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Tallassee in Pictures: Dixie Youth Fields

By Michael Butler

“America’s Favorite Pastime” has stood the test of time in Tallassee. Many youngsters cut their teeth on the baseball diamonds, learning to throw and catch before they could read and write. Several have gone on to earn college scholarships playing the game they love.

Tallassee was home to the Indians, a minor league team in the Georgia-Alabama League from 1939-49. The Tallassee Mills had its own baseball team in the 1950s.

Fred Hatfield grew up in East Tallassee. He went on to the Major Leagues playing for five different teams from 1950-58. Every spring on the east side of the Tallapoosa River, the game of baseball is played on the same “Field of Dreams.”

Tallassee Mills 1951 Baseball Team

The first diamond in East Tallassee was just a pasture in the early days of the town. W. C. Bryant remembers the ballpark before it was a "ballpark."

"The field was built on a portion of a large expanse of land used by some villagers to graze their cows, thus the term, "cow-pasture ball." That acreage extended from the northeast shoulder of Redden Avenue, where the tennis courts now lie, to just beyond where the swimming pool is, thence all the way north to the upper bank of the Tallapoosa River’s "first slew." Along this upper ridge, before it sloped to the river, some villagers kept their hog pens. All of this acreage is now occupied by the swimming pool, the tennis courts, youth league ball parks, batting cages, and homes, but then was entirely enclosed by a triple-strand barbed-wire fence.

"Home plate was situated approximately 50 feet from the Redden Avenue shoulder. Between home plate and Redden, a chicken-wire backstop, some 18 feet tall and 50-60-feet wide was stretched across four utility poles, one of which also held a streetlight. Should a foul ball go over the backstop and onto Benson or Redden, it could roll forever because both of those streets sloped severely away from the backstop. Facing home plate, to the immediate left of the backstop, was a three-step wooden stile for crossing the barbed-wire fence, which totally enclosed the pasture, and upon which spectators could sit to watch the games."

According to Bryant, the infield had no grass.

"It was scraped clean, had a hard base but dusty surface. Very few players were ever known to slide on it.  The outfield was covered with whatever vegetation decided to grow: bitter weed, clover, etc.  The mill company usually kept most of the outfield trimmed during the summer. Of course, there were no outfield fences."

Bryant's depiction of the "pasture" field where the fields and parking lot are now located

The fields were primitive as Bryant remembers, noting a slope in right field.

"The (right-fielder's) sighting on the batter was not as good as it was for the left or center fielder, who played on even ground. There were no dugouts, and I don’t remember there being any benches (or) batters' boxes."

Bryant's playing days at the ballpark began in the 1940s.

"I remember playing on it when I was nine or ten, when "Hot" O'Brien was running the mill’s summer recreation program, along with Cleveland Brooks and, later, Bennie Little. Before then, of course, the only ball field in Tallassee was where O'Brien Stadium now stands.

"In the summer, O'Brien, Little and Brooks ran baseball programs in the mornings from 8:00 a.m. - 9:30 for 8-11-year-olds and from 9:30 - 11:00 a.m. for 12-15-year-olds. The coaches umpired from behind the pitcher and kept scores and batting averages for each player at the same time. The Mill Co. furnished balls, bats and catcher’s equipment; other players had to furnish their gloves. On Friday afternoons the four-team men's league played softball on the East Tallassee field. The men's softball games produced some stellar players, and some of the older high-school boys played with those teams when they became too old for the boys' morning programs."

Over the years, the fields were not just for the "boys of summer." There were softball teams for girls, and several girls played baseball as well.

"At one time, a woman's softball team, the East Tallassee Red Caps, under management of Raymond "Lefty" McGill, who also coached at the long-defunct Union High School, used the East Tallasse Diamond as their home field," Bryant added. "The Red Caps' schedule included teams from the Chattahoochee Valley mill towns; Shawmut, Langdale, Valley, Lanett."

Bryant was a pitcher during his playing days.

"I don't recall there ever being a pitcher's mound, per se, on the East Tallassee field. There were, of course, the baseball and softball pitchers' rubbers, but I recall having to pitch on the same level with the batter, which I thought was a bit unfair, but had to live with at the time.

"We were there primarily to have fun, get some good exercise (and go swimming in the river afterward to cool off), learn about sportsmanship and uncover any talent that may exist. We played in either tennis shoes or barefoot. Some were brave enough to play in street shoes—of which their parents didn't approve, I'm sure. If anyone had a pair of spikes, he wouldn't have been allowed to wear them. The dust from the bare infield caked to sweaty skin and clothing like glue, but the one advantage to having a bare infield was that bad hops were rare."

Tallassee High School has produced seven state baseball champions. The 1987 11/12-year-old all-star team claimed the Dixie Youth World Series championship.

City Recreation Director Bill Pitts submitted a story to the Tallassee Tribune on the baseball program on May, 24 1973. Pitts wrote about Tallassee's new baseball fields and renovations on the original field, as well as the addition of a new concession stand.

"We have 10 Little League teams," Pitts pointed out in the write-up. A softball league was offered for girls ages 8-17. Pony League Baseball was for kids ages 6-9.

In 1980 there were 157 kids ages 8-12 playing in Tallassee's Little League. In 2017, there 185 players ages 7-12 playing in the Dixie Youth League. There are an additional 105 playing Dixie Youth Softball. 97 boys and girls play tee ball.

Thanks for the photo submissions.

Newly elected mayor Johnny Hammock hurls the ceremonial first pitch of the 2017 season

Tallassee mayor Bobby Payne throwing out the first pitch at opening day 2013

Howard Earl Stalnaker (right) with Billy Robbins at the dedication of Stalnaker Field in 2011

Scoreboard at the 11/12-year-old field named for cousins that were rivals on the baseball fields

Tallassee's 11/12-year-old Little League All-Stars
Seated: Coach Thomas Stalnaker
Front row (l to r): Mike Cantrell, Joey Stalnaker, Chris Ray, Keith Wilson, Jason Jones, Jeff Langford
Second row: Ricky Dumas, Scott Roberts, Mike Dunn, Bobby Gregory, Ricky Diamond, Jeff Rhodes
Back row: Craig Dennis, Coach Howard Earl Stalnaker, Randy Stokes, Coach Andy Dunn

Players at opening day 2013

2013 opening day

Opening day 2013

1980s era pic from Jamie Hester of the Yankees unloading after the opening day parade

Hester stepping up to the dish with Timm Timmerman dusting off home plate

7/8-year-old all-stars at the 2016 district tournament held in Tallassee

Coach John Mask questions a call during the 2015 season

Action on the first field, the 9/10 diamond, during the 2015 season

Coach Justin Ellis with 9/10 all-star Jackson Rhodes in 2016

Tallassee Recreation Department director Rick Golden with his team in 2009

Coaches Klay Peters (seated) and Jacob Thornton with the 9/10 A's at the DYB Jamboree in 2017

The 1987 World Champion Tallassee Dixie Youth All-Stars

2012 reunion photo at J. E. "Hot" O'Brien Stadium commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1987 championship

1967 Yankees

1961 Tallassee All-Stars

9/10-year-old all-stars in 2010

1982 Royals

1979 Yankees

1982 Braves

1983 Red Sox

1976 Tigers

Braves, circa 1960s

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