There’s a great deal of things on my mind today as I sit down to decide which direction I want this column to go. So, I think I’ll just toss some scatter-brained information out there that may or may not be of significance to at least some people.
First, I think it’s important now that spring has finally sprung to recognize the fact that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Miss Softball America program in Logan County. That meager beginning of girls softball, which was due mostly to the efforts of former Logan County physical education coordinator Bea Orr, has since launched great high school girls programs at Man, Logan and Chapmanville, even producing state championships.
I also must note that it was at this current time of year when men’s softball leagues used to be gearing up across the county with leagues being formed in Chapmanville, Man and Logan, usually with at least 10 teams participating in each league. There also used to be a Women’s League with several participating players from various parts of the county. Men’s fastpitch softball teams in Logan had long been renowned throughout the state and elsewhere. Those talented squads also were thriving into the 1990s.
Amazingly, there currently are no adult leagues that I’m aware of in Logan County. That leaves me wondering as to just what the heck happened. I will go on record stating that the lack of participation in various independent leagues, including basketball leagues, has not helped to alleviate the county’s drug problems. Keeping people involved — whether in the sports field, drama, or any other organized criteria — is beneficial in more ways than one, especially for younger folks.
So what happened? How do three different men’s softball leagues with at least 30 total teams that had 10 starting players per team, not counting reserves, just suddenly disappear? I mean, there were 300 or more players involved in the leagues at one point.
And what happened to the basketball leagues? Interestingly, things started falling apart about the same time that the countywide drug problems began to escalate. Could there be a connection?
One problem might be tied to the dissolving of the Logan County Park Board sometime in the 1990s. The board had been in existence since at least the 1960s, going all the way back to the days of educator, politico and Park Board Director Bus Perry — the father of two of Logan Senior High School’s best athletes ever, Chuck and Jim Perry. The Park Board, which managed and took care of the high school gymnasiums and all ball fields and playgrounds throughout the county, was co-funded by the Board of Education and Logan County Commission before being dismantled.
I was way too young to know either of the Perry brothers when they were Logan High School athletes back in the mid to late 1950s, but I do remember their father because he was what was called a “precinct captain” on the election grounds of Verdunville Grade School every Election Day when I was but a grade school kid living just off the schoolhouse hill. It was a hill I would eventually traverse for six years when walking to and from the elementary school for classes.
What I vividly recall as a curious youngster is the political election day battles on the school grounds between Perry and Alvis Porter, the uncle of former Logan Circuit Clerk Alvis Porter, who was named for his uncle. Today, “little” Alvis, named for his father, the former circuit clerk, serves as the county administrator of the Logan County Commission, and he seems to enjoy the Election Day stories of yesteryear that have since dramatically changed.
I started appearing at the Verdunville grounds in the fourth grade, and I have never missed being there in any election since — not a single one — even much later riding a Trailways bus each Election Day from Marshall University to be there and to, of course, vote. You might say I have over the years witnessed Election Day politics at its best or worst from what could be described as a “front row seat.” Being on the election grounds and witnessing what transpired in nearly all primary elections and a few general elections is basically what motivated me as a youngster to not only desire a political goal in life but even to seek a college education.
I honestly thought that by receiving a college education, I would somehow just major in political science and come back home with all of the “political” know-how to change Logan County and make it a better place to live. It wasn’t long at Marshall University before I realized that political science really had little to do with real politics but was required learning if one chose to be an attorney, which I certainly did not want to do.
Anyway, Perry’s slate of candidates could never defeat Porter’s slate of candidates, at least not at Verdunville, although both Porter and Perry lived in that section of the county (Mud Fork) during the 1960s. In fact, Verdunville precinct during the decade of the ’60’s became known as “Portersville.”
Porter would in the 1960 time period be elected to what was then referred to as the County Court, today known as the County Commission — and that is an entirely different story altogether — while Perry is best remembered for the accomplishments of his son, Chuck. And what a fine narrative that is.
After a monumental display in football, basketball and baseball at Logan High School, Perry would go on to attend Bowling Green State University, where he fared so well in his every endeavor that he would, following graduation in 1959, stay on at the school raising funds for the university, which eventually would honor him by naming a building for the man who would later become world famous pro golfer Jack Nicklaus’s chief operating officer at a company founded in 1970.
Perry left the company known as Golden Bear in 1989 when the business empire had an annual revenue of $400 million a year. However, on the campus of Florida International University in Miami where he was buried in 1999, he is better known as the founding president of that university. He is buried on the campus there at the southeast corner of what was named the Charles E. Perry building.
There’s another key reason why the name of Bus Perry should be of significance in Logan County. Very few people know this, but the truth is Perry played a significant role in getting Willie Akers to come to Logan County and coach at Logan High School in a move that not everyone at the time agreed with. In fact, a group of Logan High School students — some of whom were involved with Logan head basketball coach Jim Lilly in Sunday school activities at the First Christian Church of Logan — took it upon themselves to go to Perry’s Hedgeview home on Mud Fork and paint certain protest slogans on the walls of his garage.
It is sufficient to know that both coach Akers and Lilly retired as two of the winningest high school basketball mentors ever in West Virginia. Both Akers at Logan and Lilly at Oak Hill deservingly have basketball arenas named for them at the two respective schools.
Meanwhile, as I get back to sorting out why there are no more independent softball or basketball leagues operating in Logan County, I must point out that I participated for years on at least one of the same talented softball teams that former county commissioner Art Kirkendoll excelled with. I, too, played independent league softball and basketball against current County Commissioner Danny Ellis’s brother, Ted Ellis, who for a lifetime also coached Chapmanville High School baseball. And, when you also consider current county commissioner Danny Godby, who played professional baseball, as well as coached at various levels at both Chapmanville and Logan and even refereed independent league games, I’m certain my well-respected friend knows the value of sports in one’s life.
Nevertheless, without knowing all of the facts, it just seems to me that somehow — pardon the athletic pun — the ball got dropped when it comes to what once thrived as independent league athletics in Logan County.
Lest we forget, ballfields and gymnasiums actually belong to the tax-paying people.
Organized independent league athletics is a meaningful pastime that, in my humble opinion, needs to be re-invented in Logan County and elsewhere.
Who knows? It just might even save on the county’s jail bill.
Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.