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Charlies, Charlie Hustle and other random memories

By Frank Giardina
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Let's take a stroll down memory lane and see if you recall these names, dates, places and events:
  • Do you remember when the Charleston Charlies brought Class AAA baseball to our city in 1971? Nothing against the Class A ball played here today, but having AAA baseball in Charleston was an incredible treat in the 1970s.
  • Do you remember when the starting pitchers for the Charlies first three home games were Ed Acosta, Gene Garber and Bruce Kison? Later that year, Kison made baseball history when he was the winning pitcher in the first night game in World Series history, hurling the Pittsburgh Pirates past the Baltimore Orioles.
  • Do you remember when Pete Rose made Joe DiMaggio sweat in 1978? "Charlie Hustle" put together a 44-game hitting streak that captivated this area, and the entire nation, from June 14 to Aug. 1 of that season. Do you remember the relief pitcher of the Atlanta Braves who celebrated as if he had won the World Series when he stopped the streak?  It was former Charleston Charlie Gene Garber.
  • Do you remember the pride the fans in this area felt when Rose, the region's most beloved player, bowled over Cleveland Indians catcher Ray Fosse to win the 1970 All-Star Game? The fact that the game was played at what was then the brand-new Riverfront Stadium made it all the more meaningful.
  • Do you remember when Cedar Grove had a high school? When the Friday-night lights went on in that small town it made magic for the Trailblazer fans in that community. Do you remember the names of Jim Auxier, Ross Gilmore, Ernie Young and others who played in the latter years of the football program? Then there was the biggest name of all, Poochie Grooms, still a legendary name in that end of the Valley.
  • Do you remember when former Monongah star Kerry Marbury electrified the entire state by returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown in WVU's 1972 game with Penn State? Fans all across the state thought that this would be the year that the losing streak would stop against the Nittany Lions. It wasn't.
  • Do you when former Excelsior and Big Creek star Oscar Patrick caught an early long touchdown pass from Mike Sherwood to give West Virginia an early lead over the Nittany Lions in their 1968 meeting? Everyone thought this would be the year that the losing streak ends against the Nittany Lions. It wasn't.
  • Do you remember when Pat Randolph scored on a 22-yard touchdown run to give WVU a 17-7 lead over Penn State in 1984? Everyone in the state thought that this would be the year that the losing streak ends against the Nittany Lions. It was. 
  • Do you remember when Billy Michael was a baseball star at Stonewall Jackson? Tom Scott a star at Herbert Hoover in 1971? Tim French at South Charleston in 1970? Jack Hudson at South Charleston in 1975?
  • Do you remember when Gazette-Mail photographer Chip Ellis was a basketball star at South Charleston in 1976? He looks like he can still play.
  • Do you remember when Kanawha City produced great high school baseball talent through the old Charleston Southern Little League and Senior Leagues?  Names such as Chuck Green, Steve Brown, Jeff Barnes, Kenny Shock, Bucky Lowe and the late Ralph Jean all came through that league. Brown and Barnes are both in the Hall of Fame at Morris Harvey College/University of Charleston.
  • Do you remember how good you would feel every time you turned on the radio in the fall and heard Jack Fleming's voice?
  • Do you remember how Huntington's Memorial Field House would rock during the 1971-72 basketball season when Mike D'Antoni would engineer a fast break that would result in a lay-up from Russell Lee, Bill James, Randy Noll, Tyrone Collins or Gary Orsini?
  • Do you remember when Sissonville and St. Albans only played high school football games on Saturday afternoons? The growth of WVU football forced both schools to add lights and start playing on Friday nights.
  • Do you remember when Barney Thompson of Barboursville was the biggest name in state golf? When Charleston Catholic played football? When the Phillips family kept producing state linemen of the year for Buddy James and the Parkersburg Big Reds? When high school basketball teams in the Kanawha Valley Conference never left the county to play a game? When it seemed like a long way from Charleston to Hurricane? 
  • Do you remember? I do. Reach Frank Giardina at
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