While their playing days might be over, the lessons Hancock County’s community leaders learned on the sports fields continue to guide them today. In this week-long series, we look back on the positive effect athletics had on their lives.
GREENFIELD – A few times when he was a “young lad” living in Shelby County, Chuck Fewell had the good fortune to meet Carl Erskine at a local boys club.
Erskine, who hailed from Anderson and attended Anderson University, spent his entire professional baseball career with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. Erskine was a 20-game winner in 1953 and an All-Star in 1954. He threw two no-hitters and once held the single-game World Series strikeout record (14).
Fewell remembers the experiences vividly, as if he had seen the five-foot-10 right-hander just yesterday.
“You’re always impressed when you meet a pro ballplayer,” said Fewell, who has been the Mayor of Greenfield since Dec. 30. “He talked to us about what it meant to be a pro ballplayer, the character building, the commitment and the travel.”
Fewell owns a lifetime’s worth of baseball memories that have shaped his personal principles.
As a youth, he attended Indianapolis Indians games at Bush Stadium. Fewell’s favorite player was Herb Score, a pitcher who went on throw for the Cleveland Indians. Score still owns Indianapolis’ single-season strikeout record after fanning 330 hitters in 251 innings in 1954.
“That was a big treat back then,” Fewell said of going to the ballpark located on 16th St. in downtown Indy. “I was there when Herb Score broke the strikeout record.”
In addition to watching plenty of baseball, Fewell also played the game. He was involved in Little League and competed for Howe High School in Indianapolis. Fewell said Howard Pittman and Rollie Patterson, two of his Little League coaches, were “outstanding” mentors.
“They taught me my first lesson in teamwork and the importance of working with and trusting another individual. This is a lesson that still applies today,” Fewell said. “In high school, coach Roscoe Pierson instilled the idea of professionalism and how as men we should conduct ourselves both on and off the field.”
Coping with failure was another reality Fewell learned.
“It’s not just disappointing when you lose games, it’s when you try out for teams and realize that not everyone will be successful in every venture – when you try out for something you really wanted and didn’t get it,” he said.
Fewell eventually took the diamond lessons he learned as a player from Pittman, Patterson and Pierson and relayed them to the next generation of youngsters. A Little League coach for five years while he worked as a motorcycle officer for the Shelbyville Police Department, Fewell occasionally had to deal with the perils of stationing his motorcycle in close proximity to the baseball diamond.
“I would have to park my motorcycle close to the fence to able to hear the radio because in those days we did not have handheld radios,” Fewell said. “On three separate occasions I had my red lights knocked off of the motorcycle from line-drive foul balls.”
Fewell said the toughest part about coaching was preaching responsibility to the players and how it affected the team.
“You instill the things you stand for,” he said. “They can’t just show up on game day; they still have to have that commitment to be there. They have to be a team player and be there to practice, because you might be keeping another kid from playing who is committed to the process and is devoted, but just sits on the bench.”
Now responsible for the city of Greenfield’s well-being, Fewell can draw parallels to his years of involvement with America’s Pastime.
“I think you have to apply the same principles – character, commitment, integrity, confidence and leadership – everywhere you go in life,” he said. “You carry those with you. I think it does apply here and where we’re at.”
Education: Thomas Carr Howe High School; University of Indianapolis, Indiana University
Family: Wife, Kristin; children, Kris, Carmen, Deanna, Karly; six grandchildren