Quarry diamond was a difficult place to learn
It was called the “quarry diamond.”
Not really a baseball diamond, it was barely level enough to hold the pick-up games of the youngsters living in Kearneysville. But it was like a baseball laboratory for those whose homes were within walking distance of the dusty, rock-strewn patch of ground that was actually owned by a company that gouged limestone out of the ground and sent it away mostly by rail car to be firmed into steel.
The “Quarry Diamond” had its natural boundaries. There were no walls decorated with advertising signs or telling of out-of-town scores. There were trees – mostly hackberry, scrawny maples or thorn-infested locusts – ringing the rock-hard playing surface that was usually powder-dry and always ready with a bad hop that could find a waiting chin more often than not.
There were no chalk lines to distinguish a foul ball from a line drive that dove into the waiting undergrowth. The bases were not anchored nor were they really bases but slabs of thin wood or a burlap sack mostly used for holding barley or wheat.
Games were often interrupted to search for a battered baseball that might have tar-tape or some other “foreign substance” trying to keep its cover from escaping from the yarn found inside.
An informal score was kept. But nothing official that could be submitted to SABR or to the commissioner’s office for proper rulings.
The “players” came from farms, orchards, fields and chores that occupied most of their waking hours. The fun would start after the second milking of the day, when apples had been thinned or weeds had been pulled in gardens.
They would often walk past the Grey Goose or Night Owl, two taverns up on old Route 9. Down through the railroad underpass and then taking a right turn and moving along those tracks that carried them past the post office of the time and grain elevators that were snug to those same tracks.
A few others might walk nearly a mile from the creamery that hugged the railroad tracks to the meeting place near where there were actually three quarries.
The largest quarry was near Herbert Miller’s farm and was also a favorite swimming hole with its spring-fed water. A second quarry was much smaller and had been abandoned when springs seeped into its sunken plain. The third quarry was only a smallish hole that couldn’t call itself much more than a runt compared to the other two.
There weren’t any Louisville Slugger bats or balanced maces honed to tame the best of fastballs.
Teams had four, five or six players – whoever could get there on a given evening. Players with gloves would lend them to those that came without such fancies.
Some of those in attendance were relatives, who also enjoyed fishing, quail hunting and sledding together in other seasons of the year. Paul Miller, Jr., Charles Miller and Gilbert Miller came from the Rellim Orchard. Lige Miller and Bill Thompson were cousins who eventually attended Shepherd College and played baseball for the Rams. Marvin Thomas and Junie Fellers were later teammates on the Kearneysville Rags and Kearneysville Owls adult teams. Norval Johnston and Irvin Kerns got just as dusty as the rest of them that favored the quarry roundups.
When the sun hung low in the July sky, the youngsters would traipse on home, going past the convenience store/gas station that was on the corner of Rte. 9 and what is now Rte. 480 toward Shepherdstown five miles away. They paid attention to the road’s surface where dairy cows had crossed the highway coming from a pasture behind the convenience store to a smaller pasture and barn on the other side that faced Rte. 9.
A general store about a half-mile toward Martinsburg from the crossroads might be the destination of anyone with a penny or two to get some candy or a much-valued soft drink.
No scores were remembered. The players would return as soon as their work schedules would permit.
The “Quarry Diamond” would be waiting . . . with its pitted infield, sun-baked outfield and weeds wanting to gather another errant throw or scarred baseball hit by a “bat” made from hard wood that normally could be found in a hay mow or fence row.