Remember When: ‘Fireball’ Trucks, Andalusia Arrows

Published 1:44 am Saturday, March 9, 2019

PLAY BALL“For it’s one, two, three strikes, YOU’RE OUT” at the old ballgame!” Some of you may remember hearing about the old Class D League that played baseball in Andalusia in the late 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

“Andalusia was a good sports town,” Historian Sidney Waits recalled. “The ball park was not far from our house, and a number of kids hung out there for most of the games especially every game that Virgil Trucks pitched. Many of the games drew capacity crowds. The bleachers along the first base line was where many of the ‘real fans’ sat – those that got involved, the vocal ones, those that followed every play and had an opinion. I and some of the other kids lucky enough to occasionally get a job as a vendor walking through the stands, really worked those bleachers where the big spenders sat.”

Virgil “Fireball” Trucks.

‘Cigars, Cigarettes, Chewing Gum, Candy, Cold Drinks – Get Them Here!’ And after a really big Saturday night game, every kid wanted a job on the cleanup crew, for the pocket change on the ground under the stands and bleachers was in itself a days’ pay. Fans would forget what was falling out of their pockets, and it was good pickings!”

“And when a vendor’s job was not available, returning a foul ball that went over the fence became a free pass if you really wanted to see the game. ‘Coming

Over’ was the cry that set all the kids scurrying in and around the parked cars. No one ever thought about keeping a ball to get it autographed, for watching the game was more important.”

     “In the opening game of the 1938 season, Trucks struck out 20 players. Detroit quickly dispatched Scout Gostree here and bought his contract from the Andalusia Arrows agreeing to let the Birmingham youth remain here for the rest of the season. It was a great year for Andalusia and ‘Fireball’ Trucks fanned 418 batters and pitched two no hitters, but the Andalusia fans had seen the last of young Mr. Trucks, because he was on his way to the big time!”

Attorney Joseph H. Johnson, Jr. who grew up in Andalusia but lived in Birmingham as an adult remembered, “My father (Supt. J. H. Johnson) was for several years the official scorekeeper for the Andalusia Class D team which meant, among other things, that he attended every home game. And it was at a home game where Trucks broke the then world’s strikeout record. When he did so, my father asked for and obtained the ball that Trucks was using when he struck out the batter that resulted in his breaking the record.”

“Dad wrote in indelible ink on the ball the number and the dates of strikeouts by Trucks during each preceding game in the season in question. Trucks, as well as the batter to whom he was pitching when Trucks broke the record (believe it or not, I remember his name – Robert Decker), both autographed the ball, also in indelible ink.”

“At mother’s death, my brother Bill and I came into possession of the ball. We decided several years ago to give the ball to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame here in Birmingham. They were glad to get it, as they had some other Trucks memorabilia on display; Trucks was, as some may remember, from Birmingham.”

Be sure to see the Andalusia Arrows collection displayed at Three Notch Museum. This memorabilia was donated by Casey Jones.

From The Opp News by Editor Bob Burgess is an article published from way back in the day. Sid Waits included it in one of his historical society newsletters, “Along the Three Notch.”

“A beautiful brick two-story courthouse was constructed in the middle of the square after the 1895 wooden courthouse was destroyed by fire. At that time, Court Square was unpaved and the sand was a good five inches deep around the building. Carnivals, commonly called street fairs in those days, spread their tents once a year around the courthouse and the people gathered to see, be seen, and get fleeced.”

Old timers would sit by the hours in the chairs on the front veranda of the courthouse and chew the fat with each other or just nap. Some would use chinaberry limbs to shoo away the gnats or insects that molested them.”

Old court square was not without its color during the early days. We remember one Christmas Eve night when several of the revelers gathered on their horses, each with a good supply of 30-shot Roman candles and a quart of hard stuff in their saddle bags. It was a rough sort of game in which they participated that night.”

Racing their horses at break-neck speed around the courthouse in the middle with a Roman candle spewing flaming balls at each other, these men were having fun. When a horse was hit, the rider was thrown back to the rider and the game was started again.”

“Some of the riders carried six shooters in their belts and would fire a few shots into the air to add to the celebration!”

