Among the trash on the floor of the clubhouse lay a dirty blue pennant, emblazed with the words "1950 Western Carolina League Champions."
A Conover fan observed this on a visit to the now demolished Legion Stadium, along Highway 321 South in Newton, "It is now just a memory."
The stadium was built like a one-sided barn, it was open in front to view the green field grass and brown running paths and bold white lines that marked "their" stage. Looking around , the fan remembered the bright night lights, the smell of peanuts and the taste of Henry Bumgarners salty popcorn. He could visualize the crowds, which included kids of all ages. In addition, he recalled "words" like "This is Earl Holder and WNNC radio". And the ever-present announcement, "And now our National anthem!"
They are now the ghosts of a once-proud
Catawba County baseball team in Newton, N.C.
The players on the "stage" were the loved NEWTON-CONOVER TWINS.
They began in the late thirties.
Lets go there!
1939-1940 Newton-Conover Team Photo
Here are some names of the men who came to form up the NC Twins.
The new Tar Heel League has its debut on Saturday April 29th, 1939 vs. Statesville with this starting line-up; Center-fielder, I G "Ike" Cross, 19, Katachwain Inlet, N.C.; Leftfielder, James Miller, 21, Indian Head, Md.; Right-fielder, John Alvin Bolick, CONOVER, N.C.; First-baseman, Glenn Stafford, 24, Taylorsville, N.C.; Second-baseman, James Patrict Henry, 23, Danville, Va.; Shortstop Tufect "Mike" Scaff, 23, LaCross, Wis.; Third-baseman, John Mack Arnett, 26, Manager, Valdese, N.C.; Catcher, Clarence "Blackie" Milwood, 25, Converse, S.C. and Pitcher, Ralph Fox. Walter "Ray" Lindsey was the Bullpen Utility Pitcher. Utility players included: Bud Blalock (OF) and Ed Runyon, 20, Hot Springs, Ark.
FINAL SCORE was NC TWINS 4, Statesville 3.
Other men who later signed with the N-C Twins were, George Woodend, Conn., Edwin Black, Valdese, Fred Swindle, Mass., Frank Huserick, Chicago, Ill., "PeeWee" Edwards, S.C., Monroe "Mack" Merrill, Marshall, N.C., Jim Miller, Md., OF Gary Brenneaier, Md. (LF), Skippy Burns (3B), Freemont Cannon, (Pitcher), and Dean Flock. Later, 2B Kelly Smith, Lincolnton, 1B Curtis Sanders, Chick Suggs, Manager, Hickory, Al Reity (P) and Al Crutchfield and Red Mathison, as Field Managers, and BUTLER COOK, Pitcher, from NEWTON, N.C. Lloyd Little, (OF), Clyde Setzer, (P) Emmett McClaslin (P), and Hun "cushion-foot" Taylor and Wade Lefler, all from NEWTON. Other player names are noted on other team photos.
Men built the park; boys heard the cry, "let's play ball!" For no other reason "they" came, but for the love of the game! The game, invented in 1839 by Abner Doubleday of Cooperstown, N.Y., was soon to be a reality in the small town of Newton. Young men from Maine to Georgia, from Wisconsin and the Carolinas they came to Newton to form a baseball team.
That team would forever be the NEWTON- CONOVER TWINS.
The song "Take me out to the ballgame" now had new meaning here. For in the years of 1948 to 1951, over 82,400 fans came to see their team. By 1951, the number had fallen to less than 32,000. During the last year, 1962, the attendance was even worse.
Many may recall Henry Bumgarner who was in charge of popcorn and peanut sales, commanding for more salt, more salt! "They'll drink more soft drinks like that." he said. Even more memorable were thoughts from Martin Pannell, recalling when he and Jack Arndt had attended what would be the most historic ballgame ever played in Newton. Now the TWINS needed three runs to win, top of the ninth inning, a nearly impossible feat against the strong rival Lincolnton team. The bases held two runners. With two outs, the two young boys had walked around the back of the stadium and for just one more look, peered across the top of the weathered wooden fence along left field. Judd Harmon was now on the mound for Lincolnton. Earl Holder was noting each pitch for radio WNNC. Then Eddie Yount came to bat. Everyone in the bleachers was standing. The crowd was in a frenzy. Yount took the count to two strikes, one ball. Holder turned to a fellow announcer and said, " The next one is outa here!" Pannell and Arndt then heard that mighty C-R-A-C-K !!!! Looking up into the clear night sky, they saw just inches from their heads, the little white baseball from Yount's bat, speeding at an estimated fifty miles per hour. Running at top speed down the dirt hillside, Arndt retrieved the baseball!
