Once Upon A Time: Baseball Memories by Junie Mattingly


BASEBALL MEMORIES by Junie Mattingly


            Some of the fondest memories of my early childhood were when my dad would take me to baseball games with him. The first game that he let me got to was played in a field off Spencer Hamilton Road directly across the road from where Catherine Rogers now lives. There were children playing in the yard there, so dad let me go across the road to play with them while the game was going on. Dad had this old ragged J.C.Higgins fielder’s glove (which was later passed on to me), so I guess he played that day. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I guess that I blew the only chance of ever seeing my dad play ball. I don’t think he ever played after that.

            I remember games being played in a field between Loretto and St. Francis. The field was located just across the railroad tracks on the left side of A. Mills Lane. I also remember going with dad and Bud Thompson to a game at St. Mary’s.


            I received my elementary education at the old Loretto Grade School taught by the Sisters of Loretto. It was a four room weatherboard building, two lower rooms and two upper rooms. There were two grades in each room, the first grade and second grade were taught in the lower back room, the third and fourth grade in the upper back room, the fifth and sixth in the upper front room, and the seventh and eighth grade in the lower front room. It stood on the corner where the Corner Food Mart is now located, with the front facing Highway 52. The schoolyard was bordered on the east side by the Goebel and Ethel Thomas home where the new rental apartments have been built, and on the south side by the Charlie and Sadie Walker home. The Thomas family had a garden just over the back fence behind home plate. Now and then a ball would go over the fence and wind up in their garden. Understandably, the Thomas family took a dim view of the kids running through their garden and sometimes would try to get the ball. The older boys would get one of us younger boys to straddle the fence post and if the ball went over the fence, we would jump down and retrieve it before it was confiscated. I remember one time when I was the designated post sitter, one of the older boys, Wallace Minor, gave me a penny afterwards. Back then the school sold candy at recess time. It’s surprising now at what a penny would buy in those days. I guess that’s why I never forgot Wallace Minor.

            Occasionally Raphael Lyon or Joe “Ab Jab” Ryan would hit the ball over the school, sometimes over the flag pole on the front roof.

            By the time that I got to the upper grades, they had moved the playing field behind Herbert Hayden’s house on land that Norbert Brahm eventually owned. There was a fairly large pond in dead center field, but I don’t remember anyone ever hitting a ball that far.


            Grade schools didn’t play each other very often back at that time. I only remember four games while I was in grade school. The first game was played when I was in about the sixth grade. It was a game with St. Charles Grade School, and was played at St. Charles near the location of the old grade school. I think Mr. Joe Ryan took some of us up to the game on back of his truck. He had a small truck with racks on the back. I remember him taking some of us kids to Lebanon on back of his truck in 1944 to see the movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis”, starring Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien. I didn’t play in the game and don’t remember how it turned out.


            The second game was against St. Francis Grade School, and was played on a field about where the Loretto Senior Citizens building and the Loretto Child Care are now located. This was before they built the new ball park or high school. I don’t think I played in this game either. Don Tharp seemed to be their manager, as I remember seeing a scorecard on cardboard that he had made up. He must have been a New York Giant fan because he had printed at the top “DON THARP’S NEW YORK GIANTS”. I remember Bobby Miles getting his lip busted while catching without a catcher’s mask. We never had a catcher’s mask. I don’t remember who won this game either.

            The third game was played behind the Loretto Grade School in the field behind Herbert Hayden’s house. We played St. Francis Grade School. I played right field that day, and saw for the first time what a hitter Harry “Toe” Blair was. I had to climb the gate in right field a few times to get the ball from Mrs. Carrie Thompson’s back yard. I don’t remember the score, but we lost the game.

            The fourth game was against St. Francis Grade School. It was played on the grounds below the priest’s house across from where Joe Williamson now lives. Donnie Ruley was playing third base for St. Francis and got a bad cut on his leg when Charles Essex slid into him. Father Fitzgibbon put him in his car and took him to Lebanon to get it sewed up. We won that game, and I believe the score was Loretto Grade School 9 and St. Francis Grade School 8.

            We went to an all colored school in St. Mary’s to play a game. The school was located on the south side of St. Mary’s Road just a little out of St. Mary’s. For some reason when we got there, the game had been cancelled. I never knew why.

            I remember most of our class song. Oddly the part that I don’t remember is the first part. Usually the last part is forgotten first. The part of the lyrics that I remember went like this:


For the treasures you give us

Are better than gold

We will put them away in our hearts

For the ties you have woven

Will keep us as one

In homage and loyalty too

And when our life’s victory

At last we have won

We’ll pay it a tribute

Loretto to you


The Loretto Sisters were a teaching order, so I’ll bet a lot of schools sang this same class song.

            My teachers at Loretto School were:

                        First & second grades – Sister Edward Rita

                        Third & fourth grades – Sister Anna Elizabeth

                        Fifth & sixth grades – Sister Vera Marie

Seventh & eighth grades – Sister Mary Monica Hughes (a sister of Sister Sodelbia for whom the Manton Bridge is named).


            Lately, school bullying has been a hot topic in the county papers. We had school bullies when I was in school too. When I was in about the third or fourth grade, daddy gave me a pocket knife for my birthday. It was a small knife with a pearl handle that had an American flag and “Remember Pearl Harbor” on it. I was so proud of my knife and had to show it off when I got to school. One of the school bullies liked it too and took it away from me. He told me that if I told on him, he would beat me up. Many years later, he walked into my barber shop. He was getting over a drunk and had several days growth on his beard. He said he was too nervous to shave himself, and asked me to shave him. Little did he know what was on my mind as I stroked his neck with my straight razor. He’s dead and gone now, so I guess I need to forgive him.

            Pocket knives are probably a no-no on school grounds today, but back then they were considered a most needed tool. About all boys had a small pocket knife. They could be used to eat apples, sharpen pencils, whittle on a stick, or even play a game with them called “mumble peg”. You could cut a fork out of a tree branch, and with a strip of rubber from an old tire inner tube, make a fine slingshot. The large acorns from the big oak trees on the schoolground were the perfect ammo for the slingshots. I don’t ever remember the knives being used as a weapon.



            In 1948, when I was sixteen years old, I played on an American Legion team in Bardstown. J.A. Ball, Toe Blair, and I played on the team. Other players that I recall were Digger Tatum from New Haven, Jim Wickham, Jude Talbott, Milton “Red” Graham, and other players with the last names of Oakley, Yates, and Huber.

            The home games were played on St. Joe Prep’s ball field, and we rode to the away games on St. Joe Prep’s purple colored school bus. Pike Conway usually drove the bus, and Bardstown High School’s coach, “Hooks” Harvey was the manager. Ford Motor Company was the nationwide sponsor of American Legion Baseball at that time, and Conway Motor Company was the local sponsor. Mr. Conway was like a father to us, and would sometimes treat us after a game. I remember him taking us to the B&B Ice cream place located on the east side of the main drag in Bardstown. I remember one time when we were standing in line to get an ice cream cone, some of the other boys dared me to say to the good looking older girl dipping the ice cream “Give me a big dip baby”. I did. I couldn’t see that I got any bigger dip than the other boys.

            Some of the teams in our region that I recall were Elizabethtown, Vine Grove, and Brandenburg. We breezed through our schedule and landed in the playoffs in Owensboro. The games were played on the Kitty League’s Owensboro Oilers baseball field. I think the other teams in the playoffs were Owensboro, Paducah, and Madisonville.

            By this time, we thought that we couldn’t be beaten and were looking forward to staying in a hotel in Owensboro, a first time for me. We played Owensboro in the opening game and we were beaten badly. I think the score was 11 to 2, or something like that. The boys from Owensboro looked like grown men. I guess in a city like Owensboro, you have a lot of guys big for their age.

