When baseball was king remembered

Published 4:29 pm Wednesday, June 28, 2017

By Dickie Dixon

Thirty six persons attended the July 19th meeting of the Angelina County Genealogical Society about 4:00 P.M. in the Railroad Depot of Kurth Memorial Library on 702 South Raguet Street in Lufkin, Texas.  The program:  “Nigton, Texas:  When Baseball Was King” with Cleveland Mark leading the discussion.

Nigton and Trinity County were well represented at the meeting with former baseball players Cleveland Mark present, Freddie Spencer, and Coleman Dixon.  John McClendon, son of Johnny McClendon, attended, as well as Ron Massey, Michelle Lockhart, and Bill Walterman of Riverside.  John Rowin and Robert McGee, both of Lufkin, attended.

The panel members for the discussion were:  Cleveland Mark, Freddie Spencer, Coleman Dixon, Robert McGee, and John Rowin.  Cleveland, Freddie, and Coleman were originally born in Nigton.  Robert McGee, originally from Port Arthur, and John (Scooter) Rowin of Lufkin both played baseball over there:  McGee for the Texas Foundry team, and Rowin with Ted Maberry’s team.  John McClendon, whose father Johnny played there, spoke, too about the baseball played there.

After refreshments served by Rev. Cindy Duran, pastor of Keltys United Methodist Church and Bethlehem UMC at Hudson, Ann Parker, and other members of the Angelina County Genealogical Society,  president Dickie Dixon gave a short introduction to the topic.  Then  Trinity County Historical Commission chairwoman Susanne Waller expressed her feelings about the topic, encouraging every African American to delve in to his/her past and save it for the future.

Cleveland Mark started the discussion with Freddie Spencer following, then Coleman Dixon, Robert McGee, and finally John Rowin.  Cleveland emphasized Fairbanks Deason’s role in backing and supporting the teams and the devastating effect of the Korean War, when the whole team was drafted.  He pointed out that a new team emerged because the older players did not want to relinquish control.  Cherry Red’s café came up in the discussion, and the panel confirmed that the back wall of the Nigton team’s dugout opened into the café.  Robert McGee pointed out that the team that won received a case of Budweiser for the team and a case of Cokes for the children.  John Rowin asked a question that had puzzled him for years:  Why wasn’t there a left field fence?

Freddie Spencer divulged that he obtained a scholarship to play baseball at Texas Southern University, when he graduated from Diboll.  After Dickie Dixon commented that Calvin Spencer, Jr. tried out twice for the majors in Lufkin because of Ted Maberry, Freddie, too, added that he had a tryout.  Willie Massey’s role in baseball was also emphasized.

Susanne Waller made an announcement about the July 7th marker dedication of the George Washington Carver school in Groveton, Texas.

Before adjourning, Dickie Dixon presented each panel member with an honorary membership to the Angelina County Genealogical Society, a copy of the June newsletter “Echo In the Pines” edited by newsletter chairman Keith Allred, and a copy of the book on the Negro leagues Shades of Glory published by National Geographic.

Rev. Cindy Duran expressed the desire to have the panel present this program at her church in the future.