By David Green
DRAFFENVILLE – Selflessness and dedication are the bywords of the 1969 North Marshall Jets baseball team and of Marshall County sports booster extraordinaire Bill Morgan.
The team and the man will be inducted into the MCHS Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame later this month.
Neither the players on the Jets team, nor Morgan were motivated by glory.
Both the team and the man tended to toil in obscurity.
This month, they get some of the recognition they earned, but never sought or believed they deserved.
Baseball is a team sport, and there’s no “I” in team, as the cliche goes.
Nevertheless, members of the 1969 North Marshall High School Jets baseball team single out one of their ranks as the most significant of the parts.
Third baseman Barry Faith “was the heart and soul of the team,” said Dale Smith, who played center field.
Faith died at age 59 July 9. Friends say he died knowing that the Jets baseball team had been chosen for induction into the hall, and was pleased, but they regret he did not live to be a part of the ceremony.
Barney Thweatt, who was principal at North Marshall then, remembers Faith as an exceptionally talented athlete.
“He was an outstanding basketball player,” said Thweatt. “He could have been an outstanding football player. He was a natural.”
Gene Brooks, who served as assistant to head coach Bill Grizzard, agreed, calling Faith “an outstanding, natural athlete.”
Faith was a player-manager for the team, Brooks said, noting that Grizzard was a football specialist who knew his limitations as a baseball man.
“Barry, he more or less coached the team,” Smith said. “Bill knew football inside and out, but he didn’t know baseball.”
Smith remembers how astounded he and other players were when North Marshall upended Mayfield to win the region title and the right to advance to the eight-team state tournament.
“We had the biggest crowd there,” Smith said. “They started chanting.”
Smith turned to a fellow player, and said, “Can you believe this? We’ve got people cheering for us.”
The players don’t remember much about the regular season,which was short and served no notice of the post-season honors to come. But they knew they weren’t supposed to beat Mayfield, and they certainly had no business going up against Covington Holmes in the first round.
Holmes had a fellow named Leo Foster in the lineup.
And while pitcher Herman Harrington didn’t really know who Foster was, he said, “we did know that the Atlanta Braves were scouting him at that game.” Foster would go on to play five seasons in the major leagues with the Braves and New York Mets.
On this day, Harrington remembers, Holmes was trying to overcome a 1-0 North Marshall lead. Holmes had runners on second and third and Foster was at the plate with a 3-2 count.
“I remember he fouled off seven pitches,” Harrington said. “Then I came in with some kind of fastball and he swung and missed.”
Smith recalls how Holmes tried to tie the game with a squeeze bunt.
“The bunt went right back to Herman,” he said. “Herman scooped it to Jimmy Smith in one motion.”
The catcher was blocking the plate.
“When that boy hit him,” Smith said, “he [Jimmy Smith] turned a somersault.”
But he held onto the ball, and the runner was out. North Marshall pulled the upset, 1-0.
Bill Morgan admires the excellence of such plays, but shrugs off his own prowess as a ball player at Benton High School.
“Our history is so replete with so many stories of great success,” Morgan said of Marshall County’s rich heritage.
“Athletics have been a part of my life all my life. I participated as I could.”
At Benton, where he graduated in 1947, Morgan played baseball and was manager of the basketball team under coach Ernest Fiser, another member of this year’s class of hall of fame inductees.
“I learned a lot of lessons from Coach Fiser,” Morgan said. “I owe him a lot. He opened doors for me.”
Morgan went on to study at Freed Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., before transferring to Murray State University.
After graduation, he entered the Air Force and became a pilot. He left active duty in 1960 and built a career in real estate and insurance in his hometown, all the while serving in the Air National Guard, eventually retiring with the rank of brigadier general.
All the while, he continued to show his regard for Marshall County athletics.
Morgan is a founder of the Athletic Foundation which honors him later this month.
MCHS booster Dennis Foust describes Morgan as one of those people whose behind-the-scenes work solidifies the connection between a sports program and the community.
“Always quiet,” Foust said. “He made contributions because he cares about young people. He looks to make this a better place.”
Morgan chose two words to explain his motivation: “Grow and nurture -- that’s been my purpose,” he said. “That’s why I’ve done this all my life.”