            I played left field that day and kept pretty busy, catching one ball at the left field wall. Toe Blair was the only one that impressed the scouts with his hitting. After the game Mr. Conway told Toe that some scouts would like to talk to him, but Toe wasn’t interested. I sure wish I had had the chance that he had.

            The long bus ride home was quiet and subdued, not the usual horseplay. It was well after dark when we got back to Bardstown.

            Not long ago I was talking to Pike Conway while at the Conway-Heaton Motor Company in Bardstown about those days, and asked him if he had any pictures of the team. He said he didn’t but sure wish he did. Picture taking wasn’t one of the top priorities back then.


            During the 1940’s before there were television sets in Loretto, the way of keeping up with professional baseball was by radio broadcasts. The Oertel Brewing Company of Louisville sponsored broadcasts of the Louisville Colonels games. The announcer was Don Hill, and the games were in progress (about half way through) when the broadcast began. Don would describe the game, play by play, until he caught up to live action. The broadcast was always preceded by the following melodious lyrics. I remember most of them:

            CHEER UP WITH OERTEL’S 92









            The Louisville Colonels were a member of the Triple A American Association. The teams that made up the association were:

Louisville Colonels

Columbus Red Birds

Milwaukee Brewers

Indianapolis Indians

Minneapolis Millers

St. Paul Saints

Toledo Medhens

Kansas City Blues

            The Colonels were a farm team of the Boston Red Sox at that time, so I also became a fan of the Red Sox. The Colonels’ manager was Harry Leibold.

            Occasionally, my dad and some other men would get together and drive down to Louisville to see the Colonels play. Parkway Field was located south of Eastern Parkway and west of Brook Street near the University of Louisville campus. I remember a large four sided orange and blue neon Gulf gasoline sign on a tower just over the center field wall. The center field wall was a distance of 507 feet from home plate. It is rumored that Babe Ruth once hit a ball over the wall into a lot where this sign stood, supposedly the longest ball every hit out of Parkway Field.

            I was at a game on May 24, 1949, when a young lefthander named Maurice “Mickey” McDermott set an American Association record by striking out twenty St. Paul batters. That record will never be broken, as the American Association folded in 1962.

            Another game that I’ll always remember was on April 15, 1950. Father John T. Spalding, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church at the time, had promised a few weeks earlier that he would take the basketball team to Parkway Fields to watch an exhibition game between the Louisville Colonels and the Boston Red Sox. The day of the game turned out to be cold with snow flurries. It didn’t look like they would be able to play, but Father took us anyway. We stopped at Kaelin’s for dinner. I ordered what was called a steakburger. It was kind of like a hamburger that covered most of the plate. The game was played, but Ted Williams, the main attraction, didn’t start (A real disappointment). However, he did pinch hit in the ninth inning and lined a single to right field, so I guess you could say we saw the great Ted Williams play.

            Ted Williams was my favorite player. At one time, I tried to copy his batting stance at the plate, which was a mistake. You are better off batting the way that feels right for you.


            Back years ago, the land across the lane adjacent to the funeral home was the site of Rogers Cooperage Company, a barrel factory. After it was closed down and the buildings were razed and before houses were built there, it seemed like a good place for a baseball field. We carried dirt and made a pitcher’s mound. We never thought about asking anyone, but nobody ever complained as I knew of. The bases were slabs of wood and home plate was on the funeral home side of the field. Norman Sims and I decided to get up two teams and play each other. His team was named the Blue Streaks and mine was the Red Aces. I don’t recall how we came by these names. This became somewhat of a rivalry, and our games were held on Sundays before the Loretto Bourbon League team played their game. The Blue Streaks diamond was in a field where Jiggs Mattingly now lives. Some of his players were Gerald Sims, Sam Nalley, Lucian Bush, and Wallace Corbett. Some of my players were my brother Little John, Pat Greenwell, Bobby Yates, and Benny Luckett to name a few.

            Daddy used to watch us play, and when I pitched, he would get after me for not easing up on the smaller kids. We wanted to win at all costs, so there wasn’t any easing up.

            During one of our games, a small plane circled the field a few times with the motor cutting on and off. I remember daddy saying, “That man’s in trouble”. A few moments later we heard it crash in a field that belonged to Gabe Osborn. We ran down the hollow behind the funeral home to look for it. As we got further down the hollow, we detected a strong scent of gasoline coming from the field above. When we got there, some of the ball players from the Loretto team were already there. The pilot was lying outside the plane on a piece of tarp. He was still alive and was loaded onto a pickup truck to take him to an ambulance. He died on the way to the hospital or shortly afterward. He was from Nashville, Tennessee.

            The Red Aces – Blue Streaks games ended when the Tri-County Catholic Baseball League was formed. The lots where the games were played are covered with houses now, but I will always cherish the memories of the games we played there. It provided a great pastime for the kids of all ages and probably got a lot of them interested in baseball.



            Baseball popularity got a big boost in the early 1940’s when a wealthy businessman named David W. Karp, owner of the Loretto Distilling Company, provided the area with a new baseball park. The distillery at the time owned all the land on Highway 52 from where Earl Mattingly now lives to what is now Babe’s Lane. He selected the area where the Loretto Civic Center is now located for the ball field. Home plate was in the vicinity of where the front entrance to the civic center is, and dead center field was directly out to Highway 52. There was a grandstand, concession stand, outhhouses for both the men and the women, a scoreboard, and an extension on the front of the grandstand directly behind home plate where he and other VIP’s watch the games. Dave Karp always stood out in the crowd in his big white Texas style hat. And inscription on the top part of the scoreboard read “LORETTO< A GOOD COMMUNITY”. Doors on the back of the grandstand led to spaces where the players could change clothes. Also equipment and refreshments sold at the games were stored there. The only entrance to the ball park was the road that now runs in front of the Loretto Child Care. The charge for admission was taken up under a large walnut tree at about where the child care building is now located. There were no fences around the ball park, so a lot of people just walked in across the field unless they were in a car.

            My dad used to help take up admission money and put the money in a cigar box. The concession stand was located on the third base side of the grandstand. Also the scoreboard which was near third base. The grandstand, scoreboard, and all the buildings were painted bright green.

            Soon after the new ball park was competed, Father Fred W. Dudine, long time pastor of St. Charles Church, assembled the first Loretto baseball team to play there. Most of the players were from St. Mary’s. The first team consisted of:

Hank Nalley – pitcher

Jack Beaven – catcher

Harold Elder – first base

George Mattingly – second base

Snooter Mattingly – shortstop

Mike Beaven – third base

Charles White – outfield

Eddie Downs – outfield

Joe Lee Beaven – right field and left handed relief pitcher

            The team was referred to as Father Dudine’s team but Loretto Distilling Company was the lettering on back of the uniforms.

            Father Dudine was influential in baseball in the area and was said to have had ties to some big names including Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was pastor of St. Charles Church from 1935 until his death in 1953 at age 60. He suffered a heart attack on the steps of his church as he was talking with a friend after officiating at a wedding mass. He died fifteen minutes later.

            VICTORY LEAGUE

            In the early 1940’s, Loretto entered the Victory League. The league was composed mostly of Louisville and Southern Indiana teams. Some of the teams I remember were Reynolds Metals, Wagg’s Cigarettes, J. & S. Café, and Hoosier Wings, a team from New Albany, Indiana. Also an American Legion Post out of Louisville. It seems most of Loretto’s games were played at Loretto, probably because the Louisville teams had to play in city parks. Loretto had the better place to play.

Reynolds Metals had by far the best team in the league and beat Loretto at Loretto 21 to 0. Hoosier Wings also had a real good team. I remember Jefferson Post, the American Legion team beat Loretto in a close game when a guy named Ace Parker hit a ninth inning home run. I don’t think Loretto’s record was so good in the Victory League and they just played in the league for one year. I’m not sure the league went on any longer than that.


