Monday, March 30, 2015

Take me out to the ball game!

By Larry Miller

As the spring training Cactus League winds down in the Phoenix area and major league baseball teams prepare to swing in to action for the regular season, a group of a dozen or so Chadron folks found themselves at Nando’s Mexican restaurant in Chandler, Arizona last week for a get-together.

Cheryl and Larry Moody
Now, that’s not unusual.  There’ve been gatherings of  former Chadron residents and “Snowbirds” in Arizona for many years  It’s always fun to swap stories about Nebraska and get reacquainted with good friends from the past.

But we thought this one was special.  Especially for those of us who played “Ward” baseball back in the 1950’s.

Larry and Cheryl (Haskell) Moody now make their home in Chandler, and they brought to this gathering an artifact from the past that intrigued many of us.

It was an “Official Little League” Spalding baseball with the following inscription:  “To Mr. K. Moody from Fourth Ward ‘Champs’ ‘54”    And scribbled all around the ball were the names of those proud youngsters of south Chadron who played our version of Little League baseball that year in Chadron.

We found the following signatures:  Jim Saults, Jimmy Fitzgibbon, Jim Sandstrom, John Helzer, Charles Nelson, Douglas McKinnon, Charles Childerston, Larry Moody, Danny Davis, Eddie Reinking, George Blundell, Tom Saults, Bill Rice,  Jon Sandstrom, Eugene Cornish, Dick Muma and Richard Burkhiser.

K. Moody,” of course, was Kenny Moody, whom many will remember as a long-time Dawes County resident who was a staunch enthusiast for youth sports activities in Chadron for decades. And in the summer of 1954, he was a coach/manager for the Fourth Ward team.  As we recalled, that was a team sponsored by the Rotarians.  Ward One was sponsored by the Lions Club, and Ward Three by Kiwanis.  (Our memory of the Ward Three sponsor is MIA!)

Kenny and his wife, Wanda, moved to Arizona many years ago and are now both deceased.  Interestingly, three of their four children – Larry, Rebecca, and Lynn – also sought warmer climes and now live in the Phoenix area.  The eldest, Nancy, still lives in Chadron.

Ralph and Linda Byerly  
Spring training baseball games in “The Valley” of Arizona have always been popular – and it’s increasingly big business.  We attended a game here about 10 years ago and found it reminiscent of going to a Chadron Elks baseball game back in the ‘50s.  There were larger crowds here, of course, and the quality of play was a step up – but only a bit! 

Today, tens of millions of dollars have been poured in to new ball fields and training facilities in the Phoenix area, accompanied by ticket prices that have escalated to a level out of range for lots of folks.  Nonetheless, they still seem to fill the stadiums here with record crowds.

But our baseball “fix” this year didn't come from a Major League game.  It came in the form of an autographed Little League baseball from a half century ago in Chadron, Nebraska.  

This event was a Grand Slam!