The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

May 17, 2013

Tradition one constant in baseball

ENID, Okla. — Let’s hope tonight’s alumni game between the 1999-2004 and 2005-09 American Legion teams is a sign of things to come for Enid’s Connie Mack baseball program.

The biggest strength of Enid’s summer baseball is tradition that goes back to at least four generations.

That’s why it was good to see Enid’s teams playing under the banner of the Les Beckham League in honor of the man who was cut from the 1937 Enid American Legion team, but probably did more for the program than anyone in his 44-year tenure as the Argonne Post No. 4 baseball chairman’s job.

But it goes beyond that.

Enid should feel fortunate it still has a team it can follow over the summer — one might have preferred American Legion over Connie Mack — but there’s still not a better place to spend a summer night than David Allen Memorial Ballpark.

Instead of being named for a corporation — it’s in memory of a former Enid High and Legion player who left us too soon and who loved baseball. David Allen was one of three brothers to have played Legion ball here.

Brother acts have been quite common in summer baseball. Some families like the Flemings (Gary and Judy) might have spent more time at a ballpark than their own homes in the summer.

You start feeling old when you’re covering the sons of players you covered (Ron and Joe Black), but that’s good. It’s a sign baseball is being passed on through generations. Ron’s father, Don, was a good guy to sit with. The coverage really became personal when you’re covering the sons (Justin Funk and Nick Rountree) of two of your bosses. Fortunately, they were both good players.

You appreciated parents like Virgil Rieger, who once went down to the dugout to tell then coach Duane Moulton to take his son out of a zone playoff game after he threw 140 pitches.

Enid’s longevity should be appreciated. Think of the old rivals that aren’t around anymore like Family Medical Clinic, Medley Insurance, Northwest Optimist, Jeffries Truckers and Reynolds Lettering and its colorful coach Ted Reynolds.

We missed the rivalry Enid had with Bob Ward’s Woodward Travelers. Sometimes it could get a little personal — emotions were stirred up a few times.

The games between Enid and the Travelers in zone tournaments would become legendary, such as the time future major leaguers Ray Hayward of Enid and Don Carman of the Travelers hooked up. Ks (strikeouts) littered the record book. The Travelers produced other major leaguers such as Monty Fariss, Ryan Minor and Damon Minor and Wichita State’s Mike McDonald to name a few.

Bryan Painter, who covered the Legion teams while a summer intern, would get as fired up about those games as he would when his school (Oklahoma State University) would face arch-rival OU.

We miss Hayward hitting the ball in the trees at Phillips and then striking out 14.

We miss the old organ playing before a game at Phillips.

We miss public address announcer Delson Fitzgerald giving out quarters to kids who ran down foul balls. The chase for those resembled some of those at a professional ballpark.

We miss Beckham giving us heck about something. We miss seeing Gladys Winters sitting out doing her knitting, reading a book and rooting for the Majors at the same time. We still like seeing Sammy Roberts umpire a game behind the plate.

Let’s hope players like Hayward, Tim Murphy, Bill Bunch, Jim Hepburn and Brent Campbell among others are recognized. Let’s hope 20 years from now, today’s players will be coming back for alumni games.

Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.쇓

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