A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, I moved about the Northeast and Midwest with corporate America for many years. I moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1985 and homesteaded. I don’t plan to relocate, although I miss my roots of my hometown and wish that someday I could afford a summer home there. That seems unlikely at this point in my financial outlook but we keep living incentivized by our dreams.
I’ve been a writer of one type or another since a young boy. At age eight, I printed, or should say handwrote, a daily one-page newspaper for my neighborhood. Ten copies. Took me hours. A penny for each and I bought two packages of baseball cards after each “publication.” This was the start of my baseball memorabilia phase. One day, Mrs. Autumn Lee, who worked in an office, volunteered to run mimeographed copies for me. Ah, the aroma. I doubled my circulation that summer and have been thankful to her ever since. Mrs. Lee, I’ll always love you.
I’ve published a short story in a magazine, co-authored an award-winning children’s book, Jake and the Tiger Flight, and wrote many free-lance articles. I also have a few completed manuscripts in my literary cupboard, and I most enjoy writing about small towns with a touch of humor and a large dose of hope.
I encourage you to read my short blurbs about my life as a rideshare driver, “Tales from the Backseat,” posted elsewhere on this site. They are observations from my part-time job as a driver and I love going out and meeting new people, as long as our relationship is in short increments.
I also have a section dedicated to small towns, and urge my readers to tell me about their small town and how it could come back. What would it take? Send me some photos of your small town and I will do my best to post them all.
In the meantime, please make sure you are following me on Instagram at Instagram.com/Martyatl.
And if we’re not yet friends on Facebook, please invite me at Facebook.com/martyaftewicz.
Oh, yes. I’m supposed to add that I live alone in a suburban home in Atlanta where I continue to refine my karaoke skills and cook experimentally for friends. How I enjoy cooking!
In 1940, a Black minister held his eight-year-old son’s hand as they strolled through the turnstiles entering Ebbets Field. The child’s eyes opened wide as he absorbed the view of the bright lights, the dazzling white uniforms of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the sweet scent of newly manicured grass, and the buzz of nearly 32,000 fans.
At that moment, young Les Taylor pledged he would become a part of baseball. His family had survived the Great Depression, so he had a youthful understanding of hardship and some requirements of life ahead of him. But he promised himself he would find the time to play and improve his skills at the game he loved.
He returned to his home in Plainfield, New Jersey. Little League wasn’t yet available for America’s youth, so Les sought every opportunity to enjoy baseball in sandlot and pickup games. He was hooked, and baseball surrounded him. Through his father’s church, he got to know Joe Black, who earned National League Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 1952, then started and won a World Series game for the Brooklyn Dodgers that same year. While Les played tournament ball with the Georgia Crackers, he competed against Jake Wood, who later developed into the starting second baseman for the Detroit Tigers. Jake was the first Black player who came up through Detroit’s farm system when he began the 1961 season with the Motor City team.
As life often does, it interrupted his pursuit of baseball when he entered the Army. After serving his term, he attended North Carolina Central University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in social science. By 1959, the Dodgers had moved to Los Angeles, leaving Ebbets Field vacant. Still, he felt the tugging allure of Brooklyn. It was there he married his college sweetheart, Carnell, and the couple settled near the former home of his beloved Dodgers, where they raised their four children over the next thirty-five years. For Les, even though a big league team was no longer in town, he always sensed baseball was in the air. Perhaps the spirits of early Dodger greats, such as Dazzy Vance and Branch Rickey, or the souls of some of the initial Black Major League players like Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, found their way back to their baseball home.
During that time, Les Taylor evolved from playing baseball to softball. He perfected the Brooklyn two-step, a hitter’s maneuver to take two quick strides to meet a sinking softball at a better height to send hard line drives into the outfield. Now, over a half-century later, he still has the occasion to use that same swing today.
He continued to play softball as often as possible, even while he held down two jobs and helped his wife, Carnell, raise their family. Les used his college degree and innate ability to guide people as he advanced in his career in social services. He became a teacher for the New York City Board of Education. As a second job, for eighteen years he was the Director of Pink Houses Senior Center. Of course, he still carved out time for softball, and was an active player and manager in the Social Services League.
He retired in 1992, purchased a home in the northern Atlanta suburbs where he and Carnell relocated in 1995. Shortly after they moved in, his wife sent him on an errand to a hardware store and Les stopped at a Publix supermarket on his way back. It was there he spotted a bulletin board with a note seeking anyone over fifty who might be interested in playing softball, stating they should inquire at nearby Hobgood Park. Once there, he discovered a few older guys playing a pickup game on a Little League diamond, and learned their names were Jerry and Bill King, not related. They invited him to play, and those days were the beginnings of the Cherokee Senior Softball Association (CSSA), and Les became instrumental in its development.
