Old Baseball Home Run Tale Has A Payson Connection


There are some folktales I want to believe, but I just can't grasp them.

One of those I still can't figure out occurred in the 1950s when I was growing up in Ash Fork.

It began with me overhearing an astounding tale about a local teenage baseball team, two of its star players and a pair of home runs -- one of which traveled one mile and the other 25 miles.

Yep, you read it correctly baseball fans -- one mile and 25 miles.

The yarn I heard about the pair of HRs came secondhand from some of my fifth-grade buddies.

But then again, those were the same guys who guided me on a snipe hunt and sent me looking for a smoke shifter on a Boy Scout camp out.

A couple of years ago, I remembered one of the main characters in the story was former Payson mayor and longtime baseball and Little League coach Ted Pettet. So while we were taking in a varsity baseball game from the Longhorn dugout, I asked him if the tale was factual.

He assured me it was. Ted is known to spin a few good tales, some as fine as those of his longtime friend and former PHS principal Tom Meck, who's a Rim Country legend with his laughs.

While Tom is willing to take on almost any spoof for a few good chuckles, I'm sure Ted wouldn't fabricate facts about his favorite sport -- baseball.

With his esteemed blessing, I will attempt to retell the story as I remember it.

On the Ash Fork American Legion baseball team with Pettet was Marshall Trimble.

Today almost everyone in the state knows Marshall. He's Arizona's official historian and one of the most sought-after banquet and convention speakers in the west.

He's famous for his songs and story telling and has been featured on the History Channel.

Marshall lived in Ash Fork about the same time I did, but Ted was only in town for the summer helping his uncle who owned a popular motel on Route 66.

I think it's fair to say that since their days in the small town, both Ted and Marshall have grown to become popular and colorful personalities.

But in the 1950s, the two were known simply as pretty fair country ball players in a community composed mostly of railroaders, rock doodlers and cowpunchers.

It seems at a game played at the Grand Canyon, on a makeshift diamond near one of the edges of the North Rim, Marshall lifted a fastball over the outfield fence. After bouncing once, the ball rolled and rolled until it dropped over the edge and into the canyon.

Because the canyon is known to be a mile deep, Marshall bragged -- upon his return to Ash Fork -- that he swatted a home run that traveled a full mile.

I don't know the origins of Marshall's celebrated homespun humor, but a feat such as hitting a mile-long home run is plenty of ammunition to jump-start more than a few folktales.

Ted says after the home run, Marshall took on the appearance of a male peacock strutting his stuff for a lady as he roamed the streets of Ash Fork, retelling of the monumental blast.

What Marshall didn't know, as the story goes, is that his round-trip ticket story was about to be punched.

Marshall's downfall as the town's finest hitter unfolded at old Jerome High School where Ash Fork was playing.

Those who've been to the historic mining town know it sits high atop a hill and all roads leaving travel on steep, downhill grades.

Midway through the game, Ted came to bat. The former teacher turned insurance man swung mightily and rocketed a fly ball out of the park.

Ted remembers, the ball hit squarely in the middle of State Route 89A and near a hairpin turn.

From there, the ball rolled down the highway, never stopping until it reached level ground near Sedona, 25 miles a way.

With the hit, Ted reclaimed bragging rights as Ash Fork's version of Babe Ruth.

From that day forth, when Marshall bantered his bravado saying he had hit a home run that traveled a mile, Pettet countered with the swagger of a player who had hit a 25-mile home run.

Now I'm not saying my childhood friends in Ash Fork were in cahoots with Ted in conjuring up a 25-mile home run, but I'm still having trouble picturing such a hit.

I guess they could have made it up.

After all, a few years later while listening to the radio with my father, I heard a national broadcasting company tell its listeners -- in the most sophisticated and reverential of tones-- that spaghetti came from bushes.

I just learned that was a hoax -- spaghetti isn't grown on bushes.

Tonto shoot on Sunday

Archery hunters will have the opportunity to fine tune their skills at the first-ever Tonto Rim Sports Club-sponsored 3D archery shoot to be held Aug. 10 at the Jim Jones Shooting Range, located just south of Payson.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the shoot one hour later.

The registration fee is $20 for adults, $30 for a family and $15 for youth 14 to 18 years of age. Children under 14 years may enter for free. The competition is open to the public.

In the upcoming shoot, archers will walk the new archery course at the Jim Jones Shooting Range firing arrows at McKenzie life-sized, foam, three-dimensional targets.

The targets are of bear, deer, mountain lion and other wild animals.

Also on the agenda is a Clout shoot and a raffle.

The Clout shoot will be at a bull's eye target from about 90 meters and feature a 50-50 payoff to the winners.

Prizes will also be awarded to winners of the 3D shoot and there will be raffle with selected archery equipment given out as prizes.

For more information about the upcoming event call TRSC Public Relations Officer Charles Thompson at (928) 468-1521.

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