In 1908, a new country doctor arrived to set up a practice in Greenbrier, Arkansas. Dr. Earl “Doc” Williams would become a much-loved part of his new community, but his legacy extends far beyond the excellent medical care he provided for more than 40 years.
Dr. Williams love for baseball and his determination to provide opportunities for the young men of North Faulkner County to become professional baseball players, made Greenbrier the center of amateur baseball in Arkansas during the first half of the 20th century.
Williams’ Greenbrier summer baseball school operated in the 1930s and 1940s. Many potential professional players from Texas, Arizona, Mississippi, Kansas, Illinois and Arkansas were attracted to the school and later went on to play on Minor and Major league teams across the country.
On Thursday, March 14, 5:30 p.m. at the Greenbrier Public Schools Auditorium, the Faulkner County Historical Society will have its annual meeting to review the past year’s activities and elect members to the board of directors. Members are encouraged to attend the meeting and then stay for the program.
At 6 p.m., baseball historian Jim Yeager, author of “Backroads and Ball Players: A Collection of Stories about Famous (and Not So Famous) Professional Baseball Players from Rural Arkansas” (2018), will be the featured speaker. The public is invited to attend this program and the book-signing event that follows.
Yeager’s new book includes more than 50 stories and biographical chapters on the lives of professional baseball players from rural Arkansas.
“Many of the individuals highlighted in this book have careers that are now almost forgotten. It is my goal to preserve these stories and keep the accomplishments of these rural players alive,” states Yeager.
Perhaps the most prominent player to come out of this Greenbrier baseball school was Gene Bearden, who came as a first baseman but was trained as a pitcher. He later pitched for the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, winning two World Series games while with the Boston club.
Doc Williams helped develop Herschel Bennett, who played with the St. Louis Browns from 1923 to 1927. Royce Williams, Doc’s oldest son, joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1930. Dib Williams, Doc’s second son, started at first base with the Arkansas Travelers in 1929 and went on to the Philadelphia Athletics in 1930. He later was an infielder with the Boston Red Sox.
Other local players from the school also made it to the pros. Otis Brannon was an infielder with Tulsa in 1925 and then went on to the St. Louis Browns in 1928 and 1929. Lois Cato and his brother Fred joined a minor league team in Indianapolis in the mid-1930s.
A native of Ozark, Yeager is the former Women’s Basketball Coach at Arkansas Tech University. He is a graduate of Ozark High School and has a BS and MS in history and education from the University of Central Arkansas. After spending more than 40 years as a coach, teacher, guidance counselor and educational technology specialist, Yeager is semi-retired and lives in Russellville.
Yeager is a frequent presenter on rural baseball history at historical organizations throughout Arkansas. He is a member of the Robinson-Kell (Arkansas) Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research. He will be available for book signings after the presentation and light refreshments will be served.