As Les helped that league grow, he was also active in traveling softball, where he played for many teams. It was there he met and played with Dorman Lane, a player with outstanding baseball knowledge who taught the intricacies of softball management to Les.
During his years on those traveling teams, Les felt he was privileged to play with and with several outstanding players, including Carl Brown, who remains active in the CSSA. While Les was a member of the Georgia Crackers Softball Team for over five years, he often encountered Howard Schoen, star second baseman of the Georgia Peaches.
2001 was a banner year for this young-at-heart senior player. His traveling team, with Carl Brown a member, competed in the AAA level of the 65+ tournaments. That year, his team won the three separate World Series of the ASA, USA and USSSA, a Triple Crown of senior softball. In the final game of what became the team’s third championship, Les drove in six runs with a double and a triple. In addition, the CSSA recognized Les’ overall contributions and performance for their organization, and honored him with the Arnold Fowler Award.
So here we are in 2023, and one can still watch this softball legend play in two leagues of the CSSA at Hobgood Park, twenty-eight years after its formation. Beyond that, think back to when Les began in organized softball, and realize he has passed his 60th year in uniform.
Following the lead of their preacher grandfather, two of Les’ four children have joined the ranks of the ministry. While three of his children live in the New York area and one in Detroit, it is a testimony to his devotion to his family that at least one of his offspring will often visit Les and Carnell here in Georgia. That sixty-three-year marriage has remained strong, with the four children adding ten grandchildren and three great grandchildren to the Taylor clan.
Throughout it all, with the occasional hiccup for human ailments, Les Taylor remains dedicated to the sport, which became part of his essence when the lights of Ebbets Fields illuminated his smiling face in 1940. Even now, at age 90, Les Taylor sits in the dugout after yet another contest and gazes out at the diamond with a wide grin. With a slight twinkle in his eye, he’ll look up at you and say, “Let’s play another one.”
Author’s note: It has been an honor to play with Les for the past two years. I can see his love for the game still glitters in his eyes. At age 91, he still hits the softball better than many players who are 30 years his junior. Amazing. He knows more about the game than I shall ever know, no matter how much I try to learn. Thank you, Les, for being a teammate, coach, inspirational leader, and friend of thousands of players.
If you asked Carl about the origins of baseball, he wouldn’t reply with that story about Abner Doubleday. Certainly not.
No, he would tell you baseball began in Summerville, Georgia, when an eight-year-old boy played on the street with his older brothers. First, you needed to find the right size rock, one that felt like you could toss it a fair distance and it might even roll a bit. Then, one brother would cover that rock with tarpaper and electrical tape, while the other grabbed an axe and strolled into the pine forest. When he returned with a tree suitable for whacking that rock, he would strip the bark, hack the wood to about three feet, and that was the birth of baseball.
One of those brothers played for the original Atlanta Crackers, and in 1948, Carl remembers visiting Cracker Field to cheer his brother and his team. He sat with Eddie Mathews and Chuck Tanner, future legends of baseball.
From those early days, Carl developed into an outstanding player, active in high school baseball, and soon developed into a traveling softball player. His wife, Shirley, encouraged his participation, and after 66 years of marriage, she remains an ardent supporter of Carl’s enthusiasm for the sport.
During that career, his team won the Softball World Series in Dallas, Texas, and over the years, he received several gold medals and awards for his defensive performances.
He and Shirley brought up a family where baseball is an integral part of their lives, and most of his clan played the sport at some organized level. The total count of their family is now at 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren.
But after all that, Carl’s heart still flutters just a little (thank goodness) when he thinks of all the boys, ages 8-16, who played baseball and he coached over thirty years. I’m willing to bet most of those athletes would remember Carl as that kind of soul who taught with the fervor and patience that captivates young men. If you talk with Carl now, you can still sense that gentleness within.
Carl is currently recovering from some elements of aging, but plans to return to the softball diamond this spring. He plays in the Cherokee County (Georgia) Senior Softball Association leagues at Hobgood Park in Woodstock, GA. Welcome Back, Carl. We miss you!
Total time to prepare – Approximately 45 minutes. Serves eight (4).
–– I get all excited whenever I start a recipe with bacon, and this one is no exception. It’s certainly not traditional ratatouille but I believe you’ll find this a tad sweeter and with a slight bite on your tongue. The inclusion of bell pepper might bake you think twice about that addition, but go ahead and give it a try. I believe you’ll enjoy it.