            After Loretto’s Victory League one year venture, they joined the Bluegrass League. Some of the teams in the Bluegrass League at that time were: Nicholasville, Paris, Richmond, Beattyville, Irvine, Springfield, Harrodsburg, and Darnall, a hospital in Danville that treated soldiers who had psychiatric illnesses. After the war was over the hospital became Kentucky State Hospital.

            I watched all of the home games but only remember getting to go to one away from home game. Loretto and Nicholasville were playing at Nicholasville. It was the final game of the season and Loretto needed to win the game to be the outright champion of the league. Loretto had a half game lead over Darnall at the time.

            Several carloads of people formed a caravan to go to the game and I was lucky enough to get one of the seats. On the way we stopped at Brooklyn Bridge where there were picnic tables along the banks of the Kentucky River. There was plenty of fried chicken and good eating that had been brought along. Some of the players were in the crowd and were instructed not to eat anything before the game, but I suspect a few pieces of fried chicken came up unaccounted for. After eating we crossed the bridge and drove through a rock tunnel on the other side of the river. There are probably better ways of getting to Nicholasville now.

            Nicholasville wasn’t allowed to play baseball in the city limits on Sunday back at that time, so the diamond was some distance out of town. I don’t know if this was a city ordinance, or if it had to be because of religious reasons. The ball field was not near as nice as the one at Loretto.

            I guess Loretto didn’t want to take any chances, so they hired three players from Louisville for the game. The three players were Charles Burden, Irvin Becker, and Joe Morino. (I’m not sure that the last one is spelled correctly). Earle Combs, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, umpired the game. Earle Combs was a member of the 1927 New York Yankees, their lead-off man, and a teammate of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

            Loretto won the game handily. I think the score was about 11 to 2, but Nicholasville protested the game claiming that the three players Loretto added were ineligible. Subsequently, the powers that be of the league declared Loretto and Darnall league co-champions.


            By the later years of the 1940’s, baseball in the area started taking on a different look. Loretto had joined the newly organized Bourbon League. The Bourbon League was referred to as a semi-pro league. Gone were most of the local players and the team was almost entirely made up of some of the top amateur players in Louisville. Some of the players that I remember were the three Taylor brothers, Bob, Hal, and Eddie. Hal played third base, Eddie played shortstop, and Bob was catcher and manager. On ground balls hit to the infield, Bob would run down to first with the runner and back up the throw to first base. He’s the only catcher I ever saw who could do that. Some of the other players were Perk Robbins, Basil Elliston, Toots Kern, and Mott Minogue. If the salaries back at that time were like they are today, I’m sure most of these guys would have been playing professional baseball.

            Some of the other teams that made up the league were St. Mary’s, Greensburg, New Haven, Hodgeville, Fredericktown, Lebanon, Summersvlle, and Samuels. I think Summersville and Samuels dropped out after the first year.

            Later on Sam Ryan was hired by the Loretto Distilling Company and was made manager of the team. He was an ex-pro player and was used as a relief pitcher at times. He lived just across the road from the funeral home where Dennis Yaste now lives, so we were next door neighbors and got to be good friends. We did a lot of rabbit hunting together. Sam managed for a couple of years and then left when he took a managing job with Amarillo in the Texas League.

            The team drew large crowds, and if you wanted to get a seat in the grandstand, you had to be there early. There was number nine wire stretched all the way down each side of the field to separate the crowd from the playing field. Cars would pull in to the wire facing the ballfield so they could either watch the game sitting in the car or sitting on the hood or fender. You didn’t have to be near the ballpark to know when something good had happened for the home team. When a player from Loretto hit a home run, everybody in the cars would lay down on their horns, similar to what happens in the majors when the cannon goes off.

            J. E. Thompson was affiliated with the team in some way and early on Sunday mornings before the home games, he would get me to help him distribute flyers advertising the day’s game. We made all the church parking lots while people were attending services and would put the flyers under the car windshield wipers. He had this late model black car, a Buick, I think, and he really let it roll in order to make as many church parking lots before church was over. He covered most of the area church lots in good time. J. E. always had a carton of ice cream cones in his car and would eat them like cookies. I don’t know if he ate them for his stomach, or if he just liked the cones without the ice cream.

            On the fourth of July, they always scheduled an extra attraction as there wre no week day games. One year Loretto played an all colored team called the Zulu Giants. They wore grass skirts and were really fun to watch. I guess they were baseball’s version of basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters. Loretto won the game, but I don’t remember the score.

            At the end of the season after the professional players had finished their schedule, some of them would get together and either come to Loretto or Fredericktown to play the local team. Loretto beat them on year 1 to 0. A retiring umpire from Louisville said it was the shortest game of his career. It was one of Hank Nalley’s best games. Some of the pro players were Gus Bell, Mo Mazalli, Paul Campbell, Peewee Reese, Al Houser, and Mike Gast.

            The Bourbon League folded after a short time, probably because the other teams in the league couldn’t compete with Loretto and Fredricktown.




            In 1948, Father Michael K. Lally, pastor of St. Joseph’s in Bardstown, organized the Tri-County Catholic Baseball League. The league was divided into two divisions, the Northern  Division and the Southern Division. As I recall the teams were:


St. Dominic

St. Rose

New Hope

New Haven


Hold Rosary (Springfield)


Novices (from St. Rose)


St. Francis

St. Charles

St. Augustine

Little St. Joe




Holy Cross


Father J. J. Fitzgibbon announced at church on Sunday that there would be a tryout for the team at the Loretto Ball Park that afternoon. We kids had our usual Red Aces – Blue Streaks ball game and then I went over to the ball park. They were having an exhibition game with a group of boys from Holy Cross. Leo Mills was managing the St. Francis group. I was sent up to bat in the ninth inning and got a hit, so I was on the team.

The first year starters were:

Shortstop – Joe Mattingly

First base – Dickie Blair

Second base – Garland Ball

Third base – J. A. Ball

Catchers – Bert Robey & Joe Guy Hagan

Pitchers – Pete Ruley & Toe Blair

Outfielders – Werner Blair, Toe Blair, Junie Mattingly


The first year starters for Holy Cross were:

Junior Blanford

Larry Blum

Bill Peterson

Wallace Corbett

Bill Hutchins

Marchy Yates

Ed Shumate

Buster Thompson

Joe Fogle

Jimmy Thompson

Leo Ballard

Some of the players I remember on the other teams:

NEW HOPE: Gene Blair, Fats Bowling, Jodie Miles, and Charles Mattingly

LITTLE ST. JOE: Father Carl Fritz from St. Mary’s College

RAYWICK: Matthew Thompson, Donald Thompson, Junior Hardesty, & Bobby Hardesty

ST. AUGUSTINE: Maurice Spalding, Buddy Peterson, Sam Thomas, Donald Mattingly, & Ears Hardin

ST. CHARLES: Ed Browning, Bernard Mudd, Ignatius O’Daniel, Henry Peterson, Caterson, and Joe Mattingly

            Dick Blair was our business manager and Leo Mills was our coach. Leo was a good manager, and new the ins and outs about baseball. Dick really took the game seriously, but needed to stick to the business end of it. For a day or so he would pull the score book from under the counter and let you know what Leo did that he shouldn’t have done and what he didn’t do that he should have. Referring to his son now and then he would say, “Dickie got a good hit but they caught it”.

            Dick ran Dick’s Place, a pool hall and restaurant that was located at the traffic light where the Loretto Hardware & Lumber Company now has a storage building. He ran a respectable place of business. I remember a sign over the mirror behind the counter that read: “Wise is he who knows himself and has the strength of will not to have another drink when he has had his fill”.

