Preacher Shaw and the Berrien Blue Jays

Preacher Shaw in uniform of the Berrien Blue Jays, 1948.   Image courtesy of www,berriencountyga.com

Preacher Shaw in uniform of the Berrien Blue Jays, 1948. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

From at least the 1880s, baseball was popular among the small towns of Berrien County, GA.  Ray City has produced a number of high school, college and minor league baseball players and coaches, and at least one major league player.  One local baseball legend was Fondren Willie Mitchell Shaw of Ray City, GA, better known as Preacher Shaw.

According to family member Bryan Shaw, Preacher Shaw, was the seventh born child of Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw and Susie Bullard Shaw.  He was born May 13, 1906, in a log home on the west bank of Possum Branch, in the New Lois community near Ray City, Georgia and grew up in a nearby home. He was educated in county schools at Pine Grove and Kings Chapel.

From Bryan Shaw’s family newsletter comes the following:

[Preacher Shaw had a] great love of baseball. During his adult years, he became a gifted ball player, always ready to be coaxed away from the mule and plow to engage in any pick-up game his fellow ball players would draft for him.

In Lamar Blanton’s book, “Tales of Ray’s Mill,” he reflects on his recollection of Preacher Shaw the ball player:

The most famous of the baseball players in our part of the state was a man nicknamed “Preacher,” a title that he somehow obtained without any evident relevant behavior on his part.  Preacher was considerably older than the other members of our team, but age is no handicap to a pitcher who is the complete master of a baseball.  His repertoire included virtually every pitch that has ever been named in baseball jargon. Being past his prime, his fastball did not exactly whistle any more, but he resorted to a vast variety of curves, and speed did not really matter, for it was only an infrequent accident that the hitter was able to get his bat anywhere near a pitch thrown by Preacher.  And all of the time that old son-of-a-gun would just stand there on the mound, grinning with infuriating devilishment as batter after batter left the plate to sit down in complete frustration.

Some of the visiting teams refused to play unless it was agreed that Preacher would not pitch.  He could hold any other position, for he was no better than an average ball player in a non-pitching role, but it was considered an unfair advantage for him to be on the mound.

He and his brother Charlie, who played shortstop, were often recruited by the local ball clubs to beef up their rosters. (Charlie was killed in an auto-train accident in 1937). Preacher actively played he sport until 1948, being listed on the April roster of the semi-pro Berrien Blue Jays that year. However, he was not listed as an active player by the end of the season.

Reprint courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

Preacher Shaw (standing, far right), of Ray City, GA played for the Berrien Blue Jays semi-pro baseball team in 1948.

Preacher Shaw (standing, far right), of Ray City, GA played for the Berrien Blue Jays semi-pro baseball team in 1948. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

See more photos of the Berrien Blue Jays at http://www.berriencountyga.com

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Mayhaw Lake Resort at Ray City, GA

A previous post on this blog included the transcript of a 1914 advertisement for Mayhaw Lake  amusement park and attractions operated by Elias Moore “Hun” Knight at Ray’s Mill, GA (now known as Ray City), and other posts have provided some backstory on the park’s significance in the community (1914 Box Ball Alley ,   Ray City Baseball).

A Berrien County Historical Foundation newsletter features more information on  Mayhaw Lake and other historic resorts of Berrien County, GA.  The Foundation is a great resource for researching family history in Berrien County. Visit the website for newsletters, historical photos, and workshops:  http://www.freewebs.com/berrienhistorical/

Among the Mayhaw Lake patrons mentioned in the article you will find Bruner and Charlie Ruth Shaw, Bryant and Henry Swindle, Jessie and Shellie Ziegler, Burton and Rachel Shaw, Marshal Sirmans, Manson Johnson, Lonnie Swindle, Tom Parrish, Viola Smith Davis, Elmer Shaw, Hollis Williams, Charlie Shaw, Nannie Kate Moore, Thelma Moore, Paul Knight, Lonnie Smith, J. H. Swindle, Glenn Johnson, Juanita Shaw, Roy Carter and Rossie Swindle.

Berrien Historical Foundation Newsletter front page depicting the swimming pool at Mayhaw Lake, Ray City, GA.

Berrien Historical Foundation Newsletter front page depicting the swimming pool at Mayhaw Lake, Ray City, GA.

A 1922 report from the Georgia State Board of Health listed the swimming pool at Ray City as one of only 63 pools in the entire state.  The report found that a very large majority of these were in a very unsanitary condition and dangerous to be used for bathing purposes.

Related Posts:

Baseball in the Wiregrass

1914 Box Ball Alley ~ Mayhaw Lake at Rays Mill, GA

Ray City Baseball

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1929 Merchants Support Ray City News

Many Ray City, GA residents felt that a home town newspaper was an essential element in the growth of the town. When the Ray City News began printing the local news, the local businessmen and merchants placed a full page advertisement showing their support.

The Ray City News, Ray City, Georgia

TO THE PUBLIC

    The undersigned merchants and business men of Ray City herewith announces the establishment of The Ray City News in the town of Ray City;
    And believing that a paper here means a great deal to the commercial life and development of our town, we are taking this method of be-speaking, for the paper, the support of the public and in asking that you subscribe to and read the Ray City News:

Citzens Bank of Ray City
M. G. Melton
C. O. Terry
Swindle & Clements
W.H.E. Terry
J. H.P. Johnson
J. L. Moore
Dr. G. H. Folsom
Charlie Shaw
Norton Service Station
A. Levin
L. F. Giddens
H. W. Woodard
J. A. Purvis
Studstill and Clements
G. M. Purvis    General Merchandise
Ray City Motor Co
Ray City Ice and Cold Storage Co.

Ray City Baseball

 

Just found the following in the sports page of the Atlanta Georgian and News, July 1, 1909 edition:

MILLTOWN WINS SERIES.
Milltown, Ga., July 1. – in a hotly contested bame [sic] of baseball Milltown won its second victory from Rays Mill by the score of 5 to 4. The game was played on Milltown’s new diamond. Schucker and Shaw did the
battery work for the home team, while Sellman and Shaw did the same duties for the visitors. Schucker, for the home team, only gave up three hits, struck out fifteen men and did on walk but one man. Sellman, of the visitors, gave up seven hits, walked two men and struck out nine men. Milltown has played three games with Rays Mill, winning the first , 16 to 2, and the second game went to Rays Mill by the score of 5 to 6 in ten innings. The milltown team was composed of all home players.

A hundred years ago, every small town had its baseball team.   Ray City sported a baseball team that played match games with Nashville, Milltown, Willacoochee, and other communities in the area.  As above, reports of the home team’s prowess occasionally even reached the Atlanta newspapers.

Later on, games were played on the baseball diamond at Mayhaw Lake.  After the small Ray City resort closed, the local team played on a field located near the tracks of the Georgia & Florida Railroad and Jones Street.

Ray City Baseball Team circa 1920

 

Top row far left to right, Elmer Shaw, James Swindle, Henry Swindle, unknown, unknown. Bottom row left to right, unknown, Charlie Shaw, unknown, unknown.

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