Neighbor: Local ASA Hall of

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 16, 2001

Famer recalls sports contributions


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Feb. 15, 2001 10 PM

Bobby Joe Ellsworth’s professional baseball career came to a premature end in the sands of Ft. Polk, La.

As he was participating in a low crawl, training exercise during National Guard boot camp in 1964, he tore the ligaments and tendons in the right shoulder of his throwing arm.

Ellsworth said if the injury had occurred today, he could have been back playing baseball in a relatively short time.

"But, back then they didn’t have the medical knowledge they have today, so for a long time, I couldn’t even lift my arm to put on a shirt," he said. "It was really about three years before my shoulder got back in decent shape and then cool weather would stiffen it up on me."

Ellsworth had shown great promise as a catcher and a hitter and he was drafted immediately out of high school in 1962

by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He made his way up through the farm system, from A to AAA ball in three years. His strong arm and his eye for the ball made him a candidate for the big leagues. But, first, he had a date with Uncle Sam.

That "date" marked the end of his professional baseball career, but it didn’t keep Ellsworth off the diamond.

In the spring of 1967. he decided his shoulder was strong enough for him to get back in the game, so he joined the Brundidge Budweiser slow-pitch softball team and found he could play outfield without putting a lot of stress on his shoulder.

Softball wasn’t baseball, but it was the next best thing.

He soon found that slow-pitch softball was being played on a very competitive level. That appealed to his competitive spirit and brought back the excitement of being on the baseball diamond.

In the early 1970s, Ellsworth began playing at a very highly competitive level with the Dothan Royals, one of the very best teams ever to play in Alabama.

"We traveled all over playing and it was a good brand of softball," he said. "The competition was tough. We played hard, but we had a good time."

Ellsworth played for the love of the game and with no thoughts of personal recognition, although it came his way. He was named to the Alabama Amateur Softball Association’s (ASA) All-State team five times and played in two Regional ASA Tournaments.

Ellsworth is the park and recreation director in Brundidge and was aware the ASA had instituted a Hall of Fame in 1992, but only vaguely.

However, a few weeks ago, he became keenly aware when he received notification he had been elected to the ASA Hall of Fame and would be inducted at the 2001 Awards Banquet in Dothan, Feb. 3.

"I was surprised and embarrassed," Ellsworth said. "It was an honor, but I don’t like attention brought to myself. I enjoyed playing and had a lot of fun. That was good enough for me."

Maybe for Ellsworth, but the 2001 Hall of Fame Selection Committee thought differently.

At the 10th annual Hall of Fame Banquet, the committee honored nine individuals "who have bought attention to the great game of softball through their performances" and Ellsworth was one of the nine.

In making the presentation, Parks Burgin, committee chairman, said Ellsworth was a great player with great range and a great arm.

"Bobby was a terrific hitter and was a major threat to hit a home run even time at bat," Burgin said. "He hit more than 100 home runs each season. The reduction of home runs allowed was a major factor in his retirement from the game in the early ’90s."

Ellsworth, laughing, said age, more than the reduction of home runs allowed, was the reason for his retirement.

He added that softball had filled a void left in his life when he had to give up baseball. "Softball is a great sport for people of all ages," he said. "I’m still around baseball and I still love it. It’s a great game."

But, he had little to say about being elected to the ASA Hall of Fame, except it was an honor. And, that’s probably as much as he’ll ever say about it.