Caroline County, Virginia: Lew & Tony Beasley

Caroline County — A Baseball Story In 3 Acts

Act 3: The Beasleys

Just like Clarence “Soup” Campbell (from Act 2, remember?), Lewis “Lew” Beasley was born in tiny Sparta, Virginia – 33 years later, in 1948.

He attended Bowling Green’s Union High School in the 1960s – the county’s “colored” school. I couldn’t find him in any of their mid-1960s yearbooks so I can’t tell you when – or if – he graduated, but reports say he played on the school’s powerhouse baseball team.

Beasley, an outfielder, was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the second round of the January 1967 draft.

With the minor league Miami Marlins in 1969

Though short and stocky, he was known for his speed. They called him “Quick Lew” and his 41 stolen bases in 1969 was a then-team record for the minor league Miami Marlins.

Continue reading

Caroline County, Virginia: Clarence “Soup” Campbell

Caroline County, Virginia — A Baseball Story In 3 Acts

Act 2: “Soup”

Three ballplayers of note have called Caroline County, Virginia home. And, our story starts in Sparta.

Caroline County fills an area of 537 miles and there are only two towns of any size within those confines – Bowling Green, the county seat, population 1,111, and Port Royal, population 197.

About all there is to Sparta, Virginia today is a post office, a couple churches, and a volunteer fire department. It was once a little more than that, but really not so much.

Clarence “Soup” Campbell was born in Sparta in March 1915.

Does everyone with the last name Campbell end up with the nickname “Soup”?  (Yes.)

Continue reading

Caroline County, Virginia — A Baseball Story In 3 Acts

Act 1 — The County

If you ever need to get from the bottom of the East Coast to the top – or top to bottom – you’ll probably end up on Interstate 95.

That 1,900-mile road – the most traveled in America (which surprises no one who has ever been on it) – can take you from Houlton, Maine to Miami, Florida and back again.

You’ve probably been on it. And, you’ve probably cursed at it, muttered at it, and yelled at its gridlock that stretched out in front of you. Everybody does that. That’s proper I-95 etiquette.

(Because The Baseball Bloggess does not wish to mislead you: A 12-mile gap around Trenton, New Jersey prevents I-95 from being a complete North-South highway. That gap should be fixed in 2018.)

In the middle-ish of I-95, you’ll pass through Caroline County, Virginia

If you need to stop, exits 104 at Bowling Green and 110 at Ladysmith will pop you out into the county.

(It’s pronounced Care-oh-Line and was named in 1728 in honor of Queen Caroline, wife of England’s King George II.)

I-95’s proximity is not the most interesting thing about Caroline County.

And, baseball is not the most interesting thing about it, either.

Continue reading

Walter “Steve” Brodie: Warrenton’s “Duke of Roanoke”

Take one part Yasiel Puig crazy …

Stir in Adrian Beltre …

 

… and that thing about people touching his head.

Toss in last summer’s nacho incident with Addison Russell …

 

And, there. You’ve got Walter Scott “Steve” Brodie.

1894

No, wait. We need some angry David Ortiz, too.

There. Walter Scott “Steve” Brodie.

1894

Goofy. Quirky. A bit of a mean streak.

The starting centerfielder of the 1896 Baltimore Orioles, Brodie wasn’t the greatest player on that legendary team, but he wasn’t the worst either.

1896 Baltimore Orioles. Brodie, Middle Row, Far Left.

He was loved by fans nearly everywhere he played, including Boston, St. Louis, and Baltimore, but not Pittsburgh, because … well, they had their reasons.

Continue reading

Garland Shifflett — The Pitcher From Elkton

Elkton, Virginia is the halfway point between where you are now and where you want to be.

elkton-virginia

It is snugged tight between the Blue Ridge Mountains on its east side and the Massanutten Mountains on its west side.

It is halfway between here … and there.

It’s an anonymous town. The town you pass through, but where you never stop unless you need gas, a snack, or a bathroom.

All my friends around here tell me they’ve been to Elkton. But, when pressed, I discover they mean they’ve been through Elkton, or driven past Elkton, or they’ve stopped out on the highway at the Dairy Queen, but they’ve never actually been to it.

Garland Shifflett, who pitched in the majors, but mostly the minors, from the 1950s into the 1970s, was born in Elkton in 1935.

garland-shifflett-washington

The Los Angeles Times once profiled him on their front page.

His major league career was brief, just 16 games. A few games in 1957, a few more in 1964. But, his minor league career, over 16 seasons, was much longer and richer.

But, there he is on the front page of the Los Angeles Times in the spring of 1972. Next to stories about the Hanoi Offensive, an indicted New Jersey Congressman, and President Nixon’s doctor’s enthusiasm for acupuncture.

Top of the fold. A story about Garland Shifflett and his long career in the minors.

anonymous-man-los-angeles-times-4-12-1972

“Anonymous Man.”

A front-page profile in the Los Angeles Times about a player I didn’t know should have made this story simple. Instead, it has bothered me for a couple weeks now. Ever since I found it and ever since we made our visit to Elkton.

Continue reading

Let’s Go Virginia’ing!

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag

You should probably know a little bit about the place where you live.

You know, the stuff they teach you in school. Your state song. Your state flower. Your state motto.

But, what if you’re not from around here? What if you moved to a place once you were out of school? How are you supposed to learn all that?

Virginia postcard

I moved to Virginia after college and have lived here for more than half of my life. And, sure, I know a few things about this place.

Continue reading