The Industrial League

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I suppose you read my last column called This and That. If you did, you will recall I pointed out that Clifton McNeely was also a great pitcher and a great basketball player and was the first to be drafted into the National Basketball Association in 1947. I received this phone call from the class of 1950, and the fellow’s name was Thurmond Weatherred. Here is his story to back up my information; his dad was Alan Weatherred, and he liked the game of softball. So, in 1950, he organized eight men’s teams. Each team had a Pampa business sponsor that paid for their team uniforms and equipment. They called their league The Industrial League. For some reason, Thurmond, at the age of 89, could only remember the names of three sponsors, imagine that. They were Thompson Parts, Knight of Pythias Lodge, and The Skellytown Restaurant. He also said they played other towns such as Groom, White Deer, Panhandle, Canadian, Clarendon, Claude, and even Lefors!

That’s when Clifton showed up to participate. Kiwanis Park had ten ball diamonds, so tryouts were held there. Weatherred oversaw assigning the men to a team. Clifton said he was a pitcher, so Weatherred told him to try out with this catcher. So, Clifton throws a few balls at half speed to get his arm warmed up! He then tells the catcher that he’s ready, and this poor fellow catches a “bullet!” Next, he throws curves, drops, sliders, and of course, the fastball. After ten minutes, the catcher comes back to Mr. Weatherred and tells him, “I can’t catch this guy...he’s killing my hand!” They added padding to the catcher’s mitt, and Coach Mac became a legend around Pampa! He never lost a game!

In the summer of 1955, Ken Hinkle and I went to the Harvester Fieldhouse to shoot some baskets, and there he was, practicing his pitching. So, when Thurmond Weatherred told me that Clifton could throw a bullet, I can vouch for this story as a FACT!

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