GAME OVER, TWINS WIN!!
These are just memories now. For the intent of this posting is not to give the entire history of the team but to highlight the memory of the men themselves and their determination to win. Not if they won every game but how wonderfully they played the game. Many came and many left but a few chose to stay to make their homes here in Catawba County.
Now for some interesting facts related to the Newton-Conover Twins:
NC TWINS formed in 38 39 from the old NC State League.
In 1947, named Dick Marlow and Bell to TWINS pitching staff. Ray Abernathy, Mgr., along with Fred "Juice" McCall, Hank Nickols and Joe Plick of Gastonia. Plick was one of the Twins most constant hitters in the WCL and best overall in 1951. He was an outstanding first baseman.
In 1948, Ray Lindsey was the most feared pitcher in the league. He dominated the league at 21-9 with 255 strikeouts. Again in 1951 was best in the league. Lindsey pitched 14 innings in one game and relieved by Bill Cooke to win in the 15th with a homerun by Eddie Yount. Walter Lindsey spent 11 seasons in baseball, four in the Western Carolina League. He retired with a record of 154-98 walked on 490 batters, 1,904 strikeouts and ERA (earned run average) of just 2.97. His life time average was 246-109, 2966 strike-outs and ERA of 2.30.
The old WPA (CCC) built park was located (near Hardee's) along West "D" St.
and S. Bost Avenue. The TWINS moved into the new park in 1949-50 season.
Here's a rare opportunity to take a look at the 1949 Newton-Conover Twins. This recently discovered photo, courtesy of Don Barker, is the only known picture of the Twins. [My dear friend, Charles Cline, was the bat boy --Derick S. Hartshorn].
NEWS; SHELBYS ONLY SOUTHPAW TO SIGN WITH THE NEWTON-CONOVER TWINS.
Bill Cooke, a graduate of Belwood High School, signed on as another lefty mounds man.
He is the son of Mr. And Mrs. McCoy Cooke, of Belwood, N.C.
History was made in a 1951 baseball game double header by the Graniteers vrs Newton-Conover Twins. Three black players were fielded for the Granite Falls team. They were Russell Shuford, catcher, Chris Rankin, pitcher and center fielder Gene Abernathy. The Twins took both games, 6-2, 9-4.
OTHER PLAYERS COME TO NEWTON TO SIGN WITH TWINS
Bill Reichert, (3rd B) Bob Laney, Catcher, and Furr, (CF)., Pitcher Leo Kantorski, from Lenoir Rhyne College (Semi-Pro career), Bill Forche, Jim Sharpe, Eddie Walzak, Bill Greene, Roger McKee, JIM LEDBETTER, Bill Forgay, Roger McGee, Hugh Poovey, Charlie Bost, Harvey "Ike"Isenhour and Bobby Price.
Don Stafford hit the first homerun in the new Legion Park.
The Hickory Daily Record states that on February 15, 1951 Frank "Goon" Little came from Albemarle to sign with the Twins. Also signing then were Homer Daughtery of Morganton along with Brooks Harrington.
EDDIE YOUNT, number 30 and its manager, '48-'51 retired with a lifetime average of .402; 169 hits, scored 139 times, had 140 RBI's (runs batted in) and 143 home runs.
Willard Elmore contracted to supply 91,000 board feet of lumber for the new Legion ballpark. He was never paid. The lumber was cut near the Mill Creek area of Bandys.
Another storybook home run was on Monday night, August 2, 1948, TWINS against Shelby. There were two outs in the ninth inning. Glenn Hopkins got on first by an error. Lester Bangs singled and sent Hopkins to third. Again, needing three runs to win, Don Stafford came to bat and, with the count two strikes and three balls, the win looked hopeless. Stafford looked over and grinned at Eddie Yount, but the next pitch came down the middle. W-H-A-M-O !! The baseball left the bat and out of the park. TWINS WIN. Pitching that night was Harley Holt and Harry McKee for the TWINS.
