This & That

Story published: 03-20-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Baseball is a great sport with an interesting history

By Jack Swift

The Johnson County baseball and softball programs are well underway. With that in mind I decided to write this column about that grand ole’ sport and at the same time recognize softball, baseball’s close kin. Baseball has been around since before the American Civil War. Then it was called rounders. Over time it was through improved rules and regulations that it became the game it is today. Called the “national pastime,” baseball is highly popular in America. Baseball is popular in Japan and some other countries as well.

As a young boy, my interest in baseball was through participating in the sport on a local level. I played first base some in the days when there was a local league. At that time there were several teams that competed. I’ll list a few: Dewey (the team I played on), Mountain City, Laurel, Taylors Valley and Shady Valley. I could be wrong but I believe Midway and Trade also had a team. Another team the local teams played was Mabel, North Carolina.

During my boyhood years few folks owned televisions, consequently radio was king as far as home baseball entertainment was concerned. Whenever chores allowed, I tuned in to major league baseball. The great announcers I heard included Mel Allen, Vin Scully, Red Barber, Harry Caray, and others. Right off, I’ll tell you that Mel Allen was one of my favorites. He was the voice of the Yankees for several seasons. These men were charged with creating the game in the minds of the listeners. And they did a great job if it. The New York Yankees were so successful for so long that I became a fan and still am to some extent.

Many young folks can cite a lot of trivia about the teams that have played the game. The first professional baseball league was formed in 1871. Most large cities in the eastern United States had a pro baseball team by the early 1900s. The teams were ultimately divided into two leagues, the American League and the National League. Now some of the eastern teams have been moved for various reasons to the west coast. I guess it could be said about baseball that it is a game that requires skill and quick thinking to be successful.

Johnson County made history when one of its own, Clyde (Hardrock) Shoun, went all the way to the majors and remained there until July 19, 1949, his last major league game. During his career Shoun Played for the Saint Louis Cardinals, the Cincinnati Reds, the Boston Braves, the Chicago Cubs, and the Chicago White Sox. Shoun returned to Johnson County after his career was over. He had a no-hitter to his credit during his time in the majors.

Who’ll be the next major leaguer from Johnson County? Perhaps one of the current players from the Longhorn baseball team will go on to become a major league star.

There are also a large number of minor league teams. The minor league teams are exciting as well. You can get a lot of entertainment by going out and supporting Johnson County baseball and softball as well as the minor league teams in our area. Played by both men and women, Softball is a very popular sport. It began in 1887 and was primarily an indoor sport during its beginning. Now softball is very popular as a field sport as well.