Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

August 1, 2013

MARK MAYNARD: Park was home for players, families

ASHLAND — Martha Workman looks back on her days of watching baseball in Central Park with a nostalgic fondness. The place will always have a special