In 1950, George DePiello was in his second year with the TWINS. He held a .351 batting average, next in line with Eddie Yount at .438. He was a big husky fellow from Detroit, Michigan. One of the strongest hitters for the home team has probably hit the hardest ball at the local park this year. The one that went almost out of sight, nearly straight up and cleared the fence by at least fifty feet.
Roger Saunders, club director announces (1948) that Thomas Bixby and Jimmy Ledbetter have been traded to the Hendersonville Skylarks for Lester Bangs, infielder and Pete "Frosty" Hendershot , outfielder. Released too was Richard Flynn, right-handed pitcher. Harley Holt, a Granite Falls southpaw and Harry McKee, a right-handed mounds- man from the Shelby Farmers, were added to the pitching staff, along with Stone, a pitcher. Added too was Ben Nelson another hurler.
During a ballgame, in late July 1948, young Wayne Brown, son of Mr. And Mrs. Ray Brown of Newton, was given an autographed baseball by his very favorite TWINS player, Charlie Bost. It read, "My loyal fan" and signed "Charlie". The young boy went all over the bleachers showing the folks his prize. One fan said "Ill give you ten dollars for it". Young Brown replied, "I wouldnt take a hundred dollars for it".
"Bill", "Charlie", "Eddie"; the roster shows three players by each of these first names. The first group, Bill Greene, Bill Harris and Bill Forgay. The second group, Charlie Outzs, SS, Charlie Bost, OF and Charlie Ballard, center fielder. The third group includes Eddie Yount, the popular manager and catcher, Eddie Walszak, third baseman and Eddie Joyce, a shortstop.
Player-making is a knack for TWINS MANAGER
Castoffs are showing great form within the team.
Shelbys castaways head the list. There is Bobby Price, an infielder, who hit only .160 in twenty games with the Farmers, was released and snatched up by Skipper Yount. In his next twenty games, he rapped out a merry .360. Price used a triple and two singles to grab the heros role in beating Shelby in their first encounter. And not least was Belwoods own BILL COOKE. Shelby passed him up, signed by Morganton, sold to Newton-Conover and he wrought his revenge by clipping the hometown Farmers twice in the season. And too, Harvey "Ike" Isenhour, TWINS right-handed catcher. They like the General in Mooresville, but not as a ball player, so he too got his ticket. NC TWINS said "lookit"! Now "Ike" boasts a .346 average with fifty-four hits in 156 trips and half of those were hits for extra bases, ten were homers.
Fred "Juice" McCall was Director of Sports at Campbell College and invented a rebound machine used in the basketball- training program.
In 1940, the Newton-Conover Twins were playing so badly they dropped out of the season.
JOHN ALVIN BOLICK
JOHN ALVIN BOLICK, (OF-WCL) of Conover, hit the longest ball (HR) ever hit in the Shelby stadium, measured at 499 feet. He had a lifetime batting average of .380; 11RBIs in one game, hit round robin, single, double, triple and a home-run against the Shelby Farmers.
On March 10, 1952, according to the "Catawba County News", Judge J.C. Rudisill gave notice to the Newton-Conover Amusement Co. Inc., that due to the heavy indebtedness of same, that the Legion Park be sold and placed in receivership.
On Monday, April 7, 1952, the announcement was given that the park be leased to Carolina Mills Recreation Association and that they, (CMRA) will form up a brand new league to be known as the Blue Ridge Semi-Pro League.
The Twins played during a brief period during the 1960 season, showing a small profit, this according to the Observer News Enterprise.
The following men were on the Athletic Committee for the City of Newton during the years 1949 1951. Weaver Mann, Chairman, Ab Clark, Hubert Corpening, Bill Robinson, C.M. Rowe, Dan Sherill, M.D.Sides, Millard Holland, R.N. Gurley, J.D.Miller, Clinton Drum, Perry Reitzel, Sterling Whisnant, Fred Garvin, Joe Erbesfield and W.W. Saunders.
