequently serve as catcher for my father during his pitching practice but he threw so hard it was difficult for me to serve as an efficient battery mate.
comment 5 by David Parmer
Bert Hamric, a native of Sand Fork and former resident of Burnsville, was a major leaguer and played as an outfielder for the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers and the 1958 Baltimore Orioles. He began his minor league career in 1949 and played for various farm teams of the Brooklyn Dodgers. While awaiting his chance to play baseball professionally, Bert often played at Falls Mill. Bert’s father, Odbert Hamric, was also a noted baseball player and played on semi-professional teams in the Akron area. According to Bert’s brother, Fay, during a pre-game practice session at Falls Mill, Bert told his father that he bet that he could hit a ball further than his dad. Bert then hit a long fly ball into the falls of the Little Kanawha River. His father then promptly hit a longer fly ball over the falls.

In the spring of 1955, Bert broke his right hand during spring training with the Brooklyn Dodgers and lived briefly in Burnsville while he convalesced. Bert was ambidextrous and could throw the baseball with his left hand as well as his right. On several occasions I played catch with Bert who threw the baseball very effectively with his left hand.
comment 6 by Betty (Cart) Densmore
My father, Charles Foster Cart, was born in Strange Creek to Fleet Cart and Susan (Moore) Cart and graduated from high school in Huntington, West Virginia.

He came to Orlando in about 1925 as a telegraph operator and agent for the B & O Railroad. He later held the same position with the railroad at Burnsville. He met my mother Hazel Wooddell at a church social where the men bid on the women’s picnic baskets. My father was the successful bidder on my mother’s basket. They were married and had four children, Mary (Cart) Barcus, Betty (Cart) Densmore, Sue Ann Cart Tighe and Charles Foster Cart, Jr.

My father loved baseball and all other sports but baseball was his favorite. He took my brother to some games in Pittsburgh when we lived in Grafton. He bought the two older girls miniature baseball bats from the Louisville Sluggers baseball bat company. I still have mine.

He played center field and was a switch hitter.

One of my neighbors in Florida is Mary Marguerite (Moran) Bush, daughter of John and Myrtle Moran of Burnsville. Her grandfather was Patrick Moran of Orlando. Mary Marguerite’s first grade teacher at Burnsville was my aunt Madeline Cart who was my dad’s sister.
Comment 7 by Herbert Posey
My father, Lloyd Posey, owned a farm on Clover Fork with a ten acre bottom, complete with a baseball field. My three older brothers, Bob, Paul and Dee Posey, were dedicated baseball players. Bob was a pitcher and Dee played first base and was a catcher. A lot of baseball was played during the 1930’s on this field. My brothers also played quite a lot of baseball at Falls Mill. Baseball was a favorite pastime of the boys in the neighborhood.

1 comment:

  1. Penny Norton SmukalFriday, July 27, 2012

    The picture attached to the story about Blaine Gay is not Blaine Gay. It is instead a picture of John Norton, Blaine's brother-in-law (married to Paulene Gay). The children in the next picture with John Norton are two of John and Paulene's children, Bette Ann and John Robert - not Betty Lou Gay Daffron and John Marshall Gay Gray. I know this for a fact because I am also one of Paulene and John kids.