CHARLESTON — Players and fans alike got to relive the good old days of Charleston Charlies baseball Friday night at a Charlies reunion at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston.
For former Charlies player Danny Godby, it was a chance to see old friends and share some stories about the days when he was playing minor league baseball in West Virginia’s Capitol city.
“It was like going back in time,” Godby said of the reunion. “Some of those guys I played against — David Augustine and Gary Kolb, and I knew Calvin Bailey and I played against Kent Tekulve. The only one there I didn’t play against was Steve Blass. It was good to hear some of the comments that were made.”
The Charleston Charlies baseball team was the minor league club that played in Charleston at Watt Powell Park from 1971 until 1983. The team was first affiliated with the Pittsburg Pirates. The 1977 team, on which Godby played, won the Governor’s Cup, which was awarded to the International League’s playoff championship. Charleston’s current minor league team is the West Virginia Power, which plays its games at Appalachian Power Park.
The Charlies played their home games at old Watt Powell Park in Kanawha City, just across the river from the Capitol. That stadium was demolished years ago, but the memories still remain for the former players.
The Charlies reunion brought together Godby, Bailey, Augustine, Kolb, Blass, Tekulve and Dave Parker and each told stories of their days playing in Watt Powell Park.
Most of the players spoke of the camaraderie they shared by being a Charleston Charlie.
“I was very fortunate to play here in 1977,” Godby said. “I wasn’t in the Pirate organization. I was originally signed with the Reds and then traded to the Cardinals. I played a lot with Tulsa and then was traded to Boston in 1975 and played with Joe Morgan. I could tell you a lot of stories about Joe Morgan, but I don’t believe some of them would be really good for me to say out loud. Every memory that I have here is a cherished memory. I, being from West Virginia, myself, when I played here in 1977, I had to drive to the park every day. I lived at home. I knew a lot of people and it was enjoyable in that fact. Jim Beachum was our manager and I know several times Jim got thrown out of the game and I was a player-coach. Every once in awhile I’d coach third base when he got thrown out, which was a lot of times.”
Godby said there is a big difference in players back when he played and those playing today.
“Comparing players today with players back then, I was very fortunate to play with the Cardinals in 1974 and we had a man named Lou Brock, who was a student of the game. He was a great base-stealer, but I would sit with him in the dugout and he would time pitches, how long it would take to come from the stretch and throw to home plate. He was a very intelligent man,” Godby said. “You see kids at ballgames today and they’re on the fence talking and not paying attention to the game. Those guys were all students of the game.”
Godby recalled playing a game in Los Angeles and going in to pinch hit and how other players helped calm his nerves.
“One of the first times I got to play, I was going in to pinch hit and Tim McCarver, Joe Torre and Bob Gibson was there and to try to make ease of everything, they said to me ‘If you don’t get a hit tonight, you’re going back to Tulsa tomorrow,’” Godby said, laughing. “I remember facing Kent (Tekulve) and he was very tough to hit. I don’t know if I ever got a hit off him. And Dave (Augustine) was one of the best defensive outfielders I have seen.”
Godby said one of the best memories he had from Watt Powell Park was the cool breeze blowing out of the mountains.
“I remember these summer days when it was hot and that cool air coming out of the mountains just felt so good,” Godby said.
The players all signed autographs and had a meet and greet session with several fans before heading outside to a lengthy line of fans who brought old photos for each to sign.
Godby was surprised when Chris Brown of Danville showed up with an old photo of him from his Cincinnati Reds days. Godby held it up for his wife, Debbie, to see. Godby asked if he could get a copy of the photo and Brown pulled out two 5x7s and gave them to Debbie Godby as a gift.
“I felt like I was a kid again,” Godby said, smiling. “In fact, I saw a picture of mine from when I was on the 1970 Reds roster and I hadn’t seen it in 45 years. That was really something. I looked really young then. I look at myself in the mirror now and I’m gray-headed.”
Godby signed autographs at Appalachian Power Park during the West Virginia Power game for nearly an hour. People were lined up and waiting on the players to arrive for the signing session.
“It was surprising,” Godby said. “I thought it might just be an introduction before a game, but we got there and had a talk for about an hour, then went down the third base line and had a special place to sign autographs and there was a lot of people coming in.”
Godby said he had a blast at the reunion.
“You sit around and talk and reminisce and you start drawing back to those days. A lot of things I said tonight, I hadn’t spoken about in a long time and the memories just seemed to come right to me,” Godby said. “I remember all that stuff so well. It was a very enjoyable — and nostalgic — evening.”
Godby is believed to be only the second person ever from Logan County to make it as far as the Major Leagues.
Godby played college baseball for Bowling Green University before being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds at the end of the 1969 season.
That year, Godby was added to the Reds’ 40-man roster during the era of the “Big Red Machine,” and Godby’s name was on the roster alongside Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Lee May, Bobby Tolan and Dave Concepcion.
In 1970, he was sent back down to the minors and played for Class AA Asheville (N.C.).
Near the end of the season, Godby was sent to Class AAA Indianapolis.
Then, in the winter of 1971, Godby was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization and played in ‘72 and ‘73 for Class AAA Tulsa (Okla.) of the American Association.
In the spring of ‘73 with Tulsa, Godby received the Joe “Ducky” Medwick Award for having the highest batting average.
He led the team in hitting with a .344 average and was later the MVP of the American Association’s All-Star team.
In 1974, he hit .345 with Tulsa and was called up to the majors by the St. Louis Cardinals’ team. At the time he was leading the American Association in hitting, doubles and runs scored.
On Aug. 13, 1974, he had his first Major League hit in his first time at bat off Bill Laxton of the San Diego Padres.
The Cardinals were in a race for the pennant and the game had gone into extra innings. Godby got his hit, stole second base and scored the winning run.
He then played with the Cardinals in the longest game in Major League history in St. Louis’ 25-inning, seven-hour marathon with the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.
While playing in St. Louis, Godby was teammates with Bob Gibson, Keith Hernandez, Lou Brock, Ted Simmons, Joe Torre and Claude Osteen.
He also played against Hank Aaron, Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt and hit against Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richard and Jim Bunning.
Godby has been a Logan County Commissioner since 1989. He also served as a Reds’ baseball scout and is the former owner of Dan and Dave’s Sporting Goods in Logan from 1976-1997.
Godby was the longtime head basketball coach at Chapmanville High School before stepping down early in the 2000s. He was also the assistant baseball coach at Chapmanville High School for many years.
He is currently the Logan County Commission president and athletics director at Chapmanville Regional High School.
To contact Staff Writer Michael Browning, call 304-752-6950, extension 309, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.