Each month, The Kentucky
Explorer magazine receives literally scores of letters from
our faithful readers. Whenever possible, we try to publish as
many of them as possible in the 12 pages we have set aside for
"Letters to the Editor."
actual letters from April 2014
Rev. Elmer Gilbert
I have read in The Kentucky Explorer where readers from Harlan,
Harlan County, Kentucky, are looking for anyone who knew Rev.
Reverend Gilbert pastored a church at Twilly Town, Alabama. I
came to know him in the 1940s. His wife was from Alabama. He
worked in Alabama until his death.
I also knew a Rev. James and Mrs. Marynell Adkins from around
Virgie, Pike County, Kentucky.
Hugh Edward, who was from Burdine, Letcher County, Kentucky,
worked in an Alabama Church of God of Prophecy for many years
as the state overseer.
My husband, Walter Samons, was from Floyd County.
3197 Sharon Boulevard
Quinton, AL 35130
Enjoyed Article About
The 100th Infantry Division
I looked forward to the February issue of The Kentucky Explorer,
as the winter weather had me homebound.
I enjoyed reading the article about the call up of the 100th
Infantry Division in 1961.
I had joined the 95th Division in McAlister, Oklahoma, on February
5, 1960, and I heard that it was us or the 100th that were going
to be called up.
Since my division wasn't called, I spent my summer camps at Fort
Chaffee in Arkansas the next three years.
Some of the letters and stories in The Explorer remind me of
my upbringing in Southeastern Oklahoma.
203 S. 14th Street
Hartshorne, OK 74547
Pitcher Vernon Bickford
Was My Hero
I was born at Betsy Layne, Floyd County, Kentucky, and lived
there as a young teenager.
Vernon Bickford was my hero in the late 1940s and 1950s. I tried
to keep up with his games on our old Philco Radio.
Bickford was born August 17, 1920, at Hellier, Pike County, Kentucky.
He was one of seven children. He spent his boyhood romping with
his brothers and sisters, fishing a little in the summertime,
hunting a little in the wintertime, and going to the schoolhouse
a few miles away. His family moved to Richmond, Virginia, in
the 1930s during the Depression.
He discovered baseball when he was about 12 years old. His father
encouraged him in his athletic prowess. After graduation from
high school in 1939, he was signed for semi-pro ball with the
independently-owned Welch, West Virginia Club in the Appalachian
League (Class D), where he stayed four summers.
In 1940 Bickford pitched a one hitter, two two-hit games, and
made the League all-star team. He led the league in strikeouts
with 163, top figure of his baseball career. In 1942 he won 16
games, and shortly after, went into the Army.
During the war, Bickford met Kirby Higbe, New York Giant hurler,
who told him he had the ability to be a big league pitcher. By
1945 Bickford was released from service and had been bought by
the Boston Braves farm system for postwar delivery, and went
to Jackson, Mississippi, to pitch.
In 1947 Bickford went to Milwaukee, and there he was promptly
forgotten. On June 30th the team ran out of starting pitchers
and Bickford was allowed a turn at the mound, where he pitched
a shutout, finished the season with a 9.5 record, and a promotion
to the Braves.
The role of bench warmer fell again to him in 1948, and it looked
as though he might not stay in camp. On the day before the major
league teams were scheduled to cut their rosters to regular season
strength, Bickford went in for Charlie Barrett, who came down
with the sniffles. Bickford pitched against the Pirates and won
a 4-1 victory. From then on he was "in."
Bickford's memorable pitching performance came August 11, 1950,
while he was a member of the old Boston Braves. His baseball
career ended in 1954 after an operation on his pitching arm.
In 1950 Bickford pitched 312 innings, more than any other National
Leaguer, and won 19 games. As a Braves pitcher, he won 66 games
and lost 57.
Bickford gave me a shoulder-up bust of himself in his uniform,
which I still have today.
Vernon Bickford, at the young age of 40, died due to cancer in
May 1960. He is one of baseball's leading figures of his day.
Vernon's mother was my father's sister. I surely was happy when
he made the Pitcher's Hall of Fame.
5345 HWY. 16
Warsaw KY 41095
just samples of the many letters in each issue of The Explorer.