|Evergreen's Ottis Johnson|
If you take a close look at this week’s Sports Flashback feature, you’ll notice an unusual baseball term that’s rarely used nowadays. In a 69-year-old sports story about a baseball game between the Evergreen Greenies and a team from McCullough played on July 10, 1947 it was reported that Evergreen’s Warren “Rabbit” Bolton broke a “season long hitting slump to lead the locals with four bingles.”
When our office manager Cheryl Johnston was proof-reading my Sports Flashback last Thursday afternoon, she asked the question that many of you have probably asked as well: What’s a bingle?
To be perfectly honest, I had to look it up because I thought it may have been a slang term for a group of extra base hits, sort of a catch all term for multiple hits that resulted in doubles and triples during the course of a game. As it turns out, I was wrong. A bingle is actually another word for single, that is, a base hit that ends up with the hitter on first base.
Evergreen ended up beating McCullough, 12-4, that day, and that game was the first of two wins that helped Evergreen close in on the team from Atmore, which was leading in the league standings at the time. In addition to Bolton, other top players for Evergreen in that game included brothers Ottis and Edsel Johnson, who are arguably the two best baseball players to ever come out of Evergreen. Edsel got the pitching win that day, his third pitching win of the season.
His 24-year-old brother, Ottis, who would be fatally injured in a baseball game in 1951, “grabbed a screaming line drive with his bare hand and threw to third to complete a double play for the fielding gem of the day.” (Most folks who saw Ottis Johnson in his heyday will tell you that he was the greatest baseball player to ever come out of Conecuh County. The barehanded play described above is just one example of the types of feats he was known for on the baseball field.)
Conecuh County sports legend Wendell Hart, who was just 29 years old at the time, was not only the team’s manager during the 1947 season, but he also pitched for the Greenies. A few days after Evergreen’s win over McCullough, Hart picked up his ninth pitching win of the season by shutting out the team from Frisco City, 9-0. This was his second shutout of the season. Edsel and Ottis Johnson again led the Greenies at the plate with a pair of hits each.
James “Lefty” Carpenter pitched the second game of the double header against Frisco, and the Greenies came up short, 8-6, mostly due to six costly errors.
The story went on to say that the Greenies were scheduled to play their arch rivals, the Monroeville team, on Sun., July 20, in Evergreen. What’s interesting about that to me is that I’ve run across information that indicates that Edsel Johnson, a native of Evergreen, actually played for Monroeville at times. As late as 1955, Edsel was playing for the Monroeville town team in what was then called the Dixie Amateur League, an interesting baseball league that included a team from the “State Farm,” that is, the state prison in Atmore.