Wednesday, May 14, 2014

South Bound Home Run

Enfield, Halifax Co., NC, challenged Buzzard Town, also in Halifax Co., to a baseball game to be played on July 4th, back in the early 1890s. Enfield had a good team, but they knew Buzzard Town probably would beat them unless they adopted rules that would give Enfield the edge. All challenging teams in those days had the right to suggest rules, since there were no rule books at that time.

Enfield had some heavy hitters, and herein they felt that they had a decided advantage, so they insisted upon a rule as follows:

In case a batter hits an exceptionally long ball, he could keep on circling the bases until the ball was returned to the infield. If the ball was hit far enough (or lost) so that the batter could circle the bases twice before it was returned, his team would be entitled to two runs. If he circled the bases and got as far as third on the second round, he would be permitted to stay there.

 The Enfield ball park was near the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, and the outfield was pretty well grown up in weeds and broom straw, almost as high as a man’s head, so you can see the reasoning behind the rule.

It seems that Buzzard Town also had some heavy batters, so they agreed to these rules.

The boys stacked their brogan shoes near home plate (most of the boys in Eastern North Carolina played barefooted in those days) and the game began.

Enfield went to bat. Luther Marshall, the first Enfield batter, knocked a long fly into left field which landed at a place where the weeds grew the highest. The left fielder couldn’t find the ball. Other players rushed to his assistance and hunted frantically. Marshall kept on running and made 34 runs before the ball was found.

The next two players were put out on first.

As Buzzard Town went to bat, a long through freight train was passing and one of the box cars had an open door. Darned if the first player didn’t land on a ball and drove it squarely through that doorway into the box car.

Joe Cuthrell was the captain of the Enfield team. He grabbed a saddled horse, rode down to the Enfield telegraph office and wired the agent at Whitakers to flag the freight and get the ball. Joe then rode the horse to Whitakers, six miles away, gained possession of the ball and hurriedly galloped back to Enfield.
Taken From: The New York Public Library Digital Collection:
"Boy's Ball Game," photographed by Ewing Galloway, New York.

When he got there, and threw the ball to the catcher, he found that Buzzard Town had made 147 runs and the runner was so weary he had quit running and was walking around the bases. Realizing that they were now up against a hopeless proposition, the Enfield players decided there was no sense in playing any longer so they quit, and Buzzard Town was declared the winner.

This story was told to P. V. Randolph by George Hux, of Halifax, and printed in the Carl Goerch column, Funny Experiences, in The State Magazine, May 17, 1947. George Hux, captain of the Buzzard Town team, was the only man known to admit to being from Buzzard Town, which was probably near Darlington in central Halifax. All other residents of that community would tell you they lived just on one side or the other or “a mile down the road”. Sidney Smith was another Buzzard Town Player.

 [Taken from The State, 17 November 1947. This story was printed in TheConnector, newsletter of Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in Vol. 1, Issue 4.]