Never once an act of unsportsmanlike conduct

Published 6:08 pm Sunday, July 29, 2018

My neighborhood had many advantages, especially for a young boy who loved athletics. One that I have never forgotten was in the spring and summer, fast-pitch softball was a popular sport played by the men. Their league games were played behind the high school on Ninth Street. I could walk down Telfair and watch with amazement how it was played.

There were many nights I watched the Samson Shirt Factory team and Mr. Ben Woolard battle Manuel Housley, two of the best pitchers in our area. Bobby Andrews was Mr. Ben’s catcher and Bobby kept his team on their toes by throwing a pitch either to third base or first base after he caught it. He was always chattering and played with such enthusiasm. Buddy Hassell, Ray Sullivan, Dallas Jackson and Sam Lee were some of the best hitters in the league. These men and others would bring large crowds to Ninth Street just to see them play.

Mr. Ben told me recently at church that the best team he played on was the Coca Cola team. Stars on that team were men like Cambo Rodman, Joe Taylor, Peyton Holloman, Max Roebuck, Tomp Litchfield, Zeno Edwards, Henry Hodges and Laverne Taylor, all terrific athletes of their time. All these men were fathers who had sons and daughters my age. He said, “Cam was a great shortstop and Big Tomp was an incredible centerfielder.” I never would have known that!

One Saturday night, the Samson’s team played host to the Marine All-Star team. Bobby asked me to keep the scorebook for Samson’s and sit on the bench with the team. For an 11-year-old to keep the book and sit on the bench with the players was a big deal. With Mr. Ben and Manuel pitching, they kept the Marine team in check and won the game. Afterwards, they bought me a hotdog and drink from the white portable concession stand for keeping their statistics.

These men would continue to play at least twice a week in a league ran by the Recreation Department. Mr. Ben worked daily at Suskin-Berry where he was a clothing salesman, and he never missed a Sunday singing in our church choir. These men were role models, fathers, business leaders and athletes who enjoyed the competitiveness and exercise they got through fast pitch softball. Never did I once see an act of unsportsmanlike conduct, even in the closest of games.

We all need to take a lesson from these fine gentlemen in conduct and sportsmanship. They were setting an example that we all need to follow today. None of us ever know when that 11-year-old is watching our every action and who we may be influencing through our conduct. They were an influence in my life and thank you all for the examples you set!

This sport is no longer played in Washington by men. However, our girls’ high school team is one of the best teams in our area. Let’s support these girls!

The best of times with the best of people and in the best of places, Washington, NC!

— Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.