At the welcome banquet in 1990
By Michael Butler
Williamsport, Pa. might be the home for the Little League World Series, but for Babe Ruth League Baseball, it is Jamestown, N.Y.
Jamestown has hosted the event more than any other town. This year will be the 18th time the World Series has been played there since the first was played at the community's Diethrick Park in 1980.
The birthplace of Lucille Ball has a population of approximately 30,000. Located in Southwestern New York, the host site for 2021 Babe Ruth 13-year-old World Series will welcome a team from Tallassee as one of its ten contenders.
Tallassee, the Southwest Region champion, is making its second visit to Jamestown for a World Series. The 13-year-old team in 1990 also played in Jamestown and was the first team from Tallassee to reach a Babe Ruth World Series.
Two other Tallassee Babe Ruth teams have also advanced to the World Series. In 1993, the 13-year-old all-stars played in the Springdale, Ark. In '95 they traveled to Millville, N.J.
Baynes with Thomas Turner and Jeffrey Ellis
Coaches Ronnie Baynes and Don Ingram were in the dugout for several state championships on the high school level in the 1980s and '90s. In 1990, they were together with the young teens in Jamestown.
"As the high school coach, I set out to coach the 13-year-old all-star team," Baynes said. "It carried on. The results were seven state championships during that period of time."
Baynes knew there was something special with the '90 team.
"When we went to Jamestown, we took 16 kids. Everyone of them was from Tallassee. The thing about the teams that we played like Oakland, they got players from a million kids. We were playing very easily on the same level as the all-star teams from the big areas. It was a real special treat to do that."
On the same accord, Ingram remembered a conversation in Tupelo, Miss. during a tournament a few years earlier.
"(We) were sitting up in the stands scouting the other team," Ingram said. "The guy sitting next to me said, 'We selected our team out of 120 candidates. How many did y'all have?' I said, 'When you see our team take the field, that's how many.'"
The numbers do not vary much today. Tallassee's Babe Ruth League had 39 players total on three teams from 13-15 years of age.
The 1990 13-year-old all-stars (seated, left to right): Tracy Causey, Shay Ward, Justin Crain, Jonathan Ingram, Jeffrey Ellis, Brendon Knowles, Robert Jones, Wesley Holt. Standing (left to right): Robert Potts, Brad Davis, David Warren, Courtney Thornton, John McInnish, Thomas Turner, Lee Golden, Jarod Johns. Back: Coaches Don Ingram (left), John McInnish.
|The 2021 13-year-old all-stars (seated, left to right): Hutson Lewis, Brody Wisener, Avery Brantley, Mason Henderson, Jack Butler, Donavan Aldridge. Standing (left to right): Luke Chandler, Brody Smith, Baylor Clayton, Xander Johnston, Slade Carleton, Konner Taunton.
Ingram talked about the 1990 team's state title in Grand Bay prior to the regional.
"We lost the first game 4-3," he said. "That put us in the losers' bracket. We had doubleheaders every day. After the second game of the doubleheader each day, they wanted to run. They actually got mad at me the last day down there because I didn't make them run. They started getting to be the crowd favorite. By the end of the tournament, we had the home field advantage. It speaks to the character of these guys."
That appeal carried over to the Southeast Regional in Cape Coral, Fla.
"When we walked off the field," Baynes added, "we had just won the regional. A guy from the neighborhood didn't have any kids playing. He got excited about watching Tallassee play. He walked out with me and said, 'Y'all were the best team, but you didn't have the best talent.' He said, 'That's why I like watching y'all play.'"
Baynes talked about practicing in the middle of the day during the "dog days of summer."
"The temperatures were a good 100. They had to wear long pants because we were sliding. They had to do a lot of tough things that added to them being a good baseball team."
Temps in New York will peak in the 70s for the Aug. 14-21 tournament this year. The 2021 bunch is carpooling for the 15-hour trek to Jamestown. The 1990 squad flew to New York.
"We were in a small plane for the first leg," Brad Davis said. "When we took off, you could hear the luggage tumbling. Courtney Thornton ripped the seat slap out of the bottom of the plane. He thought we were going down. We had to get off the runway."
"I was terrified on takeoff," he said. "For most of us, it was our first trip on an airplane and it was very exciting."
Like in 1990, festivities are planed for the 2021 participants including a welcome banquet and a parade.
"They played "Sweet Home Alabama" on our float," Thornton said of the parade. "We participated in a homerun derby - Thomas Tuner and me."
|Some of the coaches and players from the 1990 squad after a recent gathering for an interview at WTLS (left to right): Don Ingram, Brad Davis, Ronnie Baynes, Jeffrey Ellis, Jonathan Ingram.
Tallassee went 1-2 in the 1990 World Series.
"I think we beat the best team we played there - Cherry Hill, N. J," Jonathan Ingram recalled.
Thornton said the New Jersey gang had a "hee haw" type rally yell against the Tallassee guys.
"They came with an attitude," Baynes said. "They saw us and they almost laughed at us. We came out there and kicked the mess out of them."
Tallassee's losses were one run each (Pine Bluff, Ark. and Harrison County, W.V.).
"We lost the second one in nine innings," Jeffrey Ellis said of the elimination game.
"I cost us that game," Baynes said. "We went into extra innings. I brought Brad in to hit. He led the inning off with a triple. It was a 3-3 ball game. Wesley Holt came up to bat. He was our leadoff batter. He was a good bunter. I was going to squeeze Brad in. Brad was in a panic."
"I couldn't breathe," Davis said.
"I had a signal for a bunt and a squeeze bunt," said Baynes. "Instead of squeezing on the first pitch, I said, 'Everybody in this ballpark knows we're going to squeeze.' I called it off. I thought they were going to throw a pitchout. They should have. The first pitch came right down the middle. I had Wesley taking. That was the bottom of the inning. We would've won."
Oakland, Calif. was the champion.
"They looked like grown men with mustaches," said Thornton of Oakland's appearance.
"Oakland got disqualified," Davis added. "They had a 15-year-old."
Overall it was quite an experience.
"We got to go to Niagara Falls," Baynes said. "They took us around the Canadian border. I don't think they were as excited about that as they were about playing baseball."
"A lot of the guys on this team ended up being part of the 1995 championship team," said Thornton. "It was a summer we would never forget."
13-Year-Old All-Star Reunion (WTLS Radio Interview)