Reflections by Sammy Way: The Sumter Chicks begin play at Riley Park

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 5/5/19

Reflections remembers the arrival of a Tri-State Baseball League representative to the Sumter community in 1948. The name of this new organization was selected by a board of directors "at an organizational meeting held at the Coca-Cola Community …

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Reflections by Sammy Way: The Sumter Chicks begin play at Riley Park

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Reflections remembers the arrival of a Tri-State Baseball League representative to the Sumter community in 1948. The name of this new organization was selected by a board of directors "at an organizational meeting held at the Coca-Cola Community Room." The winning name for the new club was submitted by four fans: L. M. Lyons, Manning R. Rappe Sr., D. G. Lenoir and E. S. Booth Jr. The name chosen was 'The Chicks," and they would play their games at the newly named Riley Ball Park (formerly Municipal Stadium), dedicated to Sumter's representative in Congress and Legion coach. The naming ceremony took place shortly after John Riley returned home in August of 1947. Photos and articles used in preparing this issue of Reflections were provided by The Sumter Item archives.

The meeting also organized the Sumter Baseball and Exhibition Co. Inc., which was in charge of operating the Chick Baseball Organization. H. L. Reeder was named president of the organization with H. D. Osteen serving as vice president; H. D. Hartmann, treasurer; and John D. Riley, chairman of the board of directors. The board consisted of several prominent Sumterites, including W. A. McElveen, J. C. Brogdon, D. B. James, A. T. Heath Jr., Mrs. H. L. Reeder, H. L. Reeder Jr., Clifton G. Brown, J. H. Humphries, J. H. Lawson, W. G. Blackwell, Dr. Harry Harvin and Henry Lucas.

The Chicks were scheduled to open their season on April 14, 1949, with a game against the Florence team. In February of 1949, the city of Sumter agreed to extend a five-year lease to the Chick organization allowing games to be played at Riley Ball Park. Shortly after this meeting, Wes Livengood was named manager of Sumter's Chicks, and he was given a warm reception by Sumter fans.

In March of 1949, a starting lineup was announced featuring Joe Sabatella at first base with Fred Daniels and Grover Blackmon competing for second base. Adam Bengochen was at third along with Frank Lansetti, with Jack Sofia scheduled to play shortstop. Pat Cooper, Lenf Morrison and rookies James Partin and Leland Helms were in the outfield. Partin was a former player at Sumter High and Legion star. "Joe Cleary, who had a 22-9 record for Gainesville, Florida last year, arrived in camp, leaving only Alex Zych to report before the pitching roster is complete."

"Mayor W. E. Bynum proclaimed April 15, 1949, as a red-letter day in the history of Sumter. In his proclamation, submitted to The Item for publication, the mayor pointed out that on this day the first home game of the regular season of the Sumter Chicks, local Tri-State League team, would be played that evening. Under the able sponsorship of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, and with the cooperation of every interested citizen, a large crowd viewed the first game. A parade celebrating the event was held on Main Street and included members of the Florence ball club, the opponents for the first game."

According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, due to poor attendance "in 1952 the Chicks and the Florence Steelers were replaced by the Greenwood Tigers and the Greenville Spinners in the Tri-State League."