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Friday, October 11, 2013

No. 4 “Billy Hancock ‘soaks’ Sam Windsor” (c. 1870)

... my father’s favorite story about his legendary grandfather, Billy Hancock, was of when Billy was recruited to play “cat” (an early version of baseball) for Diamond City against a team from Beaufort. The squad from the “town” sported a player considered to be the fastest man in the whole county. Sam Windsor was a former slave who had made a name for himself as a ball-player, and would later move to Shackleford Banks where to this day a clump of cedar trees and yaupon bushes still are known as Sam Windsor’s Lump.

In cat, in order to make an out, a runner had to be touched with the ball while it was still in the hand of the fielder. Thus fielders had to catch the ball and then try to run-down the hitter before he could reach the base. According to the legend, no one had ever been able to run-down Sam Windsor – no one that is until Billy Hancock caught him on his very first at bat against the team from the Banks. My father’s voice would rise and his cheeks would grow flush as he would try to act out for those who were listening how his grandfather had held back his hand and the ball until the very last moment so as to decoy the over-confident runner. Finally he would throw out his own clinched hand to show how Billy had gleefully outstretched his arm with the ball to “soak” (put out) the runner just before he reached the base.

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