A lot of fun has always taken place in and around the Court Square from rummage sales to political rallies to parades to laps around the square backwards when certain football teams won national championship games! I am sure that my grandsons and friends remember one such occasion a few years ago when a ‘wagon train” full of cars and trucks circled the square backwards with horns blowing and shakers shaking – with permission from law enforcement, of course!

An article of local interest back around 1958 or 59 appeared in The Alabama Baptist titled “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Much credit should be given to the late Speller Moates for seeing to it that the bell from the old 1905 First Baptist Church downtown was saved and installed in the present church. Had it not been for his efforts, the bell would have also gone the way of the wrecking ball.

Another historic bell was located in the bell tower of the brick courthouse in the middle of the square. The building was torn down by Benson Hardware, and Mr. Benson had the clock works and bell stored in his warehouse that was located across from his hardware building on Historic Central Street. The warehouse used to house the telephone exchange back when telephone operators would ask, “Number please?”

Somehow the warehouse was cleaned out and the bell wound up in Jones’ Junk Yard according to Waits. Speller frequented that place often and spotted the bell. He purchased it from Mr. Jones for $30.00, it was reported. Moates proudly took it home, built a frame for it, and displayed the bell in his yard on Three Notch Court until the Sesquicentennial year at which time he donated it to the county.  It is now enshrined in granite on the front lawn of the present courthouse. Bless his heart! 

Now back to the FBC bell story    Each time you hear it ring on Sunday mornings and evenings beckoning citizens to church, notice, if you will, that the ding is louder than the dong! Or it may be vice versa! It was installed by Speller and the most expert electrical engineers in the church at the time which was about in 1958 or 59, but the results were the same. Various church members walked that cat walk many a mile to the bell tower trying to deal with the saved bell from the old church. The details are intriguing! Speller Moates once told me the long story, and I wrote it all down for the church history!

Here is a short account from the Andalusia Star, April 1909 – “Some steps should be taken immediately to abate the dust nuisance on Court Square and its approaches at Andalusia. It has been suggested that crude oil would meet the requirements, and it probably would, if a sufficient amount of oil was spread over the square. Oil or water should be put upon the streets and the Public Square without unnecessary delay. Perhaps the city could get some assistance from the county in this matter since much of the property belongs to the county. We have good business men on the city council, and we believe they can see their way clear to give us relief in this matter. A complaint of too much dust is heard from the lips of almost every citizen.”

Now remember, readers, this is a time when horses, mule and wagons, horse and buggies mostly rode around the square! We can only imagine the dust nuisance! When mules were often unloaded from the incoming trains, they would be driven around the square to the O’Neal and Law stables so that would only add to the dust problem.

Next is a kind of mystery someone may want to look into. Waits wrote this little story – “Many places have their ‘Inspiration Point’ and others have their ‘Serenity Point.’ Beautiful views are experienced from either location. Do you know where ‘Serenity Point’ is in Andalusia? Most people probably do not know and have never heard of it. Actually, ‘Serenity Point’ is located atop the tall First National Bank Building overlooking Court Square and the beautiful Courthouse. In the northwest corner of the roof area on the trim block is the inscription ‘Serenity Point.’ Now you know!” (Will someone please check that out!)

Thank goodness for that old photograph that was found taken from above the FNBB during a snow event of long ago. A scene of the old Court Square with the park in the middle inspired the historical society to start promoting the return to the park from unsightly asphalt and concrete parking areas

Much business has been discussed through the years in city council and county commission meetings. In 1914 during a meeting of the County Board of Revenue (the county commission of the day), a suggestion was made to build the present courthouse in a new location away from the center of the square. It was further suggested that the old location in the center of the square could be sold to the government for a government building.

It was thought that the public would be delighted to have the post office building in the center of the square where it would be equally convenient to all!  So much for that idea that never took off!

The garden club ladies must have heard about that discussion after which they proceeded to promote and push for a landscaped park to be located in the center after the courthouse was relocated. Remember When there were a lot more garden clubs in town than there are today.

Let me end where I started. Play Ball – Recently someone thought it was baseball season so the civic clubs started singing at their luncheon meetings, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Friends, it is too cold, but then again, no one asked me! Old man Winter ball has replaced Good Old Summertime ball! So bundle up and “Root, root, root, root for your home team.”

  Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at