Fabulous Five bring back good memories

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 21, 2001

Funny thing about writing sports a long time – things you least expect pop into your mind now and then. Like the other day the 1949 Natchez High boys basketball team came to mind. Quite a recollection, and if you don’t know already, I’m gonna tell you why.

The &uot;Fabulous Five,&uot; I called them in columns, featured Fred Foster, Edward &uot;Bubber&uot; Kaiser, Gene McGehee, Arthur Grimsley and Charles Kelly. They won the 1948, ’49 and ’50 Big Eight basketball championships at Natchez High, a feat even their longtime coach, A. I. Rexinger, could hardly believe. I remember after the Rebels won the school’s third straight in 1950, I was on the team bench and coach Rex raised up and exclaimed, &uot;Man, they did it again!&uot; It really was unheard of in the Big Eight Conference in those days. Three in a row?!

Foster usually led the Rebs in scoring, and did in ’48 and ’49, I know. The Kelly-Grimsley-McGehee-Kaiser-Foster machine smoothly took Hattiesburg 43-37 in the ’49 finals in Hattiesburg, which became accustomed to NHS winning titles there.

Foster, truly one of the finest defenders to put the quietus on the &uot;hosses&uot; Coach Rex wanted stopped, was unanimous All-Big Eight. And again &uot;Bubber&uot; Kaiser, always solid defensively as well, and a steady scorer in the clutch. And, again, All-Big Eight with Foster.

Still on Kaiser, I recall that some of the Big Eight’s best scorers in 1949 were shadowed like a curtain by him. Remember Jug Stiglets of Hattiesburg, Billy Allgood of Jackson Central and Tupelo’s great Hilton Collier? Bubber throttled all of them.

Natchez High’s first conference title in ’48 came at the expense of Jackson Central, a team that liked to stall and frustrate opponents. Didn’t work on Natchez – in the title game the Rebels showed the Tigers a thing or two defensively, winning 28-27. All-Big Eight Gene McGehee was especially dogged defensively.

I could write a book when I start talkin’ old Natchez High and Cathedral basketball, but allow me to sign off this part of today’s column with this Jackson Central High Coach Bill Crabtree quote about Kelly of NHS in 1948:

&uot;I tell my boys to be extra careful not to relax their vigilance on that Kelly. He is, to my notion, the most dangerous man on Natchez’ truly magnificant team. He strikes when you least expect him to.&uot;

Rest assured, though, I do have more!

ANYTIME I see an old picture of the late Bill Carroll, the late&160;Newt Jones and the late Lester Browning, fond thoughts of Little League (now Dixie Youth) Baseball race through my mind. Well, it happened last Wednesday when The Natchez Democrat ran their picture in the sports section.

It told about 50 years of youth baseball in Natchez, and I remember that old picture so well. It was snapped in Mr. Bill Carroll’s Service Station office on the corner of Pearl and State Streets, across from old City Hall. They wanted their town to have Little League, like other Mississippi towns.

Actually, the game had started just a few months earlier in Mississippi 50 years ago when that picture was made. Look at LL here now! I used to go by on my way to cover LL games for the paper and yak with Mr. Bill. He was something else!

AND Ron Polk waited this long – he can wait &uot;here&uot; another week. Great coach, though.

Glenvall Estes is a longtime columnist for The Democrat