It’s been more than 50 years now since Baldwin High School won a region championship in baseball— but members of a scrappy 11-man 1969 team still remember well a series victory over Gainesville to gain that distinction.
That region championship still stands as the school’s only such title. Adding to the memories is the fact that the opening and final games of the best-of-three series were played at the University of Georgia’s Foley Field.
Two members of the team recently made the trip to Athens to visit the field where it happened and reminisce.
“It was just one of those things that kind of felt like, 50 years, man, I’m going up there,” said Danny Rogers, who traveled to Athens for the anniversary with former teammate Sonny Bass. “I wish everybody else could have made it, but they couldn’t. But Sonny did.”
Bass and Rogers both spoke to The Union-Recorder via telephone about their experiences with the team and how they helped shape their lives. Bass, who played leftfield that year as a sophomore, said Rogers, who was a senior, led the team.
“We had great leadership with Danny. He was our backbone. He was the pitcher, the leader, the hitter, the motivator. He just got the best out of everybody. And we rallied around him and we played really good ball with the talent we had. It was a good time. It was a very special time for all of us.”
Rogers said he took that year of high school success and channeled it into multiple region championships as a high school coach at Jones County and elsewhere.
Bass also took lessons from success and defeat as he moved forward in life. He said the quality of Baldwin’s teams went downhill in his final two years of high school, but he still cherishes that special season.
“We didn’t have the cohesiveness and the ability to win like we did as a sophomore. You know, you had your teams that you have the clutch hit, you have the clutch plays, you have the pitcher that does it all for you and then my junior year, I don’t even remember the record, but it was not that good,” Bass said.
He took forward a recipe for success in life.
“The camaraderie, the sticking together, picking each other up, and just always being there for each other. Just you know, just really loving each other,” Bass said. “Just enjoying being with each other, and being a part of something really special. It was a great team to play with — great group of guys. Man, it was special.”
David Humphries, who was a senior on the 1969 team also spoke with the newspaper about his experiences via telephone interview.
“I played with a lot of good ball teams. I moved a lot (since) my father was in construction. That team was it. When I moved to Baldwin High, halfway through my junior year, I played my junior year, which was ’68. And we had a good team. In ’69, we became seniors. Now Danny Rogers was the best pitcher I ever played with, and I played with some good ones,” Humphries said. “We did a lot with a few people, so it was teamwork, backing each other up, supporting each other. It carried me forward— I’m a contractor now. I had my own business. I recently retired, and a lot of those lessons I learned on that ball team (were) teamwork, work ethic, working hard. You know, if a player’s down, you know, just pull together. And if you lost, you lost. You won the next game.”
The Braves finished 1969 with a record of 13-5, winning the final game of the region championship series 1-0 but failing to advance in the next series. Donald Lord, who also saw success coaching basketball, coached the team.
“He had a huge impact on all of us kids,” Rogers said.
Lord left for Dodge County after that single season.