Let us go forward. For in the years 1952- 1959, the Newton-Conover Twins did not play. In the Observer-News-Enterprise it was announced on March 15, 1961, the formation of the Newton-Conover Athletic Association, in an attempt to reconstruct the ball club. C. Robert Powell will be the president, Leslie Brady, V. Pres., Howard Stutts, Secretary and Treasurer. On March 31, 1961, (O-N-E) notice was given that Charles Burke of Maiden will head up the "TWINS" club as its new business manager. Powell also said TWINS are a part of the six team Western Carolina Class "D"League, with a full team of fifteen players. Joe Abernethy of Newton, manager last year (1960) for the Hickory Rebels, has been signed field manager for the baseball club.
Teams signing for the WCL season were: Statesville, Belmont, Lexington, Salisbury, Shelby and Newton.
NEWS: O-N-E; An auction will be held for the old Newton Park to be sold, on April 26, 1961.
The new TWINS season will open on May 1, 1961, with Joe Hester being selected the "Voice of the Twins" public address announcer.
Players were beginning to come on board for signing. Glenn Wayne Campbell (NCHS) signs. Others for 1961 are as follows. Ray Estes, Norman James, Danny Heffner of Newton, Mike Costa from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jack Williams of Maiden, Jim Boyles (P), Hank Nickols, (who will be the new manage in 1962), Dave Pavlesic, Tom Hall (P). Willie Hayes from Durham at third base, Steve Bolick at second base, Joe Abernathy, right field. Joe Hadley, (CF). Jim Boyles (P), Bob Horne (P), James Baldwin (P), Jim Krouse (P), Mike McKee (P) and Phil Cobb. Glenn Campbell, Marty Geiber, and Norm Maderski.
During this season, Charles Burke announced "Ole Timers Night" at the American Legion park when the former NC Twins will do battle with players from the old Lincolnton Cardinals. Playing for the Twins were; Charlie Bost, Hickory, LF, Don Stafford, Hickory, 1B. Harvey Isenhour, Mooresville, CF. Hubert Poovey of Newton Pitcher. Bud (Paul) Jarrett, Outfield; Bobby Price, Gilbert S.C., (SS); Roger McKee, Shelby,(1B) Charlie Ballard, (OF) Lefty Bill Cooke, Newton, (P) and Brooks Harrington, (2B), Jim Sharpe, (3B); Jim Ledbetter, Newton, (OF); Tim Holt, Granite Falls, (P) and Dab Laney, (C).
For the 1962 season the lineup was as follows; Pasquel Ramerize, third base; Dave Pook and Mickey Denton, both are catchers. Budd Daniels, Norm Olsen, Dave Boesich (P); Mike Page, Britt Madison, Denny Jenson, Jim Barrier, Jim Sweezy and Don Lowere and a few unknown others were contracted.
At the end of the 1962 season, attendance per game had fallen to a mere two hundred per game. Despite the teams extraordinary efforts and their determination to continue, this once celebrated ball club was doomed. There was no public announcement of the demise of the team. They seemly just quietly turned out the lights and faded into time.
This ended any further participation of the Newton-Conover Twins in Baseball.
Let's look at some of the team pictures over the years
Today, with the rules of league baseball and funding, it is almost a certainty that Newton will never again have a baseball team. Who would really care? With the ease of travel nowadays, minor league, triple "A" games and yes, even the major league games are just minutes or hours away. We can now sit in our homes, recreation rooms, sports- bars to enjoy the sport of "ball".
You will never again know the true character of the players and see their abilities in the game or to muse among the stadium crowd, sense the smell of hotdogs and onions, popcorn, roasted peanuts and enjoy a cold drink.
Most of all, you will miss looking into a starry night sky and watching a little white baseball speeding into history.
Many years later, fate would smile on our community and we would have the opportunity to relive the wonderful moments that brought us to our feet. Just like it did when the home team hit the ball out of the park with the bases loaded, we gathered again. This time, fans joined together in a new ball park. The L.P. Frans stadium didn't exist when the Twins played. In 2003, it celebrated a wonderful reunion with the players, the announcers and the fans. Once again, for a short space of time, our memories came alive.
Join us in remembering the Twins of old.
Many thanks to Henry Revels (former baseball player), Bill Cooke, (former NC TWIN),
The Observer News Enterprise. To Sylvia Ray, who taught me the method of putting
it in writing, to Mary Canrobert for the vision, and mostly to
Mary Cline Lindsey, for the wonderful pictures and memories of "Ray" and
to the men and boys of baseball who came to play.
FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME.
Text & images © DON BARKER 2002-2008
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