Local organizers joined Berry’s vision to help form Ironton Little League 50 years agoPublished 2:41am Monday, December 31, 2012
As the world heads for a new year, Bill Washburn decided to take a look back.
About 50 years to be exact.
Washburn was among a large group of Ironton men who helped form the Ironton Little League back in 1962. The league played its first season in 1963.
The late Bob Berry, who was an avid supporter of Ironton regardless of academics or any extra-curricular activities, came to visit Washburn’s home.
“Let’s organize the Ironton National Little League,” Berry said to Washburn.
“I said Ironton already had a little league and he said, ‘There’s a difference. This is a National Little League.’”
So the duo assembled some other interested men as they set out to form the new league. Among the group who organized the little league were of Berry, Washburn, John Thomas, Harold Spears, Doyle Murnahan, James “Moe” Thomas, Bill Dressel Sr., Jack Parker, Joe Kavanaugh, Paul Kratzenberg, Ray “Doc” Payne and Chet Spicer.
“We had a lot of good help,” said Washburn.
The first sponsor fee was $125 and the initial four sponsors included the Ironton Elks Lodge 177, First National Bank, Jake Scherer Insurance and Dayton Malleable.
“Bob told me there would be a $125 sponsor fee. I told him that didn’t sound too good,” said Washburn.
But the sponsors lined up quickly and the next order of business was finding a field other than the Beechwood Park area and getting it into playing condition. The group decided to play at the old B.L. Diamond Field that is now the youth soccer fields.
A backstop and team benches were built, a fence and bleachers erected and uniform and catcher equipment were purchased.
Sponsor signs were sold for $25 and hung on the outfield fence. Kratzenberg had the job of painting the signs.
Washburn said the league netted $5 off each sign after paying for the materials.
“Bob set up the draft and did a lot of the work. I had a heart attack and Harold Spears took my place until I got to come back the next year,” said Washburn.
A schedule was made and a date was set for the opening of the 1963 inaugural season. Berry was the first president, Washburn the vice-president and Moe Thomas the first player agent.
“We played the first season (at the Diamond Field). The next year we got city property,” Washburn said, referring to the league’s current site on South Fourth and Vesuvius Streets.
Before building the first little league field, Berry and Washburn visited the Ceredo-Kenova (W.Va.) Little League.
“We went to C-K to see how they did things. When we came back I built the press box. It was like the one C-K had,” said Washburn.
The original press box included a concession stand downstairs with the scorekeepers box upstairs.
Washburn said Berry loved the city of Ironton and all the athletic programs. Berry served as a city councilman and as a member of the school board.
“There was no bigger Ironton Tiger fan than Bob Berry. If Ironton was playing, no matter what sport, he was there,” said Washburn. “He was my best friend.”