Grace Ridge resident Bill Allman goes to bat
Resident guest blog by Frank Juliano
Bill Allman has dedicated himself to sports and to his community, but in the early 1950s he spent a week with the Cleveland Indians.
“(Pitcher) Early Wynn had been married to my aunt Mabel, but she died in a crash,” Bill said. “He was close to another aunt, Mabel’s sister Flossie, and Flossie’s husband told Early Wynn that I might have what it takes.”
Bill was just out of Morganton High, where he’d played first base. “I was pretty good, but nowhere near the major league level,” the Grace Ridge resident said. “But you know, uncles always think you are wonderful. Early arranged for me to take batting practice every night with the team, and to sit in the dugout during games, in an Indians uniform.”
A little perspective for non-baseball fans. During that week, Bill stood in the batter’s box against Wynn, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Larry Doby – all four are now in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Bob Feller threw nearly 100 mph, and Bill got the bat around on a Feller pitch.
“I didn’t get a hit, but I made contact a couple of times. I put one in the stands, a home run, off of Doby, who was normally a first baseman,” he said. “I even signed some autographs when the players went out to meet the fans. Some people have a Bill Allman signature and wonder, ‘Who the heck is that?’”
He coached the Rotary Club team in Little League for 12 years, usually with his daughter Lynn accompanying him. The team was together nearly every day during the season, and Bill taught them all he could.
“After baseball practice I’d have them sit on the outfield grass and I’d tell them about life, how to be honest and kind,” he said. “There are grown men in town, in their 60s now, who still call me Coach.”
One of his former players recently contacted Bill through Facebook and told him it was those lessons, on the grass after practice, that helped him to become the man he is today.
“I was pitifully poor growing up, but I had men helping me and I’m glad I was able to help mentor other guys while they were growing up,” he said. “I’ve been blessed way more than I deserve.”
Back in January 2016 during National Mentoring Month, we chatted with Bill Allman about how mentoring youth and coaching Little League baseball for 15 years was a highlight of his life.
“It was the most enjoyable thing to take teens and young boys each summer, spend quality time with them and teach them about life and baseball,” said the Morganton native.
In addition to coaching, Bill mentored a 14-year-old boy for a year at the request of his mother. “She thought I would be a good mentor for him because she knew I did a lot in the community. When he called and asked if I would be his mentor, I thought ‘How can I say no to this young man?’”
It turns out, the relationship benefitted them both. “I was amazed how easy it was to become acquainted with a young person I had never seen before and watch it grow into a situation that was good for both of us,” Bill said. “It’s a great feeling to know I was able to help steer him in the right direction, but it helped me probably as much as it helped him.”
The former Morganton Young Man of the Year (1962) and Morganton Man of the Year (1999) credits his own childhood mentor with paving the way for a life of guiding those who are less fortunate. “My mentor is the one who got me started in life in the right direction and helping others. I will never forget him for all he did for me.”
Nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Grace Ridge is a Life Plan Community spanning 52 pastoral acres in Morganton, NC. Come for a visit and find out why our community repeatedly garners awards, high rankings and superior satisfaction ratings as one of the best retirement communities in North Carolina.