Say “dude” in Woodbury, and most everyone knows you’re speaking of Nolan “Dude” Northcutt, a man whose life dates back to when most rural communities had popular amateur or semi-professional baseball teams.
And community town teams of the 1930s through the ‘60s, didn’t have to be big enough to be incorporated, as in Walter Hill, Lascassas, Milton, Christiana and Short Mountain.
The little Readyville community, which straddles the boundary between Rutherford and Cannon counties, is a case in point.
“We finally managed to beat Readyville’s great team, but we never defeated Auburntown’s team that featured so many players named Gaither,” Northcutt noted at age 98. “Nearly every position on the great Auburntown teams, were Gaither boys who were very tough outs to get.”
Northcutt will be recognized at the Rutherford County Old Timers Baseball Reunion scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11, at the Jaycees Building in Cannonsburg Village.
“I wasn’t that good of a player, so I managed the team for many years here in Woodbury,” Northcutt said. “I was replaced as the volunteer manager by Harold Patrick, who serves today as the distinguished mayor of Woodbury.”
Patrick sang Northcutt’s praises.
“Mr. Dude Northcutt did as much as any volunteer citizen for our community’s youth than any man in history,” Patrick said.
As for the games, attendance ranged from 50 to 200 fans, Northcutt recalled. But, he said more than a 1,000 fans were in the stands for a special game in the late 1940s.
“That’s when famous Grand Ole Opry stars Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, Grandpa Jones and David ‘Stringbean’ Akeman came to town to play against our team,” Northcutt said. “I don’t remember the score playing against those famous Opry stars, but I remember we had more than 1,100 people in stands … and raised $1,100 through ticket sales.”
The reunion has been held annually for more than 45 years, dating back to when a Murfreesboro banker was credited with promoting the tradition.
“The driving force was (the late) Sam Lasseter, who headed Commerce Union Bank in Murfreesboro,” said Dr. Thomas Gilbert Gordon Sr., who grew up playing town team baseball in Rutherford County in the 1930s, before establishing himself as a well-known physician in Tampa, Fla.
Gordon noted a particular playing field in his self-published book in 1990 about regional town teams: “Bob Martin’s Country Club Park, on Highway 231 south of Murfreesboro, was where some of our bigger games were played back in the 1930s.”
Players of yester-year could bank on Lasseter for organizational support.
“As head man at the bank, Mr. Lasseter offered the bank’s lobby as a suitable place to display the plaque which would carry the names of those elected to our Old Timers Hall of Fame,” Gordon said.
People wanting more information about the reunion may call Truman Jones at 615-849-6404.