By Jack Swift
With Baseball in full swing, I decided this week to put together a column on that great sport. While I’m not an expert on that subject, I like to kick back and enjoy a game on the tube occasionally. As a youngster, I enjoyed tossing around the ole’ “hoss hide” with other kids in the neighborhood. It was a delight for me when my family would travel to Shady Valley to visit my mother’s two sisters. I would get to play a little baseball with my several cousins there. I enjoy following the exploits of the high school and middle school baseball and softball programs.
Believe it or not, I actually played first base for Dewey on occasion when Dewey was part of that league. I own two very old gloves that I acquired during that time. One is a fielder’s glove that is about 65 years old. The other is a first basement’s mitt that I bought from player for all of a dime. It was old then and I guess it would be about eighty years old now.
It is not widely known, but Johnson County had a league of its own in the “50s and ‘60s and perhaps even later. I don’t remember what it was called, but perhaps it was the Johnson County League. If my memory is correct, some teams that participated were: Mountain City, Laurel Bloomery, Taylor’s Valley, Dewey, Dry Run, Neva, Shady Valley, Doe Valley, Butler, and a team in North Carolina named Mable. Perhaps there were others, or perhaps some I named were not in the league at all.
The only Major League player to hale from Johnson County was Clyde “Hardrock” Shoun. A few Johnson County folks played some Minor League baseball but they never ascended to the Majors. “Hardrock played” during the era of radio and you could bet that the good folks of Johnson County had their ears glued to that machine listening to the heroics of their hometown hero.
Shoun was born in Mountain City, Tennessee on March 20, 1912. He died March 20, 1968 at the age of 56. He threw and batted left handed. He debuted with the Chicago Cubs on August 7, 1935. His last appearance as a major leaguer was July 19, 1949. He distinguished himself by pitching a no-hitter playing for the Cincinnati Reds against the Boston Braves on May 15, 1944.