            On Sunday when we were playing away, I would usually eat dinner, put on my uniform, pick up my firstbaseman’s mitt and spikes and walk down to the Log Cabin Inn in Loretto to catch a ride to the game. The Log Cabin was “The place to be” for teenagers back then before they got a license to sell whiskey. A lot of showers and social events were held there. Usually the juke box was playing “MY HAPPINESS” sung by Connie Francis, which was real popular at the time.

            Theodore Smith, Joe Merlin Mattingly, and Werner Blair had cars and I would usually ride with one of them.

            At the end of the regular season, the playoffs were held. A coin toss decided who would be the home team. We were to play St. Rose one year, and I was delegated to go over to St. Rose Priory and meet with a Father Sheeran for the coin toss. He was sitting behind a desk and told me to call heads or tails. He flipped the coin, it fell behind the desk, he picked it up before I got to see it, and said, “You lose”. Something seemed a little fishy to me, but in those days you didn’t argue with a priest.

            Usually the home team provided someone local to umpire the game. Surprisingly, this worked out pretty well with few problems. Most of them did a pretty good job. Don Tharp umpired a lot of the games. He was a big baseball fan but was ineligible to play because he wasn’t Catholic. I guess the regulations didn’t specify that one had to be Catholic to umpire a game. Ben Browning umpired some at St. Mary’s. Hilman Taylor called a lot of the games at Fredericktown. He was a good unbiased umpire. In a game at Fredericktown, I was at bat and decided to step up in front of home plate to try to hit a curve ball before it broke. Hilman called me out for being out of the batter’s box. I wasn’t happy about it, but Hilman was right.

            Lawrence “Dod” Downs was umpiring a game at Loretto when he was stricken with a heart attack. He was umpiring from behind the pitcher’s mound. I was at first base and Hank Nalley was warming up to start the game. By the time we got to him he was dead. The game was postponed until the next week.

            The following Sunday, we had to play a double header. The first game with Fredericktown, the team we were to play the Sunday before that was postponed. The winner of this game was to play St. Charles, who had won their game the week before. St. Charles thought that Hank would pitch the first game, as we had to win it to get to the second game. Hank, being the manager at the time, decided to let Bill Peterson pitch the first game, a real gamble. It was a high scoring game, but we pulled it out. Hank shut St. Charles out in the second game. I remember Edgar Browning getting pretty hot over Hank not pitching the first game. Hank always liked to beat St. Charles. Quite a rivalry there.


            I’m not sure of the year, it was 1956 or 1957 I played for the Holy Cross Hawks who had joined the newly organized Salt River League.  Some of the teams in the league were Bloomfield, Fairdale, Lawrenceburg, Lebanon Junction, Mt. Washington, and Okolona. Some of the players on the Holy Cross team were Howard Ballard, Bernard and Kenny Clayton, Billy and Tommy Donahue, and Edwin Thompson from Holy Cross, Jimmy Beam and Dink Stanley from New Haven, and Dallas Rogers from Bardstown.

            I don’t think the league lasted long, maybe two or three years. The attendance was poor. After the games, there was plenty of beer in the coolers. The next year I went back to St. Francis in the Tri-County League.

            I started the 1962 season with St. Francis. Daddy died April 14, 1962. I continued playing afterward that year without a conflict with the funeral business. Then on Sunday April 7, 1963 we were at Loreto getting ready to start a game when someone came and got me because Mr. Johnny Hamilton had passed away at his home. By the time I got home and cleaned up so as not to be so sweaty and dirty and got to the Hamilton residence, the family was beginning to wonder where I was at. I decided then it had to be either the business or baseball. Of course it had to be the funeral business, so I hung up my spikes for good.


            In 1951, I saw an ad in the Lebanon Enterprise announcing that the Chicago Cubs would be holding a tryout at Columbia, Kentucky. I had always dreamed of being a professional baseball player, even though I knew I didn’t have that kind of talent. I was waiting on a call from Uncle Sam at any time, but out of curiosity more than anything  else, I decided to go to the tryout, as I got into the age group that was invited to attend. Lawrence “Little Whacker” Nalley and John Albert Downs wanted to ride along with me, so we jumped into the old 1938 Plymouth that I had bought from Nick Bickett for $200.00.

            One of the first persons that I ran into was Father Dudine. I guess you would say that he was my self-proclaimed agent. He took me over to meet Tony Lucadello, the scout. Father was trying to help me out, and was advising me on how to handle myself. I signed in as an outfielder, and after fielding fly balls for awhile, we went to hit several different pitchers. Luckily for me they were all right handers.

            I was a little surprised when he asked me to go back up and hit again. I thought things were going pretty good, and then it happened. The next thing I remembered was being on my hands and knees watching the blood streaming from my nose making a pool in the dirt around home plate. I don’t remember how I got to the hospital in Columbia, but I remember two young doctors or interns in the emergency room pressing on my nose trying to set it. After awhile they discovered my nose was broken in more than one place. They called Dr. Duncan Salot, an ear, nose, and throat specialist in Lebanon, and made an appointment for me to go there. Tony Lucadello gave me words of encouragement and told me to let him know how it turned out. I think he felt sorry for me and wouldn’t tell me I wasn’t professional material. Anyway, he seemed like a nice guy and I’m glad I got the chance to meet him. I never heard from him after that.

            I had to drive myself, because Little Whacker couldn’t drive and John Albert wasn’t old enough to have his license. When I thought things couldn’t get worse, the radiator on my car sprang a bad leak. I had to top at stations on the way and get enough water to get from one to the next.

            When I finally got to Dr. Salot’s office, he set my nose and inserted a splint that stuck out about an inch from the end of my nose. It was hard to eat because I couldn’t stand for anything to touch the splint, and it was hard to keep clean. I drank a lot of cold buttermilk for a while. It seemed to keep the blood taste out of my mouth.

            When I went back to get the splint out, Dr. Salot found that my nose was crooked, and he had to break my nose and reset it. He put me to sleep to do this. I remember hearing daddy say, “I believe he’s going to sleep all day”. It was quite an ordeal and the black under my eyes didn’t leave for several months.


            I was inducted into the U.S. Army on April 21, 1953, over a year after I had passed my army physical. It was somewhat of a relief after waiting and waiting and expecting a call at any time. It was like being in limbo, as no one would hire you and you couldn’t make any long range plans.

            Gerald Sims took his brother Philip and myself to Lebanon that morning to catch the Greyhound bus that was to take us to Louisville to be sworn in. We were then put on a plane at Standiford Field and flown to Ft. Meade, Maryland. After a few days there, we were sent by bus to Ft. Lee, Virginia to take basic training. Ft. Lee had a good baseball team called the Ft. Lee Travelers (named after General Robert E. Lee’s horse). I didn’t get a chance to see many of their games because we were kept busy in training. After basic training and after finishing a Graves Registration course at Ft. Lee, I was sent to Toul Engineer Depot at Toul, France. There were no baseball teams in the area, but I played on the company softball team. It was fast pitch softball and it was harder to hit some of those pitchers than in baseball. There were two brothers from Birmingham, Alabama, one a pitcher and the other his catcher. It was hard to get the bat around in time to hit him. He could throw harder underhanded than most pitchers could throw overhanded, it seemed.

            We were able to keep up with major league baseball via the Armed Forces Network on radio and the Stars & Stripes newspaper. I had always been a fan of the New York Giants. Cyril McCauley, who used to live upstairs at the funeral home and was a big Giant fan especially of Johnny Mize, the Giant firstbaseman. He gave my brother Bobby his nickname “Johnny Mize” which later became “Little John”. It rubbed off on me, and I became a Giant fan also.

                        It was a good time to be a Giant fan in 1954, as the Giants won the World Series. We could get all the World Series games on the Armed Forces Network, although it was late in the night overseas while the games were being played in the states during the day. A lot of the guys in our barracks were from the New York area. I enjoyed that World Series more than any other because there wasn’t much else to do. We tried to keep the volume down and didn’t have too many complaints.

