Tagged: Minden Reds

Extra Innings: Coalfield Baseball Documentary

Bluefield Blue Grays of 1930s

Bluefield Blue Grays of 1930s

As the boys of summer are swinging their bats, I want to give a shoutout to the boys of summers past.

For anyone interested in the history of Appalachian baseball, check out the 1990s documentary, Extra Innings: Coalfield Baseball, from the archives ofWSWP Beckley/Grandview and distributed by West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Having trouble? View on YouTube.

As the description says, “Many Southern West Virginia coal camps had baseball teams in the 1930s. This is the story of coalfield baseball’s golden era.”

Slab Fork Indians, an all-black team

The Sunday games after church were a “raucous displays of coalfield culture,” said the late Stuart McGehee of the Eastern Regional Coal Archives in the doc. “Every little coal company town, and there were maybe 500 of them in Southern West Virginia, had a baseball park. Everyone’s game was baseball…Quality of ball in the coalfields was as good or better at any level of semi-pro or amateur ball in America.”

The late Stuart Mcgehee of the Eastern Regional Coal Archives

The late Stuart McGehee of the Eastern Regional Coal Archives

The players interviewed were John, Willard and Gene McGraw (the “best brothers groups to play in the coalfields”), Harry Perkowski, Willard Artist McGraw, Angus Evans Jr., Charlie Kowaleski, Charlie Karbonit, Okey Mills, John Kerzic, Jimmy Harper, Tom “Lefty” Tudor, and Idie Scott.
McGraw Brothers

McGraw Brothers

And for some, coalfields  paid better than pro ball. “We would have played for nothing,” Angus Evans Jr. said. Many players went to the majors.
Teams mentioned include Ikeagle, Lillybrook, White Oak, Soap Creek, Kincaid, Raleigh Clippers, Hindale, Ethel, Amigo, Coal City, Layland, Montcoal, Marfork, Beckley Bengals, Bluefield Blue-Grays, Charleston, Williamson, Welch, Gary, Elkhorn, Moose Juniors, and Minden Reds.

County League system peaked right before WWII and disbanded in mid-1950s.

Baseball Tonight! Bowen Field

Baseball Tonight! Bowen Field

Do you have stories about Coalfield Baseball? Share them in the comments!