Cats first state title

1911 baseball team given crown

Published Sunday, July 31, 2005

Repeatedly over a half-century, newspaper writers and others have pointed to Conway High's first state championship - won by the 1953 track team.

A bit of more ancient history throws out this belief. In 1911, Conway High School won the state baseball championship.

Bill Nutter of Conway, who was a member of that '53 championship track squad, uncovered information on the 1911 baseball team by accident. He's retired from coaching and teaching, and local history is his pastime.

"I was going through old Log Cabin Democrat files for material for the Antique Wampus Cat, and the item about the 1911 baseball team just jumped out," Nutter said.

In those days, newspaper reports on sports commonly used only last names of players. Nutter came up with full names for some, not all, the team members. The team played only six games and was undefeated. There was a seventh game, a loss to Clarksville, but this one was thrown out because Clarksville apparently used some non-students as players.

Just six games? Travel wasn't easy in 1911. It was by train.

But 1911 was a good baseball year in Conway as Hendrix won the state collegiate title as well as Conway winning the high school championship.

The structure of the titles was quite a bit different from modern times. The board of directors of the Arkansas State Athletic Association voted on whom to proclaim state champions. In baseball, no more than two games against one school could be counted, and this factor let Conway slip in for the title over DeQueen, according to Log Cabin reports in 1911.

DeQueen had a 7-0 record. Conway was 6-0. But four of the DeQueen wins were over one school, Texarkana. So the ruling body subtracted two DeQueen victories, making its record 5-0, less than Conway's.

One of the Conway baseball wins in 1911 was over Little Rock High School, a team the Log Cabin news item called "fast." In another item, Conway's team was termed "fast." OK, "fast" was slang of the era, meaning strong, proficient, capable. Don't most coaches today over-work the adjective "tough" when referring to an opponent?

Coach of the Conway baseball team in 1911 was J.M. Downing.

One player was Dutch Moore, who many years later would coach the semi-pro Conway Red Sox.

The 1911 Conway lineup, with first names where available:

Catcher, Jesse Long.

First base, Bruce.

Second base, Lovell.

Third base, Grover Stubbs (who also pitched).

Shortstop, Munn.

Left field, Doug Legg.

Center field, Harlan Thornton.

Right field, Dutch Moore.

Pitcher, Grady Charles.

According to the Log Cabin, Clarksville's team, questionable players and all, made a baseball swing down the Arkansas River valley in late April, whipping "the agricultural school at Russellville" by 3-0, moving to Atkins and winning the next day, to Morrilton a third day and another win then to Conway, with the game at "Hendrix Park." Clarksville's travel was by train.

Conway was fresh from a 3-1 victory over Little Rock High.

Clarksville won the game by 4-1, and Charles had trouble on the mound. He allowed just six hits but banged five batters with pitches. The game was nine innings.

Conway coach Downing apparently immediately protested the Clarksville game and was backed by school superintendent W.B. Hubbell. Conway's team went on to defeat Arkadelphia by 8-3 and to win a second game over Little Rock High, this time by 7-6.

Down by two runs, Conway won in the bottom of the ninth, with Legg scoring on a Charles bunt, then the winning run was scored by Charles on a hard single to right by Stubbs.

The five-man executive committee of the State Athletic Association awarded the championship to Conway. Committee members were (hometowns or affiliations not listed) O.D. Longstreth, J.R. Haygood, J.H. Thach, A.B. Hill and W.A. Crawford. The newspaper used the title "Prof." with each name, indicating they were perhaps college people.

Hendrix was handed the state college title for baseball, apparently without hassle, after its 7-2 season.

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