By DAVID W. HEALY and The Delta Democrat-Times – Associated Press – Saturday, May 2, 2020
GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) – In the late 1990s, the Greenville Bluesmen played minor league baseball at Legion Field, on the site of the fairgrounds.
While the franchise did not last forever, or even as long as its owners had hoped, those who played and worked for the team look back on it now with fond memories.
had gone without a minor league team for more than four decades before the Bluesmen arrived.
The Greenville Bucks, sometimes called the Buckshots, were a Cotton State League baseball team that existed on-and-off from 1922 to 1955. The Bucks played at old Sportsmen Park, which is near the current Colman Jr. High School.
Forty years was a long time to go for this Delta town without professional baseball, and when the Bluesmen began playing in 1996 they were the talk of the town.
The games were more than just about baseball, said Brother Sandifer, who worked as the team’s treasury. They were a way to bring the community together.
“We had all types or promotions to get people out,” Sandifer said. “We had the Los Angeles Laker girls come out one night. We had the Blues Brothers one night, and we also had the guy famous for being the clown of baseball,” Sandifer said.
The baseball was a great bargain as well.
The Bluesmen won two championships in their short history, and also helped to propel the career of future Major League Baseball player Matt Miller.
Miller, a graduate of Leland High School and a former Delta State University baseball player, played three seasons for the Bluesmen and recalled getting a crash course in what it meant to be a pro in .
“I look back on it now, and I have some great memories,” said Miller, who now lives in Jackson and works in youth baseball. “What I remember was there was not a lot of luxuries. We did not have a locker room so we had to dress at home. But, the days I sent playing for the Bluesmen taught me how to become independent.”
Miller, a sidearm pitcher, spent 13 years in professional baseball and five seasons in the Major Leagues. His first season in the big leagues was with the Colorado Rockies, and his last four seasons was with the Cleveland Indians.”
The Bluesmen may have lasted even longer if it weren’t for the mosquitoes that plagued Legion Field for most summer nights, Sandifer said.
“It was a mosquito haven, and once the lights got turned on, it got really bad,” Sandifer said. “People would come out but by the third or fourth inning, they just couldn’t take it anymore.”
Back in 1934, Sportsman’s Park was the place to be on Sunday afternoon.
Crowds as large as 2,000 would gather there “dressed to the teeth” to sit in the hot summer sun and watch the Greenville Bucks plays ball.
“You couldn’t pay people to sit in the sun like that,” former Bucks star Glen Bolton said in a Delta Democrat-Times article from 1983. “Things have changed….economics, television….there wasn’t much to do back then.”
Even on weekdays the games at the old WPA project park on Ole Leland Road near Highway 1 would attract five or six hundred spectators.
“The planters would go out in the morning and get the tractors running, they’d come to town to the ballgame,” Bolton said.
Bolton’s wife, Bertie Wells, recalls the team in those years (Bolton played from 1934 to 1936) as the “best looking boys in town…mostly bachelors too.”
The 1934 team was not ’s first professional baseball club. The Cotton States League was originally formed in 1902. Prior to that, independent ball clubs were common here.
, Vicksburg, Natchez and Baton Rouge made up the league in those early years.
Local historian Benjy Nelkin was just a small boy when he saw the Bucks play, and to him the stadium and players seemed larger than life.
“I went to a couple of games, and it was the only lit stadium in town,” Nelken said. “I don’t remember too much about it, but I do remember all the cigar smoke. There were a lot of fans out there smoking cigars.”
On their first road trip to Natchez, the team stayed at the Natchez Hotel and “apparently thought the silverware and linen went with the rent,” according to an article by Ernest Smith in the 1938 Golden Jubilee Edition of the Daily Democrat-Times. All of the stolen property had to be returned to the hotel by the team manager, J.B. Hebron.
A yellow fever scare in 1905 resulted in the disbanding of the league and it wasn’t revived again until 1922, then only for a year.
Bill Eisemann was manager and catcher for the 1934 Bucks team. The first year he played the Bucks had a bad first half of the season Bolton recalled. “We won about one out of 22 games.” But the second half was different and the Bucks, under new management, came out on top of the league for that half of the split season. They met Jackson in the playoff series and lost by a close score.
The team again disbanded during World War II and was reorganized for a final time in 1951. They played for three years in the new ball park where the new Coleman school athletic field is now.
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