Bob Mitchell: Cassville’s revival of the Baseball Blues

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A recent question was posed concerning the Cassville Blues and what had happened to their playing field.

To begin with, the Blues originated with the old Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri league of the 1930s. Actually, the league was quite active as it filled the need for baseball entertainment in the three-state area. The final years of the league, which was minus Cassville, saw the great Mickey Mantle get his start playing for Independence, Kan.

In the beginning days, pro-Blues played on a field in the southeast portion of the school campus. The facility provided makeshift bleachers with a chicken wire backstop.

Kids in those days would avoid an admission fee by watching games from the scaffolding of the then under-construction Rock Gym (long ago named for longtime basketball coach J.C. Duncan.) The spot was in the left field area and frequently provided a ball hit in that area. In that era, there would be someone come after it as the league wasn’t affluent enough to give up baseballs.

After a few years, without much baseball in the area, the game was revived with virtually all area communities having their own team — even producing some outstanding players.

Those community fields, frequently at schools, were difficult to play since the downhill slant of the outfield frequently got away from a player, and the ball rolled into the woods. Sometimes spectator searches were required to recover the ball.

Cassville’s baseball interests were sparked by the past existence of the Exeter Aces, an earlier semi-pro team of the area.

Revival for Blues

In the mid-1940s, Clyde Hoover, owner of Forest Products, decided bring baseball back to town and revived the Blues. He secured a lease on land at the northeast corner of town and provided much of the material for an excellent fence and an adequate bleacher. Business interests that were interested in baseball, provided funds for uniforms and the bare necessity of equipment.

The location was ideal, with very little rock that eventually provided an excellent infield. The site also grew grass well for the outfield. Scarcity of funds meant players or volunteers raked the infield and mowed the outfield.

Hoover’s planning had struck the interest of Gene House, a long-time baseball individual. He quickly accepted the post as manager-coach of the new issue of the Blues. In later years, Hollis Cox took his turn in this position for the local team.

Players were plentiful

With some interest coming from American Legion Baseball, players responded well to the opening call.

Those on this squad included: Waldo Dunn, Gene Lovell, Rolland Meador, Paul Hefley, Wallen Cox, Clyde King, Truman Baker, Curley Howard, Junior Wallen, Shep Epperly and others, which I can’t recall.

There are stories connected with many that a young catcher-infielder of the time might recall.

One of the team’s responsibilities was to make sure the water cooler had water and ice, only the later years found a concessionaire for providing cooling drinks in the hot weekends. Due to employment, virtually all games were on weekends, while occasionally a night road trip might have been on the schedule.

Later became Crystal View

When support started to fall to low levels, founders of the program found the program was becoming excessively costly. Equipment requirements left little latitude for the players and lessened their interest.

As a push on the lease of land became evident, the program was discontinued.

With the availability of the land interests in development arrived and the acreage was purchased by John and Virginia Pottebaum and Marion and Lucille Wooten. The succeeding sub-division was named Crystal View, after Pottebaum’s nearby Crystal Springs Trout Farm.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.