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‘Movie magic’: Luther Williams Field reborn

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Photo courtesy of maconga.org

Most days of the Macon Bacon’s home games, Luther Williams Field plays host to 3,200 fans in the ballpark. On other days, 100-250 people enter the gates. 

It’s not because of weather or poor play – it’s just film crews setting up to shoot in one of the nation’s oldest ballparks.

First opened in 1929, Luther Williams Field, named for a former mayor of Macon, has been home to many minor league and amature teams and is full of history. It is also the perfect locale for filmmakers who need a period ballpark backdrop – playing a part in the large Macon film scene and growing Georgia movie market.

Building a dynasty

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Photo courtesy of Lindenwood University

Tyler Peach is a Laker.

Not one of the Los Angeles variety, per se, but rather an Allendale, Michigan one.

He’s also a part of the most storied – and successful – college dodgeball program in the country. The Grand Valley State University dodgeball team has captured 11 of 16 national titles since the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association was founded in 2005.

When you think of dynasties in college sports, most tend to think of the modern Alabama football teams or 1990s Tennessee women’s basketball or “The U” back in the day.

But there are several non-traditional programs continuing this type of dominance today. GVSU recently captured its 11th national title this year after a 20-2 season. Peach, a former president and now co-captain of the team, is pleased to be a part of history.

“It’s cool to see we’ve been able to keep up with past years and continue to compete and win over such a long period of time,” Peach said. “Just to be a part of that, it’s pretty cool.” 

Kenneth Nichols knows where he’s going

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Photo courtesy of the Nichols family

Story by Dave Hudson and Joe VanHoose

Kenneth Nichols still has the helmet with the scrape. 

The scrape starts above the visor on the left side and digs through the dark blue base color, widening as it stops just past a design of a gold torch – the same torch you see on the Indiana State Flag. 

Nichols is a native Hoosier, and like many Indiana boys he grew up dreaming about becoming a racecar driver. On February 6, 1999, he nearly died living out that dream.

‘That day was different’

Photo courtesy of NCAA.com

In the 1990s and 2000s, the University of Georgia established itself as the most dominant force in college gymnastics. The Gym Dogs have tallied the most team and individual national championships in NCAA history, producing a litany of All-Americans and Olympians throughout their 30-plus year run of success.

One of key contributors during the early days of that run was Karin Lichey-Usry, a heralded gymnast who was part of two national championship teams in the late 1990s. During her freshman season of 1995-1996, Lichey-Usry achieved what no other gymnast had done before – registering four perfect scores of 10 in a single competition. 

Passing the time, playing ball

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Ehlers

This series went longer than seven.

In the midst of the 2020 pandemic, our household was out of options.

No live sports. This led to us watching the reruns of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, some of the more interesting programming Fox offered at the time. An active family of two teachers and three students, we were just sitting around in the middle of quarantine.

Until Major League Wiffle Ball was born.

Home to history

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Photo courtesy of Spring Hill College

Fenway Park opened its doors on April 9, 1912, and has hosted Boston fans for more than 100 years. Two years and three days later Wrigley Field hosted its first game in Chicago.

While both household-name ballparks have stood the test of time, neither of them can boast the title of the longest continuously used ballpark in America.

Sims-Galle Baseball Field in Mobile, Alabama can.

Located on the campus of Spring Hill College, Sims-Galle Baseball Field has been the home for Badger baseball games since 1889. But the full story of the field goes back further than its first game. And for that, we need Father Viscardi.

Father Christopher Viscardi, a professor and Chair of the Theology Department at Spring Hill, is the “resident historian” of the college. He started working there in January 1979, and while not a huge sports fan himself, he knows a thing or two about the field.

For the game

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Photo of Calvin Johnson courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Marlene Karas

It just came to him one day.

IJ Rosenberg, the president of the sports marketing firm Score Atlanta and former beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution among other sport-related titles, was the man behind the idea for a Georgia High School Football Hall of Fame. 

“One of the things I noticed was there wasn’t a hall of fame in Georgia that was specifically for high school football,” Rosenberg said. “You had a state hall of fame that had football players in it, but there was not one just for football. 

“And if you really look at Georgia, it’s right there with Florida, California and Texas as the biggest football states.”

What’s to come

The most important thing, I suppose, was that Joe didn’t think it was crazy.

Though, to be fair, we didn’t really have a whole lot going on.

In the summer of 2020, we hadn’t yet formed Trestle Collective, and though we both had work, it was rather inconsistent in its nature. As such, we had some down time, and that down time led to me thinking up things I’d like to write. I’d sketch out an outline, think of places to pitch the idea and then just start cold-calling editors to see if they’d like whatever particular piece was swirling around in my head.

The thing is … there aren’t many publications, traditional or online, that are really seeking a 2,500-word oral history of a high school basketball game in Augusta, Ga. in 1995. It didn’t matter how strongly I conveyed the unique storylines in this piece or how it featured four future professional basketball players or how elements of this game were seemingly lost because it occurred in a time before social media. 

But I wanted to tell that story. And if I couldn’t find a place to publish it, I figured I’d just create one. 

So I pitched Joe the idea of creating Beyond The Trestle.

A Ghost Comes Around: The End of Asphalt Racing in North Georgia

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Brandon Reed is a writer by trade, so you have to take his stories with a reasonable amount of skepticism. Our imaginations can get away from us and then linger around, gently nudging our memories into a narrative often greater, wilder and more outstanding than the sum of reality. 

But Suzanne Reed, Brandon’s wife, is a reasonable person. And she has a ghost story, too. 

Brandon was the public relations manager at Peach State Speedway in Jefferson, Georgia, back in the early 2000s. One day, he heard a race car going around the half-mile speedway at race speed from inside the track office. 

Thinking there was a test session going on that he didn’t know about, he raced outside only to see an empty track, no car haulers, race cars or anyone else in sight.

Days later, Suzanne stopped by the track to see her husband and asked him what drivers were there that day to test. 

In fact, no one was. The track was empty.

The Life, Death and Legend of Butch Canary

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The Alfordsville High School basketball team

By David Hudson with Joe VanHoose

Alfordsville, Indiana is a town of 112 people today, tucked in the southern swath of the state east of Interstate 69, west of U.S. Highway 231, and far away enough from either to enjoy much economic development. 

But this place is not insignificant. It is in the middle of a region that has lived and breathed high school basketball for decades. Thousands of basketball players and coaches have roots and connections to southwestern Indiana. Larry Bird grew up in nearby French Lick.

Bob Knight was slinging chairs just down the road in Bloomington. Steve Alford, an Indiana icon, perfected what would become a championship-winning jump shot in New Castle. Before becoming an All-American, Calbert Cheaney was starring in Evansville.

John Wooden, Jack Butcher, Junior Gee, Damon Bailey and the Zeller brothers have all lived with the passion of basketball in Southern Indiana.

The list is made up of famous players and coaches, national champions and Olympic gold medalists, many of whom played in the NBA. 

Clifford “Butch” Canary isn’t on the list. Playing for Alfordsville High School in the late 1950s, Canary never won any state basketball awards or state championship. There aren’t any old statues with his likeness or any old gyms with his jersey hanging from the rafters.