            The Giants’ two best pitchers were lefthander Johnny Antonelli and Sal Maglie (Sal the Barber). Other players were Whitey Lockman, Davey Williams, Hank Thompson, Hoyt Wilhelm, Dusty Rhodes, Willie Mays, Don Mueller, Alvin Dark, Monte Irvin, Bill Taylor, Reuben Gomez, Don Lidel, Paul Giel, Joe Amalfitano, Bill Gardner, Al Worthington, Foster Castleman, Alex Konikowski, Al Corwin, Marv Grissom, George Spencer, and Wes Westrum.


            BASEBALL FANS

            My dad was a big baseball fan. He went to all my games if he wasn’t busy with a funeral. He was a Cincinnati Reds fan and I can see him now taking the radio to the back porch, turning it on loud, sitting out under the pear tree in a green lawn chair and listening to their games. He would rare back and chew tobacco while listening. He only chewed when he listened to the games or went fishing.  At night , usually a large toad frog would come and keep him company. He called it his pet frog. I don’t know what drew the frog to him unless it was the tobacco juice, or maybe the frog was a Reds fan too. Daddy quit smoking several years before that and I guess chewing took the nicotine crave away.

            My grandmother Rafferty was a big fan of Peewee Reese. “Little Peewee Reese” as she called him was the greatest ball player on earth in her opinion. I’m not so sure that she understood the announcers’ terminology all the time. One day she was watching a game on television with me and the better lined a foul ball into one of the dugouts. The announcer in a raised voice said, “A savage foul into the dugout”. Grandma looked at me and said, “A savage howling in the dugout. I hope he’s not hurt badly.”




            The “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” or Bobby Thompson’s come-from-behind ninth-inning walk-off home run that won the National League pennant for the Giants over their bitter rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, in the deciding game of a three-game playoff series ended one of baseball’s most memorable pennant races. The Giants had been 13 ½ games behind the league-leading Dodgers in August, but under Leo Durocher’s guidance and with a 16-game winning streak, got hot and caught the Dodgers to tie for the lead on the next-to-last day of the season. This game was played on Wednesday, October 3, 1951.

            I was working at Thompson Store at the time, and would take a break frequently, go across the road to the Log Cabin Inn where the game was being watched on a black and white television. I didn’t see the complete game, but saw the home run and the celebration that followed.


            On Monday, October 8, 1956, I watched New York Yankees right-hander Scott Larsen pitch the first no-hitter in the history of the World Series. Even better, it was a perfect game. No runs, no hits, and no errors. He retired 27 batters, among them future Hall of Famers Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, and Duke Snider on just 97 pitches.



            On Wednesday, September 29, 1954, in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series at the Polo Grounds against the Cleveland Indians, Willie Mays made “THE CATCH”, a dramatic over-the-shoulder catch of a fly by Vic Wertz after sprinting with his back to the plate on a dead run to deepest center field. At the time the game was tied 2 to 2 in the eighth inning, with men on first and second and nobody out. Mays caught the ball 450 feet from the plate, whirled and threw the ball to the infield, keeping the lead runner, Larry Doby, from scoring. Although Doby took third after the catch, he was stranded there and the Giants won on Dusty Rhodes’ tenth-inning pinch-hit walk-off home run with two aboard, 5 to 2.

            I didn’t get to watch the game, I was in the service at the time. We had radio in the barracks at Toul Engineer Depot in France, and listened to the game on Armed Forces Radio. The game was a day game here in the States, but it was late night in France, so some of the other guys didn’t get much sleep. Remarkably, the broadcasts came in pretty clear without too much interference or static.

            Willie Mays’ catch was probably shown over more times than any other play in baseball.

            Getting back to Bobby Thompson’s home run, I think it got the title “SHOT HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD” because it was the first game ever nationally televised and was seen by millions of viewers across America and heard by thousands of American servicemen stationed in Korea and other foreign countries.

            The sport has seen a lot of changes since the 1940’s. Here are some of the changes and events that shaped baseball as the game is played today.



            One of the things that I remember when I was a kid was how it was determined which player got to pick first when getting ready to play a game. One player would lob the bat, big end down, to another player who would catch it with one hand. They then would, one after the other, move their gripped hands to the knob end of the bat. Whoever wound up with the knob end of the bat would get first pick of the players. This was also how it was determined which team would bat first. Later on when times got better, the coin flip was used. Now about most of the kids have some change in their pockets.

            Equipment in the elementary and high schools is so much better now and more readily available. Gone are the days when a few finishing nails and a roll of black tape mended a bat and a roll of black adhesive tape was used to cover a baseball when the cover got loose or came off. I was in grade school through the years of World War II, and times were pretty hard. One almost has to live through that era to understand the scarcity of almost everything. Most of the factories were converted over to making needed items and equipment for the war effort.

            The youth now are exposed to baseball a lot earlier than they used to be. There is T-ball, Babe Ruth League, Little League, and a lot more sporting activities.



            Television has really come a long way from years ago. Back in the 1940’s, when there were few television sets in the area, a home with a TV set got a lot of company. Wrestling was one of the big things back then, and on nights when the wrestling matches were held, people would gather to watch them. I wasn’t much into wrestling, but when working at Thompson Store in Loretto, all the talk the next day was Chief Little Wolf and the other wrestlers. The first television set I watched was at Yankee’s Place in New Hope. Yankee’s Place was run by John “Yankee” Bell. He ran a respectable place and a lot of the high school kids hung out there.

            Mr. Cecil Thompson, Ed Thompson’s father who lived at Raywick, had one of the first sets. Ed and I were good friends back then, and he would take me with him to watch ball games. The television sets at that time were black and white with a small screen. There was always “snow” on them. For the younger generation, “snow” was a kind of interference that resembled falling snow. Sometimes it was more like a blizzard. Now we have colored sets, large screens, close-up shots, and instant replay. I wonder what the old timers would think if they were able to come back now.


            In the smaller towns, the ballparks had dirt infields. The day of the game, the infield was dragged down with a heavy piece of iron or railroad tie pulled behind a car or pickup truck. This made it smooth and it looked nice too. When they finally sowed grass on the infield at the old Loretto ballpark, I thought they were ruining it. Just what you get used to, I guess.


            The uniforms have changed a little. We used to wear heavy socks, or more like stockings. The pants had elastic or rubber in the bottoms, they came down to just a little below the knees, and were bloused so as to look a lot like knickerbockers.


            In the major leagues, the teams have a lot more pitchers in their bullpens. Complete games aren’t very common anymore. Back years ago, a lot of pitchers almost always pitched complete games. I remember some of them pitching twelve or more innings. They never had a pitch count back then, or you never heard about it. Usually a pitcher would pitch until he got into trouble and then was relieved. There are so many more pitches now than there once was. The only pitches back then were fast balls, curve balls, drops, and knuckle balls. Now there are also sliders, sinkers, change-ups, cutters, and on and on.


            In 1958, Ted Williams, in his 18th season with the Boston Red Sox signed a one year contract for a record $125,000.00. Lots of folks thought the price was outrageous. Now players with a lot less talent than Ted Williams sign multi-million contracts. Of course the cost has to be recouped by the baseball owners. Ticket sales skyrocketed along with the refreshments bought at the concession stands. The cost of attending the games makes it hard for the average working people to see many of them. Still people continued to support them pretty well.



            Back in the 1940’s, there were always eight teams in each of the major leagues. There were no playoffs unless the regular season wound up in a tie. Then there was a three game playoff. After expansion, the leagues had to be divided into divisions, East Division, West Division, and Central Division. The number of games in a regular season was raised from 154 to 162. That never seemed fair to me to the players who had set records in 154 games. There were eight more games for someone to try to beat the record that they had set. Also, there has to be playoffs to determine who wins the league pennants and goes to the World Series. The length of the baseball season often causes the weather to be a factor.

