By: Carter E. Anthony
Mr. Ben Tillman, the District Manager who was always nattily attired, hat and all, spent some time asking me how I liked Greenville and told me that he had gotten me on the Giants in Little League.
The first baseman, Edward Kervin, had moved and left a spot on the team for me. It was perfect because I played first base on our 5th-6th grade baseball team in Brantley.
Our team was not Little League but a “traveling squad” playing the other 5th-6th grade teams in Crenshaw County.
As I have passed by these schools later in life I have enjoyed telling first my children, now my grandchildren, that I played baseball in that pasture in Honoraville, on that field in Highland Home and in Dozier.
The baseball field in Honoraville at that time sat beside the highway, home plate was under a large oak tree and the field sloped down and away from home plate.
Coach told us if we could hit one out of the infield there was a chance of extra bases because of the downhill roll. It’s an open pasture now. Luverne’s field was tucked away behind its school so no character there.
Mr. Ben told me that my coach was O.G. Holley, one of the finest men and coaches in Greenville. He also told me that O.G. had been a wonderful athlete in the Greenville school system but had been badly injured in an automobile accident.
He was unable to pursue athletics in college but reported on local sports for the hometown newspaper, kept the scorebooks for the high school teams, coached a Little League team and helped out wherever he could with Greenville athletics.
He was wheelchair bound and had a car with the controls on the steering column. O.G. was an inspiration to every athlete that came through Greenville High School during his time.
For a basketball game in Evergreen, he asked me to drive him there. I guess it was a little out of his range.
Mother let me use her car. We, my family and I, were honored to be able to help O.G. get to a game.
Many years later, sitting around the lunch table in the Officers’ Club at Griffiss AFB in Rome, N.Y., in the winter of 1969, a group of junior officers and I shared our stories of playing athletics growing up.
When I told them about playing Little League for O.G. they were astounded. They were from Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida and a college friend from Roanoke, Alabama, but they had never heard of anyone coaching anything from a wheelchair.
On the first day of practice, O.G. introduced me to the team. As I said earlier, I did not know anyone in Greenville except Rennie Thompson.
On the mighty Giants were Donald Thrower at catcher, Snooky Taylor at second base and pitching, Pete Taylor at shortstop and pitching, Richie Hartley and Buddy Barrett alternating at 3rd base, Bennie Taylor, Dick Tillman and Larry Gaston in the outfield.
The first day of practice was typical Little League boys, all baseball, nothing else. I marveled at O.G. hitting infield grounders and outfield flys from a wheelchair.
His upper body strength was amazing and his knowledge and coaching of baseball was perfect. Having played 1st base on the 5th-6th grade team in Brantley, Edward Kervin having left, and my being the tallest on the team I was easily assigned 1st base.
Practicing with such a great bunch of new friends on a field laid out like a baseball field and knowing I would wear a real Little League Giants uniform may have been the epitome of the move for me.
It was great! Playing a game I loved with a special coach, fine new friends, organized practices, being taught new fundamentals and playing in front of a crowd every week in the Giants uniform. Just doesn’t get any better than that!
At the end of the first practice, Richie said, “Hey Carter, come on and go home with me”. Gosh, how great.
I didn’t know anybody else or anything else to do but go back home and here one of my new Little League friends asked me to go home with him.
I went home with Richie and we traipsed around his neighborhood with Richie introducing me to all of his friends.
Thus began a 63 year close personal friendship that ended much too soon on February 1, 2020, with Richie’s death. Miss you Richie!