Grandson reminisces about family’s love affair with baseball

Published 3:00 am Thursday, March 5, 2015

Olin McLendon, former member of the Wolf Creek baseball team.

Olin McLendon, former member of the Wolf Creek baseball team.

Every once in a while, there comes along a baseball team that folks will be talking about for many years to come. Such a team was the Wolf Creek Bush League that played out of rural Pike County.

Back in the 1920s, the Wolf Creek team was causing that much clamor.

The Wolf Creek team played their home games in a cow pasture near Tarentum. The players had to pass the hat at their games just to get enough money to buy their balls and bats. They had four bats and, if one broke, they had three.

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The Wolf Creek team traveled to away games on the flatbed of an old log truck along with as many fans as could pile on.

But there was no doubt that the Wolf Creek team was a magnificent baseball team.

Jason McLendon’s granddaddy, Olin McLendon, was a member of the Wolf Creek team.

McLendon remembers that his granddaddy said the players were all as quick as a rabbit, sly as a fox, strong as a mule and as mean as a snake.

“My granddaddy said the fielders could gun down a base runner from way across the creek,” McLendon said. “The batters were so good with the bat, they could drill a pitcher right between the eyes with a line drive or a blast of tobacco juice. They could spike a baseman high, low or anywhere he would go.”

McLendon said his granddaddy didn’t like to brag but said the Wolf Creek team won nine out of every ten games they played.

“He said they wouldn’t have lost those games except the other team would hire a minor league pitcher to come in to pitch against them,” he said. “The Wolf Creek team played to win and they would scream at the other team and holler at them and hit at them and run at them and throw at them and scare their pants off.”

The Wolf Creek team had a pitcher that had gotten a couple of fingers shortened working at the sawmill. With his crooked fingers, he could throw the baseball so that it dipped and danced in such a way that a batter could only hit it by chance.

“My granddaddy said the ball would be coming in 90 miles an hour and jumping all around and the batters would forget about trying to hit and just get out of the way,” McLendon said.

People would come from miles around to see the Wolf Creek team play. They would come by wagonloads. The pasture would be filled with 500 or more who came to see the Wolf Creek team out blast, out run, out gun and out slug, if necessary, the visiting team.

The players were all farmers and could only play on Sunday afternoon until their crops were laid by in July. Then, they would play on Saturdays.  The women would cook just like they were preparing for dinner on the ground and, at dinnertime; the visiting team would be invited to join them for a hearty meal.

“And, the Wolf Creek team could out eat the visiting team just as mightily as they could out play them,” McLendon said.

The days of bush league teams and cow pasture baseball are all but gone. Ax handle bats and string baseballs are things of the past. Creeks and barbed wire fences no longer define the parameters of the outfield nor cow patties the bases. Players spit sunflower seeds instead of tobacco juice and slick uniforms have replaced bib overalls. Baseball’s a brand new game.