It’s real funny now; but not back then
By Joe Joe Wright
Get the picture now the year is 1980 and the Crisp County High school baseball team is playing Monroe High in Albany.
Our Coach was Tommy Stewart and we had big bad Skeebo Musslewhite on our team. I remember this game in vivid detail. It was hot that afternoon and Monroe was under their legendary coach Stubbs. His favorite saying was “hit the ball and run the bases” I believe that is all he knew about the game. Game time that day was early like 4 pm. And we were there at the field waiting on Monroe. If their had a been a line on the game we would have been heavy favorites more than 2 to 1 I would say. They had a pitcher not a very imposing guy but he had a knuckle slider pitch that was actually very nasty, his teammates called it that “thing”. After jumping out to an early lead of 3-0. We faltered a little bit and every inning we let them score and by the sixth inning it was 7-3 in favor of Monroe.
Now let me tell you the rest of the story. At approximately 4:10p.m. we had to stop the game and allow some students to cross over the ball field. We also had a lightning delay that afternoon. Now I am not sure if they were detention hall students being let out or what but we had to wait for them to cross over the field. Then about the 2nd inning sitting almost directly behind us in the stands was a small group of people burning a joint, smoking Pot, doing drugs burning a doobie yall get the picture. By the way there wasn’t a fence behind us in the dugout, it was open and this crowd of people were no more than 15 feet behind us and to the left. Naturally we could all smell the aroma of the cannabis burning and given what we now know to day about the effects of second hand smoke we were probably all HIGH a little. This was a funny and very sad day all in one. As the 7th inning came upon us a sense of urgency crept up and we loaded the bases and punched across 1 run to make it 7-4. With bases loaded and two outs our best player Skeebo stepped up and drove a pitch deep to left center only to have the center fielder run it down and make an unorthodox catch and the game ended. Skeebo nearly had a walk off grand slam. As for the 1980 Cougar base ballers I believe we made history that day, as I’m not sure we had ever lost Monroe in baseball ever. What I am certain of is that Coach Stewart had never in 23 years of coaching lost to Monroe and he was not a happy camper.
As boys will do when we got on the bus to come home we were all happy and laughing and making lots of noise, that is till Coach Stewart got on the bus. After several choice words and expressions about his displeasure with our performance we all were instructed not to say a word. So we all sat like 2nd graders being quiet in the corner all the way home. Except we didn’t go straight home. As we passed the Highway 32 intersection about 16 miles outside of Albany the bus broke down. Now Coach Stewart was really mad. This of course was before the days cell phones and not many parents followed us to that baseball game. However, one parent did follow us home and I am not sure who it was but they gave Coach Stewart a ride up to Warwick so he could call Mr. Warren the Bus Director and get us another bus on the way. Before Coach left us we were given strict instructions not to leave the bus, which of course we did. It just so happens that woods had recently been burned off and were black with smut. Into the woods we all ran and played like little kids having war games. As you can imagine we got smut on our uniforms. From the time Coach Stewart left us till he returned was approximately one hour and by now the time was close to 9: 00 to 9:15, because it was getting dark. On this particular trip Coach Stewart was alone as the only Coach, I am not sure why. Let me tell you when he got back and saw that we all had black smut all over our uniforms. He of course knew that we had left the bus. Sometimes kids just don’t listen very well. By the time we got back to the Cougar Baseball Den the time was after 10:00pm and dark.
“Everyone off the bus and on the field, Joe Joe go turn on the lights you haven’t done nothing all day anyway,” bellowed Coach Stewart. I wanted to say well I didn’t play today but given the fact he was so mad, I decided against my basic nature and kept my mouth closed. Smart boy!!! I turned on the lights and we all started running Poles. For those of you unfamiliar with baseball terminology running poles refers to the foul poles and what you do is run from one to the other. Now usually you would run at most about 10 poles. UHHHHH No! We ran somewhere around twenty and I mean to there and back 1 down there and back two and so on. By the time we got finished and got our 2nd talking too it was close to midnight. May have been after 12 not sure but one thing we all learned that day was to be more serious.
As a matter of fact I believe we finished off the season winning 7 of the next 8 games to go 13 and 11 on the season. We didn’t play as many games back in them days as they do to today and I think we had 3 or 4 rainouts we didn’t replay. Yes on that day many a young man in Crisp County learned what was meant when a coach told you to do something and you didn’t, we learned humility and obedience. Thanks Coach Stewart.