There are certain things that make Greenwood, well, Greenwood. Places, events and traditions that are just intrinsically part of the Emerald City.
And yes, calling it the “Emerald City” is one such tradition. The powers that be tried to shed the moniker a few years ago, to no avail. Though admittedly I hear that nickname less and less.
Truly, some things are just Greenwood things. Like a Dixie Cheese half & half with a cherry Coke. Or the annual Christmas lights at Connie Maxwell. Or waiting at a red light while a CSX train goes rumbling down Seaboard Avenue.
It’s the sheriff’s deer supper and Sen. Floyd Nicholson’s “famous” chili and hearing the Swingin’ Medallions play “Double Shot” for the 298,000th time. It’s hearing the old timers talk about Brewer High School like it just closed last week, or reminding you for the umpteenth time that the Greenwood Community Theatre used to be a movie house.
It’s where people talk about late former Greenwood High football coach Pinky Babb as if he was a mix of Bear Bryant, Paul Bunyan and the Tecmo Bowl version of Bo Jackson.
Or where you can go to the Auto Drive-in on a Saturday night in the late spring, and sit with your windows down and see a double feature. When the moon is shining just right, it’s hard to imagine any other place you’d rather be.
One of the hallmarks of Greenwood that has been on my mind this week is the American Legion Post 20 baseball team.
Simply put, I cannot imagine Greenwood without Post 20 baseball. The team and the town are inexorably linked. So it was with great sadness this week that I read a piece from the Index’s Adam Benson in which it was detailed that Post 20 baseball is facing an uncertain future. Post Commander Butch Sims went as far as to say that some “hard decisions” are pending about the baseball program.
“We’ve got to make some hard decisions by the first of February whether we’re going to have a team or whether we’re going to fully fund them like we have for the last 75 years,” Sims said in Benson’s story. “I’d rather have a team but without more volunteers, we need somebody to pick up the ball. We’ve never charged (the players). All they had to supply was their shoes and a glove. You all search your heart and talk somebody into it. Let’s get somebody that can manage it, but we’ve got to move quick.”
This is only one man’s opinion, but I think it would be a near travesty for Greenwood to lose Post 20 baseball. It is an indelible part of the fabric of this community. For 75 years -- three quarters of a century -- boys from the Lakelands have donned Post 20’s green and gold and spent their summers turning double plays and chasing pop flies and traveling from town to town, hoping to squeeze out a few more sunny days before fall arrives.
Post 20 baseball is a piece of our past, sure. A remnant of a time when the textile mills were roaring and gasoline was cheap and thousands would show up at Legion Field to watch baseball, because, well, there was no ESPN and if you wanted to see baseball you had to get in the car and go watch a game.
Tales of Post 20’s exploits on the diamond were bedtime stories in my family. My uncle, Dave McElrath, played on the vaunted 1958 state championship squad, the one that went on to the national tournament in Colorado.
But Post 20’s good fortunes on the field aren’t tethered only to the past. The Braves, as they have been christened in recent years, have won the League VII title for the last five years under the guidance of coach Mack Hite. They were in the state tournament last summer.
But now it seems that tradition -- a 75-year tradition -- is in danger.
Legion officials say volunteers are sorely needed, and I’m guessing monetary help would be abundantly welcomed. I would encourage anyone who would like to help, whether through your sweat or treasure, to contact Post 20 at 223-3142 and find out how you can be of service.
And if indeed the team is able to continue, make sure you go to a game this summer. Low attendance in recent years is part of the problem.
I can promise you this: If you take your kids to a game at Legion Field, the ancient, creaky, charming, wonderful old ballpark off S.C. 72, on a summer night, they’ll never forget it. Grab a seat under the awning behind home plate. Eat a sno-cone. Talk to your children about baseball or school or movies or whatever they want to talk about while the game unspools in front of you. Those are nights to cherish. That’s the real stuff.
It seems autumn is coming for one of this city’s most treasured institutions. But it doesn’t have to. Post 20 baseball is worth saving. Post 20 baseball is Greenwood.
I hope I see you on opening night.
Chris Trainor is a contributing columnist for the Index-Journal. Contact him at ChrisTrainorSC@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter@ChrisTrainorSC. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.