I had asked Sue Caldwell for a moment she would never forget, and she gave me this story about how Lincolnton’s first baseball team came to be.
Caldwell tells me her dad, Giles Ballard, owned a country store located across the street from their house. The store was the hangout for the young people in their community. She and her sisters often helped their dad in the store, so they knew everyone.
A group of the locals were in the store one day and someone mentioned a baseball team would be fun. It was from this discussion that the idea took root and her dad became the team’s manager. After this they began to raise money for the team, and most of the fundraisers took place at Caldwell’s house.
Almost every Saturday night, they had box suppers available to help raise the money needed. Her mother would help Caldwell and her sisters, Jan and Bobbi, decorate their shoeboxes. Her mother would then fill the boxes with fried chicken, potato salad, rolls and a slice of cake.
As people from the community arrived, the bidding would begin and the sisters could hardly wait to see who would purchase their boxes. Caldwell told me most of the bidders were older than she and her sisters, but that didn’t matter to them. The girls found the anticipation of seeing which of their boxes would bring the most money was what interested them the most.
Cakewalks would follow after everyone had eaten dinner. The auctioneer would choose a cake and the bidding began.
As the evening progressed, Bob Martin, who operated the Bost Vineyard, would set up his band on the front porch and the dancing would begin. Caldwell said everyone there looked forward to it.
Eventually they had raised enough money to buy equipment, and the Buffalo Chiefs became a team. Caldwell’s dad turned one of his fields into their home turf for the games. The team and volunteers cleared the field of rocks and pretty soon it was time to play ball. Before each game Caldwell’s dad, Howard Goodson and her Uncle Joe would prepare the field. There was no water to wet the infield so she said it was as if they were playing in a dust bowl.
Before each home game, the team would move a large coke machine in place, add three huge blocks of ice and fill it with drinks. Caldwell, Jan and Bobbi spent Saturdays working the drink box. All the proceeds went to helping the team stay afloat.
The first game played by the Buffalo Chiefs was in the summer of 1948 against the Squire Wentz team. The original players for the Chiefs were Clyde Auton, Garfield and Junior Scott, Cliff, Rob, and Buck Shortie, Willie and Gordon Beal, W.T. and Grady Shrum, Gordon Martin and Novie Christopher.
Caldwell told me the above recollection was one of her happiest moments. When her dad passed away in 1994 over five hundred people came to pay their respects to a man they lovingly nicknamed “Gov.”
Paulette Ballard collects interesting, funny and unusual stories from people in and around Lincolnton. If you have a story you would like to submit for her column, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line type “For your column.” Include your name and phone number for her to contact you.