Tidbits -July 30, 2020

TIDBITS by RALPH SHEALY


WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
  This would have been the 60th straight season of youth baseball in Saluda County. Due to COVID-19, the streak ended at 59 seasons and 58 years.
  In sports, the biggest losers in the pandemic are our youth, particularly high school seniors and 12-year-olds.
  College and pro players can come back if they miss a season.  High school seniors and 12-year-olds aren’t afforded that luxury. Their sports’ careers are literally what might have been.
  I’m pretty sure every spring sports high school player in this country did not get to complete their seasons. All the years seniors invested preparing for that final season were squashed a virus. They missed out on all-state, all-region, team titles and state championships. I hate it for them.
  Around here, 12 is the oldest you can be to play little league. They’ll be more chances to play in different divisions as they grow older, you say, but they’ll never get a chance for their little league team to win a championship or for them to make the all-star team.
  When I was 12, I made the Saluda All-Star team and got to play in the tournament at Laurens. I was just a kid, but making that all-star team was the crowning moment in my otherwise mediocre sports’ career. I still have the all-star roster, and a game jersey framed. (I grabbed a jersey out of a pile of old uniforms the Civitans were about to throw away. Frank Harrison Herlong gave me the roster from his collection accumulated from his years working with Saluda youth baseball.)
  I was an original player when the league was formed in 1961.  The teams were the Yankees, Braves, Tigers and Giants.
  I played little league, pony league and high school baseball. My senior year, I was tired of the sport, and didn’t play. 
  The high school seniors didn’t have the opportunity to make that choice. It was made for them by a disease.
  They can never get it back.


GENE BERRY
  I was so sad to learn to the passing of my old friend Gene Berry.
  Gene had prior health issues and was a victim of COVID-19.
  I really got to know Gene when his first-cousin Avis Griffith and her husband Jeff lived in their hometown of Saluda before moving to Charleston.
  Many a night, a bunch of friends would get together at the Griffiths, and Gene, 10 years my senior almost to the day (March 24 and March 27), fit right in with the “young folks,” of which I considered myself a member.
  Gene was a school teacher, a musician and singer, a hunter, a farmer, a loyal Gamecock, and a lover of Saluda County.
  He bought the Padgett Pond mill and brought it back to life. He built a beautiful home with a giant meeting room, which was used many times by the community, and particularly the Historical Society.
  For years, Gene sponsored duck and deer hunts on his property and property of his friends, with all proceeds going to the Historical Society. Historical Society members served breakfast to the hunters in the big room.
  I haven’t seen Gene in awhile. Our contact mostly came through emails when he sent his hunt stories. Actually, he was not good at attachments, so he would let me know he was mailing the story!
  Gene left his mark on all the students he taught, all the friends he made, his church St. John’s United Methodist, those he entertained with the Ridge Choral Society and the Historical Society to name a few.
  Rest in peace, old friend.