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Charles Blalock

Baseball history revisited

By Michael Butler

There are debates in sports. Who is the best to ever play the game? In baseball, Willie Mays is in that conversation. There are likely not too many locals who realize that Mays played in Tallassee before he was the famous "Say Hey Kid."

Mays, now 92, was born in Alabama and played for the Birmingham Black Barons before his integration into Major League Baseball.

During those days, Tallassee had segregated semi-pro teams - the Indians and the Black Indians.

Charles Blalock was a bat boy for the Tallassee Black Indians.

"Willie Mays played second base," Blalock said of Mays during his days with the Negro League. He played in the outfield in the majors. "We didn't know anything about Willie Mays. He wasn't the name. The catcher was the name. They called him "Rocking Chair." He would actually put a rocking chair behind the batter. The (game) was played in the ballpark."

The ballpark is now J. E. "Hot" O'Brien Stadium.

"They had a great big grandstand there. I remember seating all around the ballpark. A man named Mr. Knox lived in a house where homeruns would knock his windows out. He collected baseballs. Adolphus Hayes kept balls over that fence. He could hit a baseball.

"The blacks played on Saturday night. The whites played on Sunday afternoons. The Black Indians were around as long as I can remember. They didn't have uniforms. They had blue jeans and a ball cap. My dad played. (He) was a catcher. Mose Williams (Isaac Williams' father), was a pitcher. One time, Mose turned that ball loose. It tipped my daddy's glove, hit him in the mouth and knocked all his teeth out. He spit the teeth out and the ballgame never stopped."

The 1946 Indians at the Ballpark

The Black Indians were "playing up" when the Negro League's equivalent of the MLB came to town.

"You had the New Orleans Creoles, San Francisco Sea Lions, the Memphis Red Sox, the Birmingham Barons," Blalock added. "They all came to this park right here and left with their behinds beaten by this Tallassee baseball team. Mose pitched against Memphis. (Tallassee) won. The manager named Piper Davis talked with Mose about going with the team. He just didn't want to go."

Black Indians in 1951 with Blalock standing second from far right

Blalock said some of the latter teams got uniforms, stating that Tallassee Mills probably had a part in that. His brother also played for the Black Indians. Blalock played only recreationally himself, but one pickup game stands out.

"This was old Log Town where we played. One time we had white guys versus black guys. The white guys needed one guy. (Bobby) Keahey said, 'Charles, will you play with us?' I hit a homerun, but the guy who was pitching kind of grooved it to me to make me look good. When I ran by all my buddies, I said, 'We white boys going to beat y'all.' Everybody just busted out laughing.

"It was a lot of fun. The relationships in those days were just natural. Dr. Moore put a goal on the garage in the back of his house. During the summer - just about every evening, black and white kids would be playing together. It was a friendly atmosphere. I never thought about it from a racial or prejudice standpoint. The key to a lot of things is a person's character."