Stanley Boys: Page County history heads to Baseball HoF

Published: Jun. 21, 2016 at 10:32 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Sandlot baseball is as integral to the sport as the bat and ball, inspiring movies, fans and kids across the nation.

The tradition has long been replaced by organized youth ball like Little League. But for a few boys from Stanley, Va. who once dominated the cow pastures, sandlot baseball will soon put them in baseball's hall of fame.

"June 16, 1955: the Piney Wood Tigers won the game, 26-6. There were home runs by Nelson Painter. He had two. And J.C. or Jennings Painter had one."

Donnie Wilson reads one of the 60 pages of hand written box scores that archive life for kids in Stanley in the mid 1950s.

"For some reason after every at bat, I had them go and write on a piece of paper on the sideline what they'd done,” said Jennings Painter, the one time manager for the Piney Wood Tigers. “That night I'd take it home. I’d put it on a piece of paper. I don't know, i just loved stats for some reason.”

For these Stanley boys -- Donnie Wilson, Bucky Nauman, Nelson and Jennings Painter -- the documents remind them of the games, and rivalry between the Piny Wood Tigers and the Shady Grove Dodgers.

"We all loved to win,” said Jennings. “Some of the younger ones would kind of cry if we lost, but I can't remember us ever getting into a fight."

“The street I lived on you probably had 50 kids,” added Nelson Painter. “Every house had five or six kids in the family, so it wasn't hard to find a ball player.”

Using any open field they could find, each afternoon, the neighborhood kids gathered with a makeshift bat, a ball and some bases, trying to be their heroes.

“We had to do everything according to the big leagues,” said Bucky Nauman. “So we all took our pennies and put it together to come up with enough money to go get a pack of Redman tobacco."

"I got sick the first time I tried it and never have again.”

"In our younger days, when we were playing, we'd use cow piles. The cow piles would get hard and that'd be the base, ” Jennings added as he laughed.

With each base hit, home run and dive play, the players could only dream of one day joining their heroes in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Soon, that dream becomes reality.

"Donnie come up with this whole idea,” said Nelson. “You know he said, 'Cooperstown might like this!' And we all said yeah and laughed. We didn't think anything of it.

"Well we all laughed because it was funny. I went home and thought about it for a couple of weeks and said I’ve been told no before."

In July, the records will travel to Cooperstown to be accepted into the Hall of Fame's archives, etching their memories into history.

"I just can't believe it,” said Nelson. “I never thought it'd come to this."

In the major leagues in through the 1950's, Willie Mays was still catching balls over his shoulder, one of the trademarks to his Hall of Fame career.

And kids across the country could only dream to one day join him.

"It's pretty exciting,” said Wilson, holding back tears. “Fourty kids in a small town like Stanley going to the baseball hall of fame. So many baseball players dedicate their life playing ball and they're not up there, but a bunch of kids who played in the cow pastures is."