6 slices of bacon, coarsely chopped.
1 Vidalio or other sweet Onion – Chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 zucchini, cut into bite-size cubes
3 squash, cut into bite-size cubes
2 red bell pepper, chopped finely
2 tomatoes – medium size, cut into bite size pieces
2 ears of fresh corn, sliced off the cob
1 tbsp. Cajun Seasoning
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 sprinkle of Basil
Fry the bacon pieces until crisp, set aside.
While the bacon is frying, prepare the other ingredients by chopping, dicing, slicing, etc.
In a large skillet – 12-inch or larger, place the bacon pieces and red pepper. Saute the red pepper until beginning to soften, on low heat, about five (5) minutes.
Add the onion and saute until translucent, about five (5) minutes.
Add the garlic and saute until the onions begin to brown. 1-2 minutes more.
Add the cubed zucchini and squash and mix with the other ingredients.
Add the paprika and cajun seasoning and saute another (6) minutes, mixing occasionally.
Add the tomatoes and blend, saute for two (2) minutes until they become soft.
Add the corn kernels and blend with other ingredients, saute for additional three (3) minutes.
Remove skillet from heat.
Sprinkle with fresh basil and cover. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Total time to prepare – Approximately 45 minutes. Serves eight (8).
–– My Polish heritage gets all excited whenever I find a recipe with Kielbasa. Fond memories of my parents at the kitchen table return with the aroma of fresh Polish sausage. My mother-in-law even prepared Polish sausage every Christmas. This soup adds another ingredient that is pleasing to my roots – Cabbage. Darn near perfect combo. And this soup is quick and easy. Enjoy.
1 lb. Kielbasa, cut into bite-size cubes.
1 Onions – Chopped
16 oz. Cole Slaw mix – shredded cabbage with carrots
2 Garlic cloves – minced
32 oz. Beef Broth
16 oz. Chicken Broth
1 can – 12 oz. beer
1 tsp. Black Pepper
1/2 tsp. Carraway seeds
4 cups French Fried Onions, divided in half
Place kielbasa and onion in a dutch oven on medium heat. Brown the kielbasa and soften the onion for about five (5) minutes.
Add the coleslaw mix and saute until tender, about another five (5) minutes.
Add Minced Garlic, beef broth, chicken broth, beer, black pepper, carraway seeds and two (2) cups French Fried Onions. Cover and bring to a boil then reduce heat to low.
Remove cover and simmer for ten (10) to fifteen (15) minutes until flavors are blended.
Serve in bowls and sprinkle with remaining French Fried Onions.
Zombie Deer! – When I picked up Wyanette in a rural suburb, she cautioned me to drive carefully on the darkened roads and to watch for Zombie Deer. Sure, I said, wondering if the woman in my back seat was just making her way home after a long night out. It was 6 A.M.
But she went on to explain that Zombie Deer are real, or at least the term. I did some research.
Zombie Deer are afflicted with Chronic Wasting Disease, (CWD), which has been around since 1966 and was first diagnosed in Colorado. It’s now spread to at least sixteen (16) states and is no joke. You can Google or YouTube search and see for yourselves. The animals look awful with sores on the exterior of their bodies, loss of fur, salivate profusely, have no fear of humans, and are lethargic. Most notably, the disease deteriorates their brain cells. Sad.
There is no known cure at this time and the disease is spreading slowly across the Midwest and South.
Thank you, Ms. Wyanette. I don’t believe this is a precursor to the forecasted Zombie Apocalypse, but then, I don’t know it is not either.
Supportive While Intoxicated(S.W.I.) – Three women in all and this was Lecia’s first ever rideshare. This was a girls’ night out, or in this case, a women’s night out. All the ladies were in their late thirties. I should caution that was my judgment (their age) and if I have made an error in my perception, please forgive me.
We started our ride with Lecia talking about her philosophy in life. Live for today. Carpe Diem. We chatted about my recent responsibilities as a caregiver for a friend in another state. She jumped aboard the support bandwagon, even though she was well intoxicated Yep, the trio were on their way to a bar for her aunt’s birthday. The celebration had already begun. Giggles were seeping through the windows as we drove.
I perceived Lecia’s life had not been easy. She was far from wealthy but her facial beauty shined through some rough lifelines. Yet she was supportive of me. I was her rideshare driver. I was that fly on the wall observing and noting humorous behavior for my website. She emphasized that I would be blessed for caregiving, perhaps not now but in the future. My time would come. I didn’t want to tell her that my time was running out. I was probably going to get that reward in the afterlife. Thank you, Lecia and friends. I hope you all had a safe and fun evening. You earned my respect.