A local legacy is getting a well-deserved boost, and a long-abandoned project is revived.
The Kennett Underground Railroad Center is sponsoring a video project featuring Kennett Square's contribution to baseball history, the Kennett Grey Sox.
The Sox were a local baseball team comprised entirely of black players, and although they were not officially affiliated with the Negro League, their accomplishments have left an impact on those who saw the team play.
Several years ago, local history buff Phillip Verrecchia started to organize a video project about the Sox. His idea was to document the remaining players' experiences through a series of interviews and eventually produce a video.
Verrecchia went as far as contacting the Negro League Baseball Players Association, posting messages on the Web site's bulletin board asking for information about the players and the team.
Unfortunately, Verrecchia died before the project truly got off the ground. For almost two years, the idea was left in limbo until another local with ties to the team stepped up to the plate.
"There's not many of them left," said event organizer Rusty Jones, whose father and uncle both played for the Sox. "I thought that this is something to be recorded and passed on to younger people."
Jones recently took over the project, picking up where Verrecchia left off. He contacted as many of the remaining players that he could find and asked them to meet at the Kennett Life Center last Saturday.
Darien Bagley, an instructor at Lincoln University, conducted the interviews, coaxing them to share memories and stories of their glory days on the diamond, as a video of old footage from Kennett Square played on a screen in the background.
Old newspaper clippings and original players' jerseys were on display, and Jones and company even served hot dogs and sauerkraut, adding to the atmosphere.
"It smells like a baseball game in here," one attendee joked to her husband as they leafed through yellowed pictures of the Sox in a tattered black binder.
"I think it's long overdue," said Earl Draper, who played outfield for the Sox. "Problem is, a lot of the players have died, and some people are just reluctant to talk. One of the hardest things to do is get information out of people. And if things had been different, I know some of these boys would have been in the majors, and that's something people need to know."
Eighty-four-year-old Bob Jackson, who played from 1941 until sometime in the late 60s, didn't seem particularly moved by the project, but was pleased to see that his fellow players were together one more time.
"I thought there was going to be a few more people here," Jackson said, specifically mentioning Charles White, 88, who was expected to attend.
"I don't know where Charlie is," Jones said, believing that he may still make an appearance.
Unbeknownst to the organizers, however, White had recently been hospitalized while battling cancer. He lost the battle the very weekend the event took place.
Jack Hardy, 78, an outfielder and pitcher for the Sox from 1943 to 1954, was pleased that someone was finally giving some attention to the team, especially since there are only a few players left alive.
"We're leaving fast," Hardy said. "I think there's only four of us left."
Hardy was hard pressed to recall any one particular game that stood out to him, even when being interviewed for the project. And although Bagley seemed to have a hard time getting the players to open up in a one-on-one setting, when they sat together at one of the tables, the stories started to fly.
"Ah, he wanted to know of I remembered anything important," Hardy said. "I said, 'Every game was the same as the last.'"
The same goes for 83-year-old George "Shortwave" Westley, so-named for the fishhooks he often kept in his ball cap while playing. Westley played for a short time -- about five years in the late 1950s and early 1960s -- although the rumor among his peers is that Westley could and should have played for the majors.
"Oh, I might have, I don't know for sure," Westley said with a sniff and a shrug. "I just love to play. And let me tell you, before I'm said and done, I'm gonna play again. I want them to put me on third base with a runner headin' in. See if I can stop him."
Earl "Sax" Glasco said he was more of a fan than a player, but he played an integral part in the Grey Sox experience.
"The amount of time I actually played was very little," Glasco said. "But I loved the game and I was a big fan of these boys."
Glasco said that Westley's nickname came from his ability to play even in low light conditions, with the hooks in his hat acting as a sort of ad-hoc antennae. Hence, he was receiving "shortwave" signals telling him what runner was where and where needed to be.
Glasco and Westley both recalled the Sunday games, where a local hardware store would post the names of that week's pitchers as well as scores and stats on a bulletin board for all to see.
"You could be downtown, and it would be quiet as hell, I mean you could hear a pin drop," Westley said. "But when you heard that ball hit, that crack! Boy, you could hear that crowd half a mile away."
"We felt that this was something that simply needed to be done," said Mary Dugan, director of the Underground Railroad Center. Dugan said that the video will premier sometime in 2007 and will be available for sale at locations in Kennett Square and possibly online.