Foundation preserving piece of 'Betsy history

By Allen LaMountain


   On May 7 at Elizabethton High School, the Cedar Grove Foundation unveiled a trophy case displaying some long, lost minor league baseball historical memorabilia.
   The Elizabethton Blue/Gray's were a semi-pro 'barnstorming' team that toiled in the old Negro Leagues, and foundation chairperson J.C. Augustus has led the way in uncovering this precious piece of history.
   "Our overall mission is to collect and preserve local history," said Augustus. "We are very proud to do this, and we have uncovered another jewel from Elizabethton's past.
   "It was a lot of fun to do the researching of this. Too often we let things from our past get forgotten, and we didn't want to let that happen with this piece of important history."
   On display are two Blue/Gray jerseys and several other items of note from that era.
   Local resident James "Chick" Forney of Elizabethton played with the Blue/Grays from the 1940s through the sixties, and said of his playing days: "I played shortstop in those days, and we played for the fun of it and the love of the game. We would go over to Virginia sometimes and play and then they would come down here the next weekend.
   "It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed playing ball, and if I wasn't 78 years old I would still like to play."
   Johnson City resident Ted Hartsaw was also a member of the Blue/Gray's, and he said of the foundations' preservation efforts: "It's just wonderful. I hope it lets the young kids know what we went through to play ball, and gives them inspiration to pursue things that are difficult.
   "It wasn't an easy time, there was segregation, but I integrated a long time ago. I would play on a lot of white teams, and they treated me just fine. I had no trouble."
   Playing in those days was simply for the love of the game, as both Hartsaw and Forney said: "We didn't get paid, but we always got fed. We were just young kids playing ball and having a time of it."
   When asked how he felt some of his old teams would have fared against some of the minor league teams of the era, Hartsaw said: "We could have played with any of them. We had some guys that could really play ball, and we played together for a long time."