February 1, 2009

Baseball In Clarksville

Company store ball field, late 40's

There are at least 300 people in the photo above. On the left, the first building is a private residence, next is Dusha's Auto Body earlier it was a bowling alley and Yerkish's Beer Distributor ) then Jake Kensic's hotel. The building that was Louis Kauffman's store is just beyond Kensic's Hotel and then Steve " Caddilac " Kochis ' store. The darkest color building beyond that is the old water company. That building was built in 1927 and was the original Washington Supply company store.
This interesting picture shows the ballfield from a different angle. At the counter behind the backstop they sold pop and I think beer during the games. . In the vacant field to the right is where the annual firemans' carnivals were held. The large building in the left corner of the photo is the Louis Kauffman store. Visible on the hill is the large old Clarksville schoolhouse. Image from Stanley Fowler collection.

Ralph Minerd, Steve Cromika, Frank Cromika, John ?, Louie Missini, Bill Minerd, Bobby Dollar. This 1949 photo courtesy of Sarah Minerd Potter.

Vestaburg team at Clarksville

Crucible team
If you liked baseball it was great to grow up in Clarksville. As early as 1890 Clarksville residents formed a team known as the Invincibles. Dr.F.L.Blachley was manager. Members were I.G.Murray, Henry Murray, Elmer Holder, Charles Holder, A.P.Burson, Alex Simmons, William Hupp, Harry Hupp, Mont Greenlee, Austin Moredock, John Burson, Charley Crumrine, Frank Arnold and Walter McCullough. They offered to meet all challengers from other Greene County teams.
The entire Mon valley area has always been big on sports and there's likely been baseball played in Clarksville since the patch was built. In the 40's and 50's several local business' sponsored young men's teams. In the 1950's it was the home field of the Clarksville Merchants team. For a nice picture of that group, go here.  Early on the coal companys organized teams and most larger patch towns had a team at one time. These games were surprisingly well attended.

Clarksville Eagles Club team late 40's.

In the early 1960's baseball was everything to us. The older guys had a pony league. The little league had four teams, all drawn from just Clarksville ( both sides of the creek ), Besco and Pitt Gas. The men of the area organized the teams in the old Miner's Union hall in Clarksville. The names of those fine men that I can recall are John Chulick, Big Nate Calloway, Mel Remington, Willoghby Price,Walter Dusha and my father, John L. "Hoss" Durdines. I know there were many others and regret that I cannot name more. They let the kids pick the team names so we came to be called the Pirates, Braves, Yankees and the Orioles. We played both behind the company store and at a field the men built behind G. I. Town. "Shoes" Doman used to come down from his farm on his tractor and cut the grass and drag the infield before every game. They built a new backstop and concrete block dugouts that lasted till a few years ago. We, as a team, in our uniforms, with ball gloves of course, piled in these good men's family cars and several times went on trips to Forbes Field to Pittsburgh Pirate games . I remember seeing Willy Mays and Stan Musial and many other big stars play there. We were hauled to a super market opening at Richeyville where we saw, on a flatbed truck, Roberto Clemente, Bob Friend and Bill Mazeroski. I got handshakes and autographs from all three and that was pretty exciting. Those coal miner's did pretty well for their sons and neighbors.

Here is the Clarksville Orioles team of 1961.

From Left to right : First row : Billy Murphy. John Chesney, Larry Durdines, Bert Kiefer.

Second row : Wally Meyers, Bruce Hager, Nick Vuckovich, Dave Saunders , * Harris

Third row : Phil Knapik, Russ Deems, Monk Santucci, Bobby Garrett, Phil Rebottini, Mickey Beringo

Back Row : Coach John L. " Hoss " Durdines

They started you early on baseball too, I was 18 months old here, the picture and the shadow by my Daddy, Hoss, 1953 . Hoss was remembered by all his friends as a serious fan of baseball. I remember his joy when the Pirates won the World Series in 1960. He recalled to me the last time they had won, in 1927 when he was 15 years old. I still have his wallet from when he died in November 1963, in that wallet is a Pittsburgh Pirates schedule for 1964. He was ready.

Clarksville Ballfield 2009  All images property of author unless noted

All things must pass


Anonymous said...

Great Baseball stories and photos--we did live for Baseball. We lived next to the ball field in GI Town and left in the spring of 1960when I was 9 years old. I believe Vuckovich first name was Nick? Wish I could find those baseball cards. Rich Lunden

Larry The Kidman said...

Thanks for the nice words. Yes , it was a nice little world there back then.