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Tallassee's 1938 baseball champions

By Bill Goss

In the summer of 1937, the Tallassee Mills Indians semi-pro baseball team, sponsored and financed by the Tallassee Mills, was organized. Tallassee High School coach John Edward "Hot" O’Brien (1906-1977), at age 32, was its manager and second baseman. The league consisted of players from the textile-mill towns in east-central Alabama, the Valley (Shawmut, Fairfax, Langdale) and west Georgia.  The Tallassee Mills paid the players $25 per game.

By mid-season, the Tallassee Mills Indians were leading the league. Charles Edward (Eddie) Britt (1906-1971), who played left field and catcher, led the hitters with a .321 average. In 1939, Eddie Britt played Class D professional baseball with the Tallassee Indians. O’Brien had a batting average of .312 for 64 at-bats, which was the fourth best on the team.

Jasper Otto (Jack) McCollough, Sr. (1906-1977) joined O’Brien in 1937 as a line coach at Tallassee High School and played on the 1938 Tallassee Indians team.  Edward Owen (Johnny) Westbrook (1913-1984), pitcher, a member of the 1938 champion team, played Class D professional baseball with the Tallassee Indians in 1940 and 1946.

Author W. C. Bryant in his book, "Hot & His Boys," noted that O’Brien brought Samuel Perron (Tex) Shoemaker, Jr. (1916-1963) from the University of Alabama to Tallassee “to bolster the team’s potential as alternate catcher.” While at the University of Alabama Shoemaker lettered in football, basketball and baseball. He also played Class D professional baseball for the Tallassee Indians in 1939 and 1941, as a catcher and outfielder. In 1939 he moved to Class B professional baseball with the Montgomery Rebels, the Gadsden, AL Pilots, the Augusta, GA Tigers, the Pensacola, FL Pilots and the Jackson, MS Senators.

In the 1938 Alabama Semi-pro Baseball Tournament in Demopolis, the Tallassee Indians won four of six games and defeated the Shawmut Mills team to earn the consolation trophy. Later, at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, they overpowered Sam Mason’s Martex Towels for the right to represent Alabama in the National Baseball Congress (NBC) Semi-pro Tournament in Wichita, Kansas.

In the 1938 NBC Tournament, the Tallassee Indians won 1, lost 1, and advanced again on a forfeit before losing in the double-elimination. They placed 12th among 48 teams.  The Detroit, MI Ales Lagars won the championship, beating Pittsburg, PA Wilkinsburg team 7-5.

Two of the Tallassee Indians were selected for the 1938 NBC All-American Team; Hugh Kirkland, pitcher, and Curtis Chambliss, catcher.

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