Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Don Brown R.I.P. 1936-2009

Don's senior yearbook picture, D-B 1954

Bethel Presbyterian Church Vacation Bible School, 1953 - Don is circled on the back row.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Negro League game in Kingsport - 1955

First notice of the game was in this May 1, 1955 news article:

The Times News didn't cover the game at J. Fred Johnson Stadium but when the same two teams played two months later in Benton Harbor Michigan, the local paper did:

Three stars of the Indianapolis Clowns in a publicity photo:

Indianapolis Clowns first baseman Jim Williams played barefooted and in a grass skirt and called himself "Natureboy."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kingsport Press Reunion - Oct. 24, 2009 at Appalachian District Fairgrounds

The Kingsport Press in 1925 (above). Below is a 1923 article that the New York Times published the day before the presses started rolling at Kingsport Press.
Photo is courtesy of City of Kingsport Archives.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

You Know You're From Kingsport If....

From Jennifer Emmette's freshman English class aat D-B

· Pal's tea runs in your bloodstream
· The DB vs Science Hill football game is the highlight of your year
· "What's that smell?" never crosses your mind. It's Eastman.
· You passionately hate the middle school you didn't attend
· You spend all of your free time at the Ft. Henry Mall, but go to Johnson City if
you want to shop
· Bays Mountain is the closest you ever get to the real wilderness
· The closest thing to a Cheesecake Factory is Krispy Kreme
· Eastman is where your parents work
· Band is "the trend" in high school
· The nearest "amusement park" is Dollywood
· You tho,ught getting a Panera Bread, Marble Slab, and Starbucks was the best
thing that ever happened to you
· You walk downtown and look at abnormal sculptures in your path
· You consider Funfest the most exciting event ofthe summer
· Your school teacher knows more of your family than you do
· Half of your budget is used on Pal's tea and frenchie fries
· It's no big deal to travel an hour or more for decent shopping
· You think Huckleberry Finn makes perfect sense
· The weather can go from really hot to snow in a matter of two days
· You hear the phrase, "We're Dealin!!!!" every time you turn on the TV
· You think the world is ending when you get out of school for snow
· Band isn't a class, but a way of life
· You hate Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators
· Your mall is smaller than Wal-Mart
· You get excited when you're in a mall with a food court
· The band makes up half the student population
· Your favorite colors are maroon and gray
· Your spring break was scheduled around a band trip that didn't happen
· The city makes more cash off people running red lights than anything else
· Everybody around you is Baptist
· The only radio station you listen to is 94.9
· You see cars painted orange
· You decide on your college based on its radius from Pal's
· You go to football games to see the band
· Your idea ofa wild night is hitting the Waffle House at 3 A.M.
· South is your biggest rival
· You see Bill McConnell on TV more than the show you're watching
· The Sensabaughs are your heroes
· You're in Mrs. Ernmette's English class
· Beach Hut is the place to go in the summer
· You say you're in the DB Band and your status is raised
· You've been served ice cream by a robot
· Your idea of a red carpet event is the Kingsport Chamber Gala
· Someone says "roundabout" and your mind wanders to Watauga Street
· You have to drive for a long time to get to a bookstore with decent books
· You've been to Rascals 120,000 times
· You get excited about Target coming to town
· The most fun thing to do at Halloween is going to Sensabaugh Tunnel or Fender's Farm
· You refer to different sections of your high school as "pods" and don't find
anything unusual about it
· You think TCBY stands for "Tri-Cities Best Yogurt"
· You've said ''Boo Hoo, Baby Blue" or know what it means
· You've ever been backed up on Stone Drive because of Purple Cow

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Joe Higgins - The Man Who Saved Baseball in Kingsport

A couple of months ago someone told me that J. Fred Johnson Stadium isn’t really J. Fred Johnson Stadium. “Just look at the plaque on the outside.”

I went to a D-B baseball game last week and finally got around to checking out the plaque on the outside wall, near the entrance to the baseball stadium:
“In memory of H. Joseph Higgins 1951.”

Is it really Higgins Memorial Stadium? Why have I never heard that? And who was H. Joseph Higgins?

First things first: it is not Higgins Stadium.

According to a Times News story from August 26, 1951, when the plaque was mounted, it was not to rename the stadium but to honor “the late H. Joe Higgins, leading figure in the history of organized baseball in Kingsport and the Appalachian League.”
And that brings us to Joe Higgins. Who was Joe Higgins?

When he died of a heart attack in 1951 at the age of 53, Times News golf columnist Rex Harrington – yes, apparently we had a golf columnist in 1951 – devoted his column “Slicing in the Rough” to a tribute to Higgins, whom he called “one of Kingsport’s and the world's finest gentlemen and sportsmen.” Harrington said Higgins was “if not the father then the stepfather of baseball in Kingsport.”

Higgins had come to Kingsport in 1923. This newspaper reported on January 19, 1923, “Joseph Higgins arrived from New York the first of the week. He is the first of a number of linotype operators to be employed by the Kingsport Press.” Kingsport was a very small town then and the paper reported those sorts of things.

He would work at the Press until his death. His baseball work was a sideline.
At first he was head of the local City Industrial League, a semi-pro outfit featuring baseball teams sponsored by local industries, including the Press.
When a movement formed to resurrect the old Appalachian League, a Class D minor league which had folded in 1925, Higgins was one of the leaders.

Harrington wrote, “Joe was among those instrumental in bringing professional baseball back to Kingsport in 1938 after a lapse of some 13 years. He played a leading role in the new club and in 1941, when it appeared that the sport was doomed here, he assumed control of the entire stock. That saved the day for Kingsport. Not too long after that he was the main factor in keeping the Appalachian League going during the hard years of World War II. It was one of two Class D leagues to continue operation all through the war and Joe Higgins was the main reason.”

That team, the Kingsport Cherokees, were league kingpins in the war years, winning the league pennant in 1944 and 1945 and finishing second in 1943. (Lefty Akard was manager for part of the ’44 season!) But the team’s fortunes declined in the postwar years, finishing sixth, sixth, eighth and eighth in the first four years of the post war period.

Harrington wrote, “Joe kept baseball running in Kingsport after the war, when at times it seemed there was no interest whatsoever. But he repeated his love for the game and received new inspiration to carry on.”

But one man couldn’t support winning baseball – and a family - on a Press supervisor’s salary.

“Pressure became great for Kingsport to have a better ball club. It had the best one man could offer. In fact, very few individuals could have done so well. So Joe still thinking of the game and the fans, sold the controlling interest to a group of local businessmen (in January 1951). He didn't quit, though. He remained in a prominent role as vice president of the club.”

The paper reported he had $30,000 invested in the club and was selling it for half that.

Suddenly things turned around in the 1951 season behind new manager Jack Crosswhite and stars Ned Jilton, George Wright, Powell King and Muscle Shoals.
The team was cruising toward its first pennant in six years when Joe had his fatal heart attack. He didn’t live to see the Kingsport Cherokees win the Appalachian League championship of 1951. But he was responsible, he had laid the groundwork, and when he finally got the working capital he needed, he brought in the ball players who could win.

So it’s not Joe Higgins Stadium. But maybe it should be, at least the baseball part.

From January, 19, 1923 Kingsport Times:

The arrival of the Kingsport Cherokees, April 14, 1938 newspaper:

Joe Higgins untimely death from June 25, 1951 newspaper:

Times golf columnist Rex Harrington pays tribute to a baseball man: