And Now You Know: Junior High hurler halts hitters

Published 3:43 pm Monday, April 1, 2019

By Mike Louviere

The Orange Leader

On a Monday afternoon in March 1949, the Lutcher Stark High School A-squad baseball team was having batting practice.

A husky youngster walked up to the coach and asked if he could pitch a few balls to the batters. The coach recognized the boy as one of the junior high students. He decided to let the boy toss a few pitches.

At first, no one paid much attention to the young pitcher. Then they noticed that the batters were swinging and missing, and the catcher was trying not to show that his glove hand was burning more than usual.

One of those who was watching was the sports writer for the Orange Leader. What he saw prompted him to write: “Something out of Horatio Alger occurred here in Orange this week and there are those who will give you long odds that it will reverberate through high school, college, and professional baseball for years to come.”

Before practice was over most of the Tiger A-squad who had been hitting Class AA pitchers had taken turns at the plate and had gone down swinging before the young junior high pitcher.

“The kid handled himself like a veteran, his form was like something out of the major leagues. He had control of a good fastball and had a sharp breaking curve that kept the eagle-eyed Tiger batsmen fanning the afternoon breezes,” the sportswriter wrote.

Coaches Conover, Bridges, and Hill stood open mouthed and were thanking Heaven that they had something to look forward to the next year.

The coaches decided to draft him on the B-squad. He could play there without jeopardizing either his or the school’s Interscholastic League eligibility.

The coaches were planning to stage an intra-squad contest between the A and B squads with the boy pitching for the B-squad.

The A-team batters were looking forward to the match and eager to see how well they could hit the young pitcher’s throws.

Based on that one practice session the youngster became the new hero at both the junior and senior high schools.

Behind that performance, he had spent many long hours in his back yard on Dyson Court in Riverside teaching himself to pitch. His parents would not let him play football, so he concentrated on baseball and spent hours throwing at either a catcher’s mitt or a glove as the target for his throws.

At the age of 14, he had perfected a skill that few adults could match.

The youngster, Jack Goodwin, was an A student in the ninth grade at Carr Junior High School. He had not missed a class since the term started. He was a member of the student council and had been a finalist in the Miriam Lutcher Stark Declamation Contest.

He had been a resident of Orange for about six years, coming to Orange with his parents from Center, Texas.

Of his ability and dedication, one of his teachers said: “He is an apt student admired by the entire student body for his manly principles and his qualities of leadership.”

Ability, dedication, and the will to work hard had produced a unique young man.

“And now you know.”