Lon Carter Barton

 

 

Last week I was saddened to learn of the passing of Graves County, Kentucky historian and Kitty League fan Lon Carter Barton. on March 28, 2006. He was 80 years old.

Mr. Barton was one of my Kitty League friends whom I met several years ago when I first began working on the Class D circuit. He was kind enough to let me interview him about his memories of his hometown Mayfield Clothiers and Browns and following the Kitty League. He served as a member of the Kitty League Hall of Fame committee that inducted new members at the 2003 and 2005 reunions.

He was a Army veteran of the Korean War and a member of the Kentucky legislature, representing the 3rd District (1958-1963) and 2nd District (1964-1965) as a Democrat.

He later became a history teacher at Mayfield independent schools and served as county historian. He was particularly interested in the history of Western Kentucky, the Civil War, and the Kitty League. He wrote articles in The Kentucky Encyclopedia about Graves County and the Kitty League.

One summer afternoon in 2000, Mr. Barton drove me around town and showed me the sites of Mayfield's Kitty League ballparks and even Maplewood Cemetery, which is home to a curious collection of tombstones built by one man to honor members of his family. It's been called "the strange procession that never moves."

"I did a little ushering at the old Hunt Park," home of the Mayfield Clothiers and Browns from 1937 to 1941, he recalled in our interview. "I enjoyed doing it and it generally didn't amount to very much. Most of the people knew pretty well where their chairs were, the ones that would be in the reserved sections, and they would go straight there and that would be it."

And how much was he paid to be an usher?

"Entrance to the ball game primarily," he replied. "We might've got a Dr. Pepper or a Double Cola, something like that. We thought about it almost as an honor to be given the opportunity to work in the ballpark. And of course getting in without paying anything to get in was a big incentive at that time. Because, as you know, the Thirties were not financially rewarding days for people here as well as everywhere else. It was sort of a sacrifice for people to go to the ball games as a matter of fact."

Like all the other boys in town, he looked up to the ballplayers and welcomed any sort of contact with them. In 1939, Vernon Stephens was a rookie shortstop for the Browns and boarded with a family whose home was just up the street from Mr. Barton's. Sometimes he was given "the very great pleasure" of carrying Stephens' bat, glove, and spikes with him to the ballpark. 

"I mean that really gave me a prestigious kind of a feeling that I was escorting Vernon Stephens (to the game)," he said. "And not only was I escorting him, but I was taking what he would've had to take for himself if it hadn't been for my being along on the way to the ballpark!"

He was such a big fan that he and a friend hitchhiked over 100 miles to go to the 1949 All-Star Game in Owensboro, Kentucky. While he enjoyed the game and seeing Miller Field, it was a challenge returning home. "It was, suffice to say, pretty much of a problem hitchhiking back and trying to catch a ride (back) to Mayfield," he remembered. "Needless to say, it took us almost all night to get home. I think we rolled in about four o'clock the next morning with a mail delivery truck or something of the sort. It was worth going to see a game in Owensboro because the ballpark was very attractive, very, very beautiful."

I'll miss talking with Mr. Barton and listening to his stories of the Kitty League. Thank you for your memories!

 

 

 

(c) 2006 Kevin D. McCann. All rights reserved.