Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Meadowbrook-Handley Little League

cj64. The Meadowbrook-Handley Little League opened for business in the spring of 1956. Before then, the closest little league was in Poly, called the East Side Little League. The league arranged to use two baseball diamonds located just north of Handley Field for the major league playing fields, and also scheduled minor league games at several of the elementaries.

Like every other little league, the players, based on tryouts, were drafted by the “major league” coaches, about 15 players per team. The “minor leagues” then drafted until all team positions were filled. I don’t know if any potential players were refused the opportunity to play on a team, but I assume a team was found for each of them. Major league players wore full uniforms; minor league players wore team T-shirts and caps.

In 1956 there were 4 major league teams – Yankees, Dodgers, Indians, and Cubs. The teams’ uniforms did not match their real counterparts. Although the uniforms were made of flannel, the piping, caps, and long socks color for each of these teams were green for the Yankees, blue for the Dodgers (their caps were blue with a red bill), maroon for the Indians, red for the Cubs. In 1957, the league added the Braves (orange), and Phillies (black).

During the years 1956-58, some of the volunteer fathers who coached these teams (their sons in parentheses) included the Yankees’ Ray McDuff, Walter Lund, DeRoy Lewis (Sparky, Bobby, Al); the Indians’ Mr. McMahon (J. D); the Dodgers’ Ted Blake (Randy); the Braves’ Mr. Roberts (Ken); and the Phillies’ Mr. Stanley (Dennis). 

Just a few of the notable players – Doug Brown, Sparky McDuff, Fred Culberson, Bobby Lund, Roby Morris, Mike Grizzard, Dale Mahan, Al Lewis, Jimmy Strong, Jimmy Hill, Duane Williams, Randy Blake, Jerry Taft, Wade Walker, Max Rhodes, Bill Short, Mike Liddle, J. D. McMahon, Chuck Alexander, Reggie Wilkins, Mike Cooper, Leo Luebbehusen, Ken Roberts, Kendall McCook, Dennis Stanley, Robby Rawdon.

Of special note was a 9-year old who made the Cubs in 1958 – Tommy Harmon (class of 1967); batted left, threw right. He later played QB for EHHS as well as baseball, played catcher for the University of Texas, and was assistant baseball coach at UT for many years.  (Gus notes these young players were mostly members of the EHHS classes of 1962-63-64 and they attended both of the Junior Highs...Meadowbrook and Handley).  A year later, 1957, many of these boys of East Side summer gathered together for the next season.

Gus note:  My 3-year brush with baseball took place in Richland Hills, about 5-10 miles north of the Meadowbrook-Handley teams shown in this article.  My years were 1955-56-57, ending upon entering Junior High at Richland just before transferring to Meadowbrook.  

A minor leaguer possessing no particular skills, I finally made the majors the last year.  What a difference...those 11-12 year old major league kids could play ball, where minors kind of dinked around !  I don't think very many 10-year olds were in the majors and only the best of the 11-year olds made it.  Like any other sport, it took some time to mature and gain the skills.  And oh, what a difference it made to play the game in uniforms instead of T-shirts !

I tried out for the EHHS team as a Soph, but spent much of my batting time diving for the dirt as the ball consistently appeared to be heading for my head.  Don't recall playing much that year and didn't go out for the team after that.  A couple of the guys had learned to throw curve balls by then....Mike Grizzard and Kendall McCook ! 

This group appears to be an All-Star team chosen from perhaps the 1957 Little League teams..all of them are represented by their uniforms.  Among those pictured are Max Rhodes ('63), Ronnie Hill, and Mike Henry ('62).  Ronnie attended EHHS one year and was the B-Team QB before moving away.  Mike was the QB of EHHS 1961 Highlanders, and Max was a 3-year letterman on the EHHS baseball team (1961-63) and the starting right end on the 1962 Highlander 4A-5 championship team.

A 1953 Lumberjacks Little League team from the East Side Poly league.  Of interest is Susie Wadlington's older brother, Pat; and Gay Burton's older brother, Ron, both of whom after a few more years of growing up and graduating from Poly, became U.S. Navy pilots.


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