            Before expansion, there were no teams from the West Coast. Night games on the West Coast now cause lots of folks around here to stay up a lot later because of the different time zone.


            Tommy John surgery, known in medical practice as ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, is a surgical graft procedure in which the ulnar collateral ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. This surgery was first performed in 1974 on lefthander Tommy John. Therefore the procedure is named after him. A lot of today’s pitchers owe Tommy John surgery for letting them continue their career which otherwise would have ended.



            The Astrodome in Houston, Texas was the first multi-purpose sports stadium. It opened April 9, 1965, was 218 feet tall, and the seating capacity was 67,925.

            Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, was completed in 2001 and seated 42,200.



            Sports coverage is more complete now, especially in the county newspapers. While sports in the local county papers used to cover maybe one column, now there are usually several pages devoted to them.

<INSERT SCAN OF PAGE 40>  (Our Old Knob College photo)


            In high school, we didn’t play many games as a high school team. The majority of the high school boys played on the Tri-County baseball team, so there wasn’t much emphasis on the high school side of the games. The parish team was almost considered the high school team.

            The only game I remember played as a high school game was when Father Fred Dudine brought his eighth grade team to play us. I don’t know what Father Dudine was thinking. Maybe he thought his grade school team was really good or maybe he thought we couldn’t compete with his St. Charles high school team.  The game was played at the old Loretto ball park. Father Dudine was doing double duty, managing and umpiring. He called the balls and strikes from behind the pitcher’s mound. Pete Ruley was pitching for us and he pitched a perfect game. What was so remarkable about the perfect game was that Pete never walked a batter. Father Dudine remarked after the game that in all the years that he had been associated with baseball, that was the first perfect game he had ever witnessed. I think only two batters made contact with the ball, and they were infield ground balls. Bernie Mattingly, who played for St. Charles that day, talked with me several years later and said all he remembered was most of them going up to bat and taking three swings, then going back to their seat on the bench.

            Pete was a real good pitcher and also a good hitter. Right before graduation, he started getting letters from some baseball scouts saying they were interested in giving him a tryout, but Pete told me that he thought he was too small to play professional baseball. Instead, he joined the Air Force for four years and spent his hitch at an Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. I’m sure that Father Dudine had been talking to somebody.


            In September 1946, I began my high school education at the old St. Francis High School at St. Francis, KY. The school building burned several years after the last class was held there, and students were attending the new high school at Loretto. The old school was located in an area where part of the church cemetery now lies. The center of the school was about where the cemetery crucifixion group stands. Part of the building housed the sisters who taught school there.

            There were still no school lunch rooms, so dinners were brought to school, usually in brown paper bags. The dinners were usually kept on a shelf in the back of the room, and on hot days (the school had no air-conditioning) there was a mixture of different aromas, most notably the bologna sandwiches. I had a favorite spot to eat my lunch at, against an oak tree between the school and the church. This oak tree is still standing. Of course we ate inside during the winter or in inclement weather.

            The school had a band, and band practice was held in one of the rooms next to our classroom. You can imagine how it sounded when band practice involved drums, tubas, and some of the other instruments.

            When the home economic class made soup on the stove in the classroom as one of their projects, we got the full benefit of the aroma from the vegetables cooking.

            After World War II ended, a bill was passed letting the discharged veterans who had quit school to join the service to take the twelfth grade to get their high school diplomas. Four of these veterans enrolled at St. Francis School. They were Bip Hayden, Joe “Ab Jab” Ryan, Burton Thomas, and Joe Yates. Apparently, they thought one of their duties was to initiate the freshman class. One time they caught me and dangled me over the second floor porch by my leg. They never did anything in the way of hurting us, but we weren’t sure they wouldn’t. We tried to keep out of their way at recess or dinner time. They were grown men by then and pretty much had it made with the sisters. After all, they were war heroes.

            On another initiation occasion, the sisters gathered the whole school together for our freshman initiation. There was a shady area in a ravine on the St. Francis side of the school. It was where the St. Francis Picnic always set up the doll rack when the picnics were held at St. Francis. It was kind of like an outdoor auditorium. Anyway, each freshman had to perform some kind of act that the seniors had chosen for us. My role was to hold an umbrella over Nell Walker’s head and sing the song, “Wait Til the Sun Shines Nelly”. I held the umbrella over her, but they didn’t get much singing out of me. The sisters said I wasn’t a very good sport.

            At school we had chores to do. Some of the kids who lived close to school would get there early to start fires in the pot-bellied stoves that warmed the classrooms. Others would wash the blackboards, dust the erasers, sweep the floor, or straighten the desks after school. One of the tasks that I had from time to time was to go down to the post office and get the sisters’ mail. The post office was located in the old railroad depot at St. Francis. The old depot stood where the beauty shop now is. Maggie Kirkland was the postmaster, and wasn’t the friendliest person in the world. She thought all of us kids were whippersnappers or something.

            The sisters’ living quarters were in the south side of the school building. Occasionally, it was Paul Mattingly’s and my task to go down to Manual Greenwell’s to get fresh milk for the sisters. If it happened to be on a Monday, Paul would have to tell me about going to the Subway in Bardstown over the weekend. The Subway was a type of dance hall or nightclub that was located on Third Street in Bardstown about where the dinner train is now located.

            There were thirty three pupils enrolled in our freshman class. Eight boys and girls from New Hope came to school at St. Francis in their freshman year. The New Hope girls and Father Fitzgibbon were constantly at odds over the girls wearing socks. He thought they should wear stockings. I think their priest, Father O’Shea at New Hope kind of sided with the girls, and the next year all the students from New Hope attended St. Catherine High School in New Haven. In our sophomore year, our enrollment had dropped to fifteen.

            In our junior year, we were moved into the big room with the seniors. Near the end of the school year, the juniors took the seniors on a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo. Some man from Howardstown drove the school bus, and when he got us to the zoo he left us and went to Crosley Field to watch a Cincinnati Reds game. When he finally got back, he and the taxi driver that took him to the game got into a big argument over the fare. He said the driver drove him out of the way so as to run the meter up.

            In our senior year enrollment in our class was down to thirteen. The juniors took us on a trip to Cumberland Falls. The old bus was in pretty bad shape. It was slow going, and Bert Roby stood by the front door. Every time we came to a railroad, the driver would stop the bus. Bert would jump off, look up and down the tracks to make sure there was no train coming, and get back on and we would be on our way again. I thought we would never get back home.

            We went on another class trip to Louisville. While we were there we went to one of the downtown theaters and watched the musical, “The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady”, starring June Haver, Gordon MacRae and Debbie Reynolds. One of the movies on the coming attractions was “The Third Man”.

            In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, head lice was a common problem in the schools. About every day we would cross our arms on top of the desk and rest our heads on our arms. The teacher would come around with toothpicks to check for lice. If she detected lice, you would be sent home until you got rid of them so as not to spread them to the other kids.

            The old Loretto Grade School had no running water or inside plumbing. We drank water from a portable fountain. In the summer the fountain was outside under a shade tree. It was a no-no to suck on the spout where the water came out. You could be punished for this, as it might spread germs from one pupil to another. I don’t think this was the biggest health hazard though. The well where the drinking water came from wasn’t far from the boys’ toilet. There was no draining ditch. So the goodies from the outhouse had to soak down into the ground. The boys’ outhouse was always a smelly mess. At times the drinking water smelled a little like the outhouse. If the health authorities had ever tested the well, I’m sure it would have been condemned. I don’t remember anybody getting ill from drinking the water, or if they did, they didn’t know if the water was the cause or if it was something else. I do remember the well being cleaned out once, and I think they limed the walls. I don’t know if the lime was used to purify the water or to soften it.

