KOM League Class D Baseball

Current stories about the men who played minor league baseball in the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri league from 1946-52. Many went on to very long baseball careers while others were successes in other fields. This blog keeps up with them through what is called "The KOM League Flash Report."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Winding down 2006


Found another former KOM Leaguer

Sometime you have a feeling. What a statement, eh? Let me explain. I have come to believe that there can't be very many former KOM Leaguers that I can locate. This afternoon I had a call from former Ponca City Dodger and TV and movie actor Dick Tretter. He lives in Shady Cove, Oregon and calls quite frequently just to keep me from being bored. In a comment during our conversation he mentioned a statement in a recent KOM League Remembered newsletter. He said it said something to the effect that Yours Truly would look for former KOM Leaguers until he took his dying breath. Well, that might be a bit dramatic. However, I still retain a curiosity about those individuals who I've never located.

There isn't a former KOM League player who has not reached the three score and ten plateau (plus a couple of years.)

After my conversation with Tretter, and a bowl of spaghetti (the homemade variety), I was emboldened (or is that bored?) and I sat down at the computer and decided I'd find at least one former KOM Leaguer. One thing you can count on, if you possess a former player's Social Security number, that if they don't show up on the Death Index they are alive. (Elemental, Mr. Watson.)

I opened my database of names and saw Paul Conley Hensley of the 1951 Bartlesville Pirates. Fortunately, I found a few Paul C. Hensleys in the Public Records section of Ancestry.com. I started going through that list of names and located one with a birth date of 7/24/31. My records indicated his birthday was 7/29/31 and I figured it was worth a shot. In moments, the telephone was ringing in Charlotte, North Carolina at the home of a former banker and insurance executive. Of course, without telling you, it was the same gentleman who had played at Bartlesville for a brief time in 1951.

One of the first things he mentioned was a conversation he had recently with a friend about the KOM League. I inquired as to why the league had come up in that conversation and he related that it had to do with where Mickey Mantle started his pro career.

Hensley was a 6' 5" right hander who was born and raised in the coal fields of Appalachia, Virginia. He had served during the Korean War and got out early in '51 and reported to Brunswick, Georgia in the Georgia-Florida League. He recalled not getting along with his manager, Mickey O'Neill. Hensley was a huge Red Sox fan and expressed his displeasure with Joe McCarthy by the way he handled his starting assignment in the one-game playoff against Cleveland in 1948. Hensley recalled criticizing McCarthy for not going with a rested Mel Parnell or Ellis Kinder. Instead he started Danny Galehouse. Hensley was having this conversation in the earshot of manager O'Neill and O'Neill informed him that no rookie had any right to criticize one of the greatest managers in the game. To make a long story somewhat shorter, Hensley was out of Brunswick the next day and on his way to Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

By the time Hensley reached professional baseball he knew his arm was gone. He said that by the time he graduated from high school his arm was shot. Aside from Brunswick and Bartlesville he recalls a couple of other brief stops on the minor league trail, including Waco of the Big State league. I informed him I'd check on his career and let him know where he had been.

Hensley is one of the "rare" individuals actually to express their pleasure of being located. In a short time a KOM League "CARE" package will be headed to Charlotte, NC--almost in time for Christmas. By the way, he was not aware that his former teammate, Ronnie Kline, had passed away.

The Miami project

In the previous Flash Report it was mentioned that Jim Ellis of the Miami, Oklahoma News-Record is going to do a special feature on the 1947 KOM League pennant and playoff winners, the Miami Owls, in February A rather lengthy list of names was shared by Ellis and I filled in some first names. Bob Curley recalls a couple of other fellows who made the trek to Miami but didn't make the club. He wrote "John, 1947 I sent two friends to Miami, thinking they could make the ball club. They were Jack Landers an outfielder, and Archie (Bud) Noonan a pitcher. I think they both went back and forth between Miami and another class D Okla. team. They were both back here in God's country before the season started. Bob Curley

The Christmas card stack

Herb Heiserer--'50 Independence Yankees reads the Flash Reports carefully and noted that I hadn't mentioned his Christmas card. As it turns out he was the first person to send me a Christmas card and I had put it in the stack with the birthday cards I had received by virtue of getting a year older and a "heap" uglier in late November. Sorry I missed you on the first couple of listings, Herb.

Walter Babcock--'51 Carthage Cubs. He, who scolded many others for not sending cards, sent one and it arrived today. I haven't opened it as I want the bomb sniffing dogs to go over it first. But, thanks anyway, Walt.

Lilburn Smith--'48 Independence Yankees sent his card and subscription for another year of the KOM League Remembered. I love optimistic people.

Eugene Castiglione--'48-'49 Ponca City Dodgers along with wife, Sharon, sent greetings from Benld, Illinois.

Sam Dixon-Carthage, Chanute and Iola from '46-'51 send a card to both my wife and another to my mother. Thanks for that gesture, Sam.

Tom Tarascio-'47-'48 Miami and '49 Chanute sent greetings from Omaha, Nebr.

Bob Curley--'46 Chanute sent greetings and best wishes from Covington, KY

Ken Boehme--Iola '51 wrote "May the good Lord be with me throughout the year. Thanks for all your hard work." (The thing is, I retired in July and don't do anything, anymore.)

Cloyd Boyer--'46 Carthage Cardinals. Cloyd and Nadine's card read "Just want you to know that we enjoyed the reunion this year. Thank you for all the work you do getting it together." (The deep dark secret is that I get others to do all the work.)

Bill Virdon--'50 Independence. In the Virdons card it was noted that Bill will participate in the Pirate's Fantasy Camp in January and then stay around to help the Buccos in Spring Training. That will be his 57th spring training, according to Shirley who remarked "How time flies when you're having fun." Also, she noted the passing of Joan Wright who was the widow of former big leaguer, Mel Wright. Shirley said "She was my very first friend in baseball and I miss her so very much. The passing of friends reminds us that we are reaching the time in our life when we, too, must recognize and face mortality."

Shirley stated that in November she and Bill had been married 55 years. Bill claims its only been half that long since he was gone so much.

Joe Backers--Independence '47 sent a card postmarked Royal Oak , Michigan. His note read "Hope you received the package I sent to you months ago. I don't know if any of that information was of service to you." It was, and I had sent a letter of thanks that obviously didn't get to him.

Don Anderson--Carthage Cub playing manager from 1949-51. Don's card said that he wouldn't be able to make it to the reunion this year. Anderson had a tough year due to the death of his wife, Edith.

Bob Hamric--'48 Independence. The Hamric's card made it all the way from Austin, Texas.
If I've missed any of the Christmas card senders I'll catch up before long. And, to set the record straight with Mr. Babcock, I'm not sharing these to solicit more cards. Telephone calls and personal visits will work as well as a card.

Well, Christmas is closer than I imagined when I checked the calendar today. Maybe its time to cease sending Flash Reports until the holidays are over. Here's one thing you can take to the bank. Every store that uses the term "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" will open on December 26th with their "After Christmas Clearance Sales" rather than "After Holiday Clearance Sales." Check it out and see if it doesn't happen. This is Mr. Scrooge saying "Goodnight Mr. Calabash, wherever you are." I know you all think I got that wrong because Jimmy Durante used that "Mrs. Calabash" line to sign off his radio show. Hey, I believe in equal treatment.

John G. Hall


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