“On September 13, 1936 I wrote in my diary, ‘Tiny left today for Ole Miss. It will be lonesome without her but will be starting to school tomorrow anyway.’ We began having a few dates that year and boys were our main concern. High school was a lot different from Junior High, and we especially liked sitting in the study hall with the football players. I had a crush on a different one every week. We went to our first football games on the old football field next to Davis School. Of course, I had no idea what the game was all about but it was fun getting with the crowd, and lots of boys from the little towns would come to the games.
“We walked to and from the games, just as we did to recitals and other events at the High School auditorium. It was considered perfectly safe on the street even at ten or eleven o’clock at night. The Paramount was the gathering place for everyone, and we went every time the show changed.
“Every spring the baseball players would arrive in town. Greenwood’s team was in the Cotton States League and was a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Some of them went on to the big leagues from here. There were always some cute boys coming in, and a lot of them stayed down the street from us at Mrs. Bilello’s boarding house.
“My friend Toodles Schear (later married to Sol Kantor) and I had seen some of them hanging around on Howard Street, and we wanted to meet them even though we knew our mothers would not let us date them. We knew that some of them had rooms at Spot Pettey’s house, so we went there one night pretending to look for Spot. The two ballplayers, named Hubbell and Anderson, asked us to give them a ride to town in Toodles’ car. We did, but we made them lie down on the floor in the back so that no one would see us and tell our mothers. I’m sure they had a good laugh about silly little high school sophomores. We started going to the ballgames but it was another year before we were allowed to date any of them.”
Sara’s “Boys of Summer” have no plaques at Cooperstown, and I’ve only found note of one who even made it to the majors. Her friend George Patton played for the Philadelphia Athletics (later Kansas City and now Oakland) for two short months in the summer of 1935, batting .300 with 2 RBIs. So by the time he was squatting behind the plate for the Greenwood Dodgers, he was 26 years old and sliding back down the professional baseball ladder. But doesn’t he look like he’s still having fun, waving that bat in some Greenwood front yard? Maybe the hot summers in podunk Southern towns were just the ticket for this young man, and I like to think that he told his Pennsylvania grandchildren about that cute Sara Evans, the Mississippi high school girl he squired about in 1938 and never saw again.
Sara didn’t know a field goal from a sacrifice fly, but she was always a good sport (no pun intended) about the baseball and football obsessions that Daddy and I shared. One of her jobs with the Commercial Appeal was providing a call-in line for high school football scores each Fall Friday night, and those evenings where we all sat at the kitchen table, answering one phone call after another from Greenville and New Albany and New Hope and Duck Hill and a hundred other little towns remain in my memory as some of our best times. When my son, Jim, played for the Tupelo Golden Wave, her first question every Saturday morning was, “Did Jimbo score a touchdown?” I never quite got it across to her that centers don’t carry the ball and fullbacks mainly block, but she never lost hope. If she had seen the size of those South Panola boys he was up against, she would have had a stroke.
Ed. note: Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we can know a bit about the careers of those handsome young men pictures above. George Patton was born in 1912 in Cornwall, Pennsylvania, had just a few weeks in the majors and spent a few seasons bouncing around the minors; 1938 seems to have been his last go-round and he was traded to Anniston and Mobile that summer.
Bill Tench, a right-handed pitcher was born in 1908 (tell me he wasn’t dating high school girls!) and never made it out of the low minors. 1938 was his last season.
Woody Combs, a left-handed fielder, was born in 1915 and bounced around the minor leagues as a persistent .200s hitter from 1935 until 1939. He must have gone off to war and then returned for one more shot in 1947, when he had just 42 at-bats and batted .119. Guess it was time to go home then.
Clark Esser is the mystery man here. Baseballreference.com does not show him as ever playing for the Greenwood Dodgers. He was born in 1917 and played during the 1937 and 1938 seasons as a fielder, but no mention of Greenwood. Since his 1938 average at Kinston (?state) was .189, he may have just been on his way home and stopped by to visit some old teammates.
Bob Salveson was a gift from baseball to Greenwood. He was a California native, born in 1915, who arrived in Greenwood as a fielder for the Dodgers in 1938. He played for minor league teams in Greenville, Helena and Monroe, with (I presume) a military stint in between, before giving it up in 1946 at Leavenworth. Thank goodness, he married a Greenwood girl, Myrtie, and returned to the Delta, where he was Leflore County Tax Assessor and one of Sara’s dearest friends until his death in 2004.