            In the winter time some of the boys would encounter a polecat while opossum hunting. Polecat hides brought a pretty good price back then, especially if they were mostly black with a little white on them. The next day at school when they backup up to a hot stove, the odor really intensified. They were sent home to bathe and change clothes.

            There were a variety of occasions to be sent home for. Head lice, earaches, toothaches, skunk odors, and in the first few grades, wetting in your pants. Usually if you needed to go to the outhouse, you could raise your hand and say, “Sister, may I be excused”. She knew the reason and replied, “Yes you may”.

            Our playground equipment consisted of one crude see-saw. No swings, sliding boards, etc. Playing marbles was the main pastime for the boys. Playing marbles was an art back then. There were several types of marbles, cat eyes, agates, shooting taws, steel marbles, and on and on. The most played game was marbles assembled on a ridge of dirt. The ridge was in the center of a ring etched out in the dirt with a stick. The players would take turns shooting at the marbles. You couldn’t move your hand forward, the marble had to catapulted with your thumb. You got to keep the marbles you knocked out of the ring. If you moved your hand forward or moved your hand into the ring, it was called fudging. If you knocked two marbles out, it was “Dubs” and three marbles it was “Trips”. Another marble game was called “Shoot Around”. One shooter would shoot at another player’s marble. The other player would try to keep the shooter from hitting his marble. There was no limit as to where the marble being chased could go, as long as there was no fudging. If an object was in the path between the two marbles, the shooter could call “Roundsons”, put his little finger to the ground and rotate his hand like a protractor putting his thumb down in the spot where he could place his marble. If the path between the two marbles was still not open, the same process would be employed until the shooter would have a clear shot. Another marble game was called “Hully Gully”. One person would shake a handful of marbles and the other person would try to guess how many there were in his hands. If he guessed the exact amount, he won all the marbles. If not, he had to give the person shaking the marbles the amount of marbles between what was guessed and the exact amount in his hands.

            A game the girls often played went like this: A sizeable number of girls formed a ring joining hands and dancing around a girl in the middle of the ring. Let’s say the girl’s name was Mary and the boy’s name was Tommy. The works to the song they were singing went like this:

Mary is her first name, first name, first name,

Mary is her first name, among the little white daisies.

------ is her last name, last name, last name,

------is her last name, among the little white daisies.

Tommy is his first name, first name, first name.

Tommy is his first name, among the little white daisies.

(At this point, Mary is hiding her face with both hands and acting extremely embarrassed. Then it goes on):

------is his last name, last name, last name,

------is his last name, among the little white daisies.

Now poor Tommy’s dead and gone, dead and gone, dead and gone

Now poor Tommy’s dead and gone, among the little white daisies.

Now poor Mary’s wearing black, wearing black, wearing black

Now poor Mary’s wearing black, among the little white daisies.


            In the late summer of 1958, Carolyn and I went to see her pastor, Father Fred Gettelfinger, to see about getting married. He said we would have to come take marriage instructions on Sundays, and asked if we would rather come in the afternoons or at night. I told him that I played baseball on Sunday afternoons and would rather come at night. He asked what time the ball games started, and I told him at two o’clock. He told us to be there at two o’clock. He said, “Do you want to play ball or get married?”

            It wasn’t a hard decision to make. Who wouldn’t want to be married to someone like Carolyn. She was, and still is the best thing that ever happened to me.

            If I had to try to pick the best players from the Tri-County League, I would have to say Toe Blair from St. Francis was the best hitter, with Al Spalding from Calvary and St. Augustine a close second. Garland Ball was probably the best infielder. The best right handed pitcher was Hank Nalley and the best lefhander was Harold “Curly” Ford from Calvary. Other good pitchers in the league were Pete Ruley from St. Francis, Tony Clements from St. Dominic, Donald Mattingly from St. Augusine, Carol and Kenny Luckett from Calvary, Gene Blair from New Hope, and Edwin Thompson from Holy Cross. Gene Blair and Edwin Thompson pitched St. Joe Prep of Bardstown to the state championship in 1953. They beat Jenkins 21 to 10. They were runner-ups in the state tournament in 1951, losing to Louisville St. Xavier 7 to 1. They were also runner-ups the following year, losing to Louisvillle Manual 8 to 0. The state tournament at that time was played at Parkway Field in Louisville.

            Hank Nalley and Curly Ford both signed professional contracts. Suk Parrott, a left handed pitcher, and his brother Tommy Parrott who both played for Springfield in the Bluegrass League and Fredericktown in the Bourbon League signed contracts with the Chicago Cubs. Tommy was later killed in a small plane crash.

            The only player from this area to make it to the major leagues was Paul Derringer from Springfield. He played in the National League from 1931 to 1945 with the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, and primarily with the Cincinnati Reds. He was selected to play in the All Star game six times, 1935, and from 1938 through 1942. I don’t recall any other local players playing in the major leagues.



The first St. Francis High School Basketball team ever was the 1948-1949 St. Francis Bobcats. Their warmup jackets were blue and white with a large gold colored bobcat on the back. Father John T. Spalding was the coach and the players were:

Garland Ball

Dan Greenwell

Tommy Hamilton

Bernie Mattingly

Bobby Newton

Sam Nalley

Bertrand Robey

Sam Ryan

Bobby Salsman

Dave Salsman

Buddy Taylor

The Cheerleaders were:

Libby Cross

Rita Ann Greenwell

My sister, Betty Jean

            I had a silly hangup about wearing those short pants in front of a crowd, and didn’t play because of it. I did play in my senior year and found out how much I had missed out on.


            The 1949-1950 team was made up of the following players:

Dave Salsman and myself at Forward

Pete Ruley and Tommy Hamilton at Guard

Bertrand Robey at Center

Substitutes were:

Bernard Cissell

Harry Hagan

Jimmy Hutchins

Bernie Mattingly

Sam Nalley

Donnie Ruley

Lawrence Ruley

Carroll Thomas

            Cheerleaders were:

Louise Cross

Fanny Hayden

Hazel Lyon

Rosemary Smith

My sister, Betty Jean


            A lot of the gymnasiums we played in back in those days were rather small. In some cases one of the walls would serve as one of the sidelines. If the ball hit the wall, it was out of bounds. Some of the smaller gyms that we played in were Bradfordsville, Fredericktown, Mackville, Willisburg, St. Benedict in Lebanon Junction, St. Aloysius in Shepherdsville, and Holy Cross. Holy Cross played their home games in St. Ann’s Hall. It was a building behind the old high school. A potbellied stove in each end of the building provided the heat. This was before the age of the three point shot, but a three-pointer couldn’t be made in St. Ann’s Hall anyway because the rafters were so low. The floor was uneven because of the sagging of the boards between the floor joints. Even so, it was better than we had at St. Francis. We had to practice on an outside court when weather permitted. As we had no gym, all of our games were away games. The school bus would take the players, cheerleaders. And whoever else could find a seat. Spalding Mattingly usually drove the bus. There was always plenty of singing on the bus, mostly by the girls. Some of the songs they sang were popular songs of the time – I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover, Harbor Lights, Let the Rest of the World Go By, and My Happiness. On the way to the game they always sang this song:

Our boys will shine tonight

Our boys will shine

They’ll shine in beauty bright

All down the line

Won’t they look nice tonight

Dressed up so fine

When the sun goes down and the moon comes up

Our boys will shine.

Most of the time, we didn’t shine too much.


Another crazy song was about a boarding house. I forgot most of it, but remember part of it:

When the dog died we had sausage

When the cat died, catnip tea

When the landlord died I left there

Spareribs were too much for me.


            Back years ago, a county basketball tournament was played at Lebanon High School, where Centre Square is now located.

The teams in the county that competed were:

Lebanon High


St. Augustine

Lebanon Rosenwald

St. Charles

St. Francis

Holy Cross


These schools were consolidated into Marion County High School in the fall of 1970, ending the annual county tournament.

