Legion team celebrates past generations
The Aiken Post 26 American Legion baseball team is the Post's first team since 1999, but the squad recently celebrated another historic team from 1946.
That year marked the first time the Post fielded a team after World War II, and the roster included current Legion members Charlie Cupp, Bobby Cook and Bobby Knight. On June 6, the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion that began the Allied push into Europe, Cupp threw out a ceremonial first pitch at the current team's game against Greenville Post 3.
“It's a great honor,” Cupp said before the game.
The 83-year-old said that it had likely been 40 years since he threw a baseball, but accompanied by Butch Roberson and Steve Deibel, he made his way to the mound and gave it his best shot.
“Be lucky to get it up there,” he said with a laugh.
Cupp was a multi-sport star during his time at Aiken High, also playing football for the Hornets. His exploits on the field for Aiken, also Post 26 manager Richard Abney's alma mater, were not lost on the skipper.
“Charlie Cupp's kind of one of those athletic icons of the '40s,” Abney said.
The pitch was not the team's only connection to the past. Before the game, the current players also went to the stands to shake hands with post members, some of whom, like Cupp, played for the post's team when they were younger.
“I think it's just a great atmosphere,” Abney said of the festivities. “It's a bonus that these kids can get exposed to those types of people.”
He also hopes that his players remember the contributions the Post has made to their baseball experience, especially when the teenagers are older and capable of doing the same for younger people.
“That's what this is all about ... generations giving gifts to other generations,” he said.
Cupp, who Abney said was a “great mentor” during his time serving alongside Abney with the Aiken Department of Public Safety, said that he was “so happy” to learn Post 26 had a team on the field again. He was also pleased with the type of baseball the team plays. In all, Cupp served 40 years with ADPS, even acting as fire chief.
“It's great. They play great ball. I call it A-B-C baseball, like it should be played,” Cupp said of the team's tendency to hit for contact, move runners over and use base running instead of power to score runs. “Even the big leagues don't do it like they should.”
His words for Abney were not limited to baseball strategy, though. Cupp was also complimentary of the former police captain's ability to educate his players about how to live life the right way.
“One thing I like about Richard Abney is he's not only teaching them about baseball, he's teaching them the facts of life,” Cupp said.
The significance of Cupp's assessment was clear to Abney. To have a man who was born during the Great Depression, lived through World War II and fought in the Korean War compliment the way he did things meant a lot to Post 26's manager.
“To have somebody like that say those kinds of things about me, it means the world to me,” Abney said.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.