Ball, Bat and Bitumen

A History of Coalfield Baseball in the Appalachian South


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About the Book

They emerged from the mines, shook off the coal dust, and stepped onto the diamond. From the early 1900s to the 1950s, baseball games between mine workers were a small-town phenomenon, each team attracting avid and intensely loyal fans. Talented part-time athletes competed at the amateur, semi-pro and professional levels. Equally competitive were the coal company officials, who often brought in ringers, or players of exceptional ability, giving them easier jobs above ground or a padded pay packet. Based on interviews with surviving players, families of deceased players, and contemporary sources, this thoroughgoing history covers not only teams and leagues but their function within the mining communities of Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia. The book features a special section on African-American mining teams, a coalfield map and many photographs.

About the Author(s)

L.M. Sutter is an artist, writer and baseball fan. She is a member of SABR and lives in southwest Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

L.M. Sutter

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 212
Bibliographic Info: 46 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2009
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3594-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5266-8
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments      1
Introduction      5

1. The Coal Towns      9
2. The Appalachian Pastime      19
3. The Emperor of Baseball      30
4. Tye Harber’s War      43
5. The Boys of the Lonesome Pine      49
6. Moonlighting Bearcats      76
7. A Wide-Awake Town      86
8. Fathers and Sons      94
9. Fertile Soil      104
10. Almost Valhalla      113
11. The 1951 Hazard Bombers      128
12. The Choices We Live With      136
13. Bob Bowman      144
14. Vince Pankovits and the Mean Season      153
15. The Old Man of the Mountains      163
16. The Women in the Stands      170

Epilogue      187
Chapter Notes      191
Bibliography      195
Index      199

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Winner, Sporting News–SABR Baseball Research Award
  • “fascinating people and stories…contributes to the growing body of literature on baseball”—Nine
  • “a wonderful human interest story”—Appalachian Heritage
  • “will be very helpful to future baseball historians”—Journal of Sport History