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Best Lost Dog Sign Ever!


Go Ask Alice...Alice Cochran

Go Ask ALICE...



When I first moved to West Main in 1988, it didn't take long to realize I might not have landed in the best of neighborhoods, especially when I observed a fellow living out of an abandoned automobile parked behind what was then a gas station next door. I would notice him going in at night and coming out in the morning. I was quite intrigued with this person, but, admittedly, a bit leary of him. I had young children then, so I was especially mindful of this mysterious man.

Jerry Gribbinswho ran the station at that time, had a particular affection and compassion for this fellow who was allowed to live rent-free and undisturbed behind the establishment, and he filled me in on what this Ronnie Mattingly (originally from Loretto, son of Byrtle Mattingly of Spencer Hamilton Road), better known as "Peckerwood" was like years ago.

As difficult it was for me to fathom then, Jerry remembered him when he was a productive member of society, working hard every day and supporting his family.
But something happened to him during his life with his ex-wife, Jerry said,  that "sent him over the edge", and after that, he developed a dedicated life-long relationship with 'Thunderbird' to the point he became disabled from the frequent consultations with what is apparently the wine of choice among the monetarily challenged.
Peckerwood spent one winter living out of that car. I wonder where that old car(cass) is now? I suspect it was the late Mrs. Violet Browne who was the driving force (no pun intended) behind securing suitable housing for him and lining up a payee for his disability check. He moved into the house on the corner of Mulberry & College Streets, and became one of my back door neighbors in a more permanent way.
I don't remember the day I finally met this 'Peckerwood'  in person, but once I did, I realized there was no harm in him at all and  he became a frequent--and welcome--guest at my house. I have so many fun memories of him!
Once, I paid him $10.00 to haul off my spent Christmas tree. In the chill of a January day, he heartily and confidently tied it to his bicycle and took off with that big old tree (let me tell you---it was HUGE--I do have 14 foot ceilings, after all, and that tree was almost that tall), creating a tremendous cloud of dust behind him as he sped down my gravel driveway! What a sight! Oh, how I would love to have a snapshot of that moment. He reappeared at my door in just a matter of minutes, and I wondered how on earth he'd ever gotten rid of my tree so fast?!
It was then I learned that some unsuspecting Pic-Pac shopper with a nice pick-up truck had just been the random victim of a drive-by Christmas Tree discardment! Ha! Of course, as Peckerwood was laughing as hard as he could laugh over that, I was in a major panic knowing there had to be a clear trail of pine needles leading from my back door to that unfortunate victim's pick-up truck bed.
I'm happy to say, though, that I never had any negative repercussions from Peckerwood's actions that day....only many laughs at the memory of it all.  
I have so many funny memories of him, and since we're speaking of Christmas, I'll just add one more...he would come to me every year for a new string of lights for the miniature tree he would place in his window and that I could view from my kitchen window. Once he had those lights on, he NEVER unplugged them. It was about July every year that those lights would finally give out, and it was a running joke between us from year to year about how long those lights might last this time.
 Ah, Peckerwood...I'm so glad I knew you! And I do so miss your simple, humble, fun-loving spirit!
It was from Peckerwood that I first heard the name 'Alice Cochran', the REAL subject of this sketch .
You HAD to think this was all about Peckerwood, with so much type devoted to his memory.
All this "Peckerwood" stuff was just getting you primed for the main thing....his ex-wife, ALICE.
He told me tales of his brief marriage to Miss Alice, some of which were...well...quite unsavory. He insisted she had 'killed his babies'. I never researched whether or not this was true, but recalling Jerry's synopsis of his life, I  figured that very well could have been the turning point for Mr. Wood, if it were true.
 A couple of weeks ago, I spied a woman sitting in her side doorway on one of my walks through the neighborhood behind me.
I had no idea who she was, but I have been very curious about the row of old tumble-down houses near Benningfield's Grocery on Chandler Street, and hers was one of them. From the wavy glass in the windows, I could tell they were built in the 1800's. I have wondered if, perhaps, any of them might have been built over log cabins.

I passed by the house, then something made me turn back and approach the woman, just to see if she had any information about when her house was built.

I am so glad I stopped.
The woman was the Alice Cochran I'd heard so much about!
Honestly, I don't know when I have ever felt more welcomed by anyone.
I quizzed her about the house, and she at first expressed embarassment---and anger about it, telling me she wouldn't be there forever and that the place ought to be condemned. 
I told her I'd been noticing it and suspected it might be something special...and...

She  brightened up.

She insisted I come in to see how she had improved the house. The outside didn't look like much, she said, but she had worked very hard on the inside, and it was a far cry better inside than out---and way better than when she first took up residence there. (She used to live at 1/2 Hood Avenue. I never have figured that one out. How is a location designated as 1/2, anyway??? Was it so bad it didn't even deserve a whole number??? Seriously...I am not aware of any other residence in the city of Lebanon with a 1/2 designation.)
I liked the outside better.
The ceilings were sagging dangerously, as were the floors. The front section of the house is separated from her three-room living quarters by a sheet of plywood nailed over a doorway, because the house is so drafty that she can't heat the whole thing. She pays $150.00/month to a Mr. Probus to live there.
***********************************************Here is Alice in her living room/bedroom combination. She has a plaque on the wall about the astrological sign "Cancer", but she's not a Cancer. She just liked the plaque. She is wearing a Mannsville School Honor Student tee shirt. She just liked that, too.
What really interested me were the pictures on the wall. Only one was framed--that of her mother and two brothers. Tucked behind it were a few snapshots. One was of a beautiful child. She told me that was her daughter "they took away from me".
I lifted it from behind the framed photo, and walked with it in hand to the light of the open door to get a better look, and I guess Miss Alice thought she should prepare me for something quite shocking, because she cautioned me with, "She's half black". Alice said the little girl is 17 years old now and lives in Tennessee. She hasn't seen her since she was three.
With Alice's obvious sensitivity to the fact that her daughter was "half black", I couldn't help but recall her ex-husband's tale of catching her "in bed with a 'nigger'" (his words). Also, Peckerwood had a dog named 'Snowball' that he would often bring to my home to see me. One would think a dog by such a name would be snow white, but this little creature was almost as black as white. Nothing really "snowballish" about him that I could tell. On the more trying visits (when he'd had too much Thunderbird), Peckerwood would tell me how much little Snowball could not tolerate "niggers".
Below is Alice, posing on her bed. She obviously was enjoying the photo session, and pretty soon she was directing the entire shoot, suggesting
various poses and locations. I gladly complied.
Alice her kitchen. She was very proud of the work she'd done to finally get this kitchen in shape. Martha
Stewart ight be impressed.
Alice got a phone call while I was there. It was her friend at the nursing home she had told me about earlier. I'd asked her how she spent
her days, and she'd mentioned an elderly black male friend she would visit with and talk to daily. I wonder if that man was the father
of the child whose picture is on Alice's living room wall? Plus, I wonder what that sky-blue frock in the corner closet was used for?
If only that frock could talk....
It was time for me to go, but Alice said she wished she could have a picture of us both
together so she could prove to people that I had visited her---especially Mr. John Greenwell (Snarepole).
She had recognized me right away because she had seen my picture at Snarepole's house.
Apparenly, Alice is his "$5.00 woman".
We were shocked at the office with Snarepole's reaction to my visit with Alice. He told us he first met her years ago at the Jane Todd Inn, where he would often clean up after hours. Alice would, according to him, get drunk and disrobe on the bar. She was a good looking woman back then, he said, but I didn't need to be hanging around with her because it would ruin my name.
Anyway, I complied with Alice's request by holding the camera in front of us and snapping.
The first one isn't so great, but I think Alice might like the second one.
What do YOU do in your spare time?
Mary Donna