Sunday, June 15, 2003

Appalachian League baseball superlatives include the W.D. Va.'s best-ever baseball case

The appeal of baseball in the Appalachian League, a short-season rookie league at the lowest rung of the minor league ladder, is explained in this commentary from the Bluefield newspaper.

The Bluefield Orioles were once the subject of a lawsuit in federal court in the W.D. Va., which resulted in a published opinion by Judge Williams, a huge baseball fan, with this memorable statement of the facts:

"Simmons, along with a friend, attended the Fourth of July, 1988 game between the Martinsville Phillies and the Bluefield Orioles, a Baltimore farm team, at Bluefield, Virginia. Bluefield was not having a good year, and whether for this or some other reason Simmons moved down to the third baseline along about the eighth inning, and started to heckle the Oriole players sitting in the bullpen. Champ stated in his deposition that Simmons was accusing the ballplayers of stealing the local women, and that he (Simmons) would show the Orioles what West Virginia manhood was like by blowing the players' heads off. Whatever was precisely said, the pitching coach then asked Simmons to leave.
After the game (Bluefield lost, 9-8, stranding three runners in the bottom of the ninth), Champ encountered Simmons in the parking lot. Simmons, in his complaint, offers no details of what ensued other than that he was punched and kicked by Champ and then hit in the jaw by a baseball bat wielded by Hicks, causing his jaw to be broken in two places. Champ's version was that Simmons saw him carrying a bat, made a gesture as if he were shooting Champ with his finger, and said "Oh, so you need a bat, huh?" Champ said "No, I don't," and threw his bat down. Simmons gestured toward his car and said, "Let's go over to my car, and I'll blow your head off." Another player tried to intervene, and Champ said "Just get out of here." Simmons then advanced threateningly upon him, and Champ hit Simmons in the face. Simmons was unfazed, and Champ kicked him in the chest, causing Simmons to stagger back. According to Champ he then smiled and said "I'm drunk. I didn't feel that." Champ turned to walk away, and at that point defendant Hicks hit Simmons. Simmons says Hicks hit him with a bat, but Hicks says that he used only his fist. Hicks had not been near any of the heckling and says he intervened because he was afraid Simmons was about to pull a gun on Champ."

Simmons v. Baltimore Orioles, Inc., 712 F. Supp. 79, 80 (W.D. Va. 1989).

The Bristol franchise is now the Bristol White Sox. One of the great feats in professional baseball involved a minor league team from Bristol, when Ron Necciai struck out 27 in a game in 1952, as described in this story.

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