|Congressman S. Hubert Dent Jr.|
I was looking through my local history notes earlier this week and a couple of sports-related items jumped out at me regarding today’s date, June 2.
It was on today’s date in 1915 that Congressman S.H. Dent was scheduled to deliver the commencement address during graduation exercises for the Southwest Alabama Agricultural School at the Conecuh County Courthouse in Evergreen. Earlier that day, a baseball game between a team from the school and a team from Brewton was scheduled to be played.
Today we take high schools for granted, but back in the old days high schools were few and far between. Evergreen had one of the few high schools around in 1915, and its student body was made up of students from not only Conecuh County, but also from surrounding counties.
Because of this, and because travel was more difficult over a century ago, commencement exercises were multi-day affairs that typically lasted three to four days. They usually began on Sundays with a baccalaureate service that featured a prominent speaker. Other events usually included Class Day programs, school plays, musical concerts and elementary school graduation ceremonies. All of this led up to the night of the high school graduation, which featured the delivery of diplomas and usually a prominent speaker.
More often than not, commencement exercises also usually included sporting events like baseball. Baseball games during commencement gave visitors to Evergreen something to do during the day while they waited for that night’s educational programs. Based on what I’ve read in old editions of the newspaper, these baseball games were quite different from the high school baseball games we watch today.
High school sports weren’t nearly as organized in 1915 as they are today, and while the item above mentions that the two teams included the school team from Evergreen and a team from Brewton, the line-up for either team really could have included just about anyone who wanted to play. While I’m sure that the Evergreen school team probably consisted of mostly students, it’s possible that its players also included a few male teachers and maybe some boys from Evergreen who didn’t necessarily attend school.
Given the way the news story about the game was worded, it’s possible that the Brewton team wasn’t associated with any school at all. Like Evergreen’s team, it may have been composed of teenagers and adults, some of whom may have just joined the team on a whim to play in Evergreen.
In case you were wondering, my research into this one game in particular didn’t reveal the final score. Since the result of the game wasn’t reported in the Evergreen newspaper, it’s my feeling that Brewton probably won.
Jumping way ahead, it was on this date in 1949 that Chester “Check” Ellis Jr. began working out with the Brewton Millers of the Alabama State Baseball League and signed with the Class D semi-pro club a few days later.
“Check,” a 22-year-old right-handed pitcher, talked with Miller manager Norman Veazy on Mon., May 20, and was told to report for practice on Thurs., June 2. “Check” had been attending Troy State Teachers College, and for the previous two months had pitched for the Colquitt, Ga. team “in a very fast semi-pro loop” in South Georgia.
Ellis was a star athlete at Evergreen High School, where he received his diploma, and played with the Evergreen Greenies in 1948 after completing a hitch in the Navy.
According to BaseballReference.com, Ellis played at least two seasons for the Brewton Millers, 1949 and 1950. He played in 11 games in 1949 and 41 in 1950. The 1950 season, when he was 23 years old, appears to have been his best year, a season in which he recorded seven wins on the mound.