I normally don’t do columns because it usually ends up making people mad. My editor told me I should start writing more of them. I thought I didn’t have a lot to say and then I went to a baseball game at Lions Hondo Little League baseball park. Actually, I attended two games.
One was to interview Issac Loya, the winner of several Hit, Pitch and Run events held around the country and if he keeps progressing, we may be reading about him at the Major League level in 10 years.
When you drive into the Lions Hondo park, it is so nondescript, which makes what happened in 1956 — winning the Little League World Series — all the more remarkable. There were no flags, signs or plaques introducing all the guests and visitors to the home field of the 1956 Lions Hondo Little League World Series Champions.
In a way, it is hurtful that with the passing of each member of the team and as the years go by, very few people know or remember what helped put Roswell on the map, along with the UFO crash. I heard people at the game talking about the park and the 1956 team. Someone said it’s no big deal that nothing happened here — look how they keep the field. The other person said this is just a place to play baseball. The league was introducing the All-Stars from each age group and holding a home run derby along with a cookout to end the regular season that night.
These people talking weren’t kids, but parents. I didn’t think anything about the comment myself as I was rushing to get my interview and get back to the office and write my story on Loya. I didn’t think anything about it until I had to cover the game between Roswell’s Noon Optimist All-Stars and Lions Hondo in a game that determined who would play for the championship. The place was packed and the tensions were high as rivalries are, with the winner to play Artesia.
I still didn’t think anything about the importance of history until I met Tommy Jordan, Jim Valdez and Harold Hobson. These men made history in 1956. I will be doing a story of either the 1956 team or the select group of men. I felt bad about rushing through my job while trying to find articles that stimulate the Chaves County sports readers and didn’t realize the importance of the Lions Hondo Little League since I’m an outsider.
This article is in no way to cast aspersion on any one group or person. My goal in writing this article is to bring an overlooked mistake to light in hopes that the powers in control of this city can and will do something about it.
As someone that is new to the area as a sports writer, I’m not going to know what is a big deal to the people of Roswell unless you make me understand: “Hey, these men and what they accomplished is a big deal. Cover them, the league and write about them.” But if the people who live here don’t think it is a big deal, then why would you expect me to think it is a big deal?
I take partial responsibility for not knowing about or appreciating them as they should have been, but I didn’t get it because no one expressed how important it was for the league to be in the paper.
I would like to see the Little League promoted better in our town along with these men and their accomplishments. When these men die, it will be part of their obituary and accomplishments and they should be recognized for it while they are still alive. They were simply the best at playing Little League baseball in 1956.
There’s not a lot of work involved with having a cookout and introducing the All-Star team, but why not put together a video of what these men did and have a meet-and-greet with the men who are willing to show up? I’m sure they would love the recognition and appreciate the effort. Before any All-Star games are played, they should know the history and what can be done.
Lastly, I’m from a town of 25,000 in Ohio. When you drive into my hometown, there are signs up from every entrance coming into town that says: Home of the Devilettes 25-time state champions, and 1955, 2005 State Basketball Champions.
As I drove to Ruidoso to cover Mike Smith on Sunday, I came back into town and I saw things about aliens, UFOs and restaurants, but no signs or anything commemorative about the 1956 Little League Champions, or the latest National Champion dance team — Charlie’s Angels. I’m sure this is an oversight and if it’s not, then it’s unfortunate that these heroes will not live in immortality, but their accomplishments will go by the roadside as drivers pass by, never knowing Roswell for anything but UFOs.
Let’s celebrate our heroes and champions for the visitors and the world to see.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or firstname.lastname@example.org.