|Mike Fields of Evergreen, Ala.|
Today – May 12, 2016 – marks the 47th anniversary of the untimely death of one of the most noteworthy athletes to ever come out of Evergreen: Mike Fields.
According to two front-page news stories in May 1969 issues of The Evergreen Courant, U.S. Army Sgt. Mike Fields was killed in action near Saigon on May 12, 1969. Fields, the son of Mr. and Mrs. W.H. Fields of Evergreen, joined the Army in February 1968 and was close to having completed his tour of duty in Vietnam. At the time of his death, he was the fourth Conecuh Countian to have been killed in action in Vietnam.
Fields graduated from Evergreen High School in 1965, and he attended Jefferson Davis Junior College for two years before entering the Army. Friends described him as a “quiet, industrious young man, who was well liked by his school mates and all who knew him.”
During his short time in the military, Fields had compiled an “outstanding” Army record, qualifying as an expert rifleman during basic training and “drawing complimentary remarks from his superiors throughout his service.” He had been serving in combat in Vietnam for about 10 months prior to his death.
Both stories about Fields in The Courant pointed out that Fields was an “outstanding athlete,” and I found this to be somewhat of an understatement. In all the time that I’ve spent over the years compiling information for The Courant’s weekly Sports Flashback feature, I’ve encountered Fields’ name in old sports stories dozens and dozens of times.
Based on what I’ve been able to piece together about his athletic career, Fields was an outstanding baseball and football player during his heyday in Evergreen, and it’s likely that he was also a standout in other sports. References to Fields’ on-field heroics can be found at least as far back as 1961 when he played baseball for the Tigers in the Evergreen Senior Baseball League.
Fields was among the best youth league baseball players in Evergreen, and he blossomed into a great player when he reached high school. Fields was so good that in May 1965 he and Evergreen High School teammate Steven Baggett played in the Lions Club East-West All-Star Game in Montgomery. Fields, a catcher and outfielder, and Baggett, a third baseman, both played on the West Team.
Fields also played football at Evergreen High School in the early 1960s and the first football-related reference to him I was able to find was in March 1962 when he was one of 56 players taking part in spring football practice at Evergreen, under head coach John Law Robinson. Some of his teammates at that time included John Brock, Stan Coker, Scott Cook, Jimmy Ellis, Bobby Hammonds, Billy Kendall, Sid Lambert, Tommy Hartley, Ronnie Shaver, Wayne Tolbert and Jimmy Warren.
Fields is still fondly remembered by many of his old teammates, many of whom attended his funeral. In fact, he body was escorted back to Evergreen by good friend and former schoolmate Walter Van Davis, who was also stationed in Vietnam in 1969. His pallbearers included Scott Cook, Scott Cox, Larry Ellis, Ronnie Hayes, Michael Covin, Kenny Harper, Wayne Tolbert and Mitchell Kilpatrick.