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2009-06-11 digital edition

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2009-06-11 / Sports

Lexington, Giddings Played in Community Baseball Leagues Too

Memories from players and fans

This picture of the Lexington Community Baseball team was taken in 1955 or 1956. Members of the team included (left to right, front to back) Charlie Martin, Leslie "Happy" Rodgers, Raymond Lewis, J.W. Parker, Louis Knipstein, Billy Jack Jay, Nick Brennon, Linoel Lewis, George Lee Preuss, Lefty Wilkerson, Robert Reynolds, Louis Gaeke and E.C. "Buck" Quinney. PHOTO COURTESY OF LESLIE "HAPPY" RODGERS. This picture of the Lexington Community Baseball team was taken in 1955 or 1956. Members of the team included (left to right, front to back) Charlie Martin, Leslie "Happy" Rodgers, Raymond Lewis, J.W. Parker, Louis Knipstein, Billy Jack Jay, Nick Brennon, Linoel Lewis, George Lee Preuss, Lefty Wilkerson, Robert Reynolds, Louis Gaeke and E.C. "Buck" Quinney. PHOTO COURTESY OF LESLIE "HAPPY" RODGERS. When the Leader placed several pictures of various community baseball leagues in the paper a couple of weeks ago, we were hoping to get some reaction. Well, it happened and our history coffers are richer because of it.

While we featured teams from Manheim, Loebau, Dime Box, Ledbetter and a community known as Beat Five, we did not have pictures or information on any Lexington or Giddings teams.

However, thanks to Leslie "Happy" Rodgers and Sheriff Rodney Meyer, Lexington and Giddings faces have been added to the photo library.

According to local memory, sometime around the summer of 1951, Dean Quinney (Amos Quinney's uncle) conceived the idea to have Lexington field a team in the Lee County Community Baseball League. Due to his persistence and the love of America's favorite pastime, the team was formed and included players from the ages of 17 to 52.

The picture at the right of a Giddings Community team was taken in 1947 or 1948. Members of the team included (left to right, front to back) Claude Spence, Dick Weiss, Albert Kessell, Kyle Spence, Raymond Meyer, Milton "Chicken" Fischer, Ed Tisdell, Witt Kyle and Calvin Zoch, the team's catcher. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHERIFF RODNEY MEYER. The picture at the right of a Giddings Community team was taken in 1947 or 1948. Members of the team included (left to right, front to back) Claude Spence, Dick Weiss, Albert Kessell, Kyle Spence, Raymond Meyer, Milton "Chicken" Fischer, Ed Tisdell, Witt Kyle and Calvin Zoch, the team's catcher. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHERIFF RODNEY MEYER. Each Sunday afternoon, after church, during the heat of summer, July through August, baseball players and enthusiasts for the game gathered for some good old fashioned entertainment. Often times barbecue was included in the afternoon's agenda so fans could enjoy "concessions" while the players entertained.

Rodgers was one of the younger players to join the league, being a junior in High School and only 17 years old. He said, "We played when it was hot enough to fry an egg on top of your head but that didn't keep us off the field. This was when Lexington was a real little country town and it was a time when everyone, related to the players or not, went out to the baseball field to watch a great game of bat and ball."

At that time, every team had to supply an umpire, so each game had two authority figures making the calls on each play. Nowadays, one has to wonder about the prejudices of such a set up.

Those who were on the team gained a respect and friendship for each other that helped build memories for a lifetime. While no one we interviewed remembers exactly when the league disbanded, it is conjectured that it probably happened around 1958.

Many of the players served in WWII while some of the younger ones went on to college or were drafted into the military. Of course, some moved away and for everyone, life eventually evolved away from the league. What's interesting is that the Community Baseball League is making a comeback so, like so many things in life, it seems we have gone full circle.

Jimanne Kubiak, whose dad, Raymond Lewis and uncle, Linoel Lewis played on the Lexington team, remembers fondly those hot Sunday afternoons. She said, "The whole family would go to cheer on their teams. I remembers as a 6th grader having such a "crush" on Lefty Wilkerson. Lefty was a pitcher for the Cameron High Yoemen and was recruited that summer for Lexington."

Louis Knipstein, who played on the Lexington team said, "I played on several leagues back then, including the semi-pro leagues out of LaGrange and Brenham. At one time or another I also played for Giddings and Lincoln teams, besides Lexington. In fact, I postponed my wedding one week so I could try out for the Cardinals. A scout came through Giddings that year and invited me and two other guys to try out for that major league. I was a centerfielder and I had the time of my life playing baseball!"

Other players on Lexington's team included Charlie Martin, who was a basketball coach in Rockdale before becoming Superintendent of Schools in Milano; J.W. Parker, who currently lives in Granbury but comes to Lexington frequently, especially for various fundraisers; Billy Jack Jay, who, along with Happy Rodgers, was one of the younger guys to play; Nick Brennon, Lexington's Ag teacher at the time; George Lee Preuss, who is remembered in Lexington as the owner of a cleaners and dry goods store before becoming President of Lexington State Bank and the uncle of Buddy Preuss; Robert Reynolds who was a carpenter in Lexington; Louis Gaeke, owner of Gaeke Construction in Giddings, and E.C. "Buck" Quinney, who was the team's umpire of choice. Buck ran a gas station north of the Square and is the father of Deckie Knipstein, Louis Knipstein's wife.

Deckie tells a story about the first day her daddy's gas station was open. She said, "He was so excited about opening the station. That first day, he waited patiently for customers to come in, but not many did. Finally, in the middle of the day, a man came in to buy a sack of Bull Durham smoking tobacco, which was nickel's worth and that was his first and only sale of the day. What's really funny about that is the guy bought it on credit!"

Sheriff Meyer's picture of a group of men who played on a team from Giddings in 1947 prompts another visit down Memory Lane. Meyer remembers going to the games with his father, Raymond. He was given the responsibility of being the Bat Boy for the team and never missed a game.

He said, "Back then, baseball was our Sunday afternoon entertainment. Everyone would go to church, hurry up and eat lunch then head out to whatever community was hosting the games that afternoon."

Lee County native Carol Dismukes also has stories to share. She said, "When I met my future husband, his father played on the Beat Five team as the first baseman and my future husband was the Bat Boy for that team. Baseball was big entertainment for us."

Dismukes said, "I remember when Rodney's [Sheriff Meyer's] dad and my father-in-law played on the same team. Rodney was just a little boy and my girlfriends and I used to carry him around during the games."

Dismukes said, "Baseball gave way years later to evening softball leagues in the mid-seventies. Just like baseball, every little community had a team and it was serious business. Life was a lot slower then and baseball and softball games offered opportunities for communities to grow closer and enjoy life."

If you have a story to share about past or present Community Leagues, send them to the Lexington Leader at editor@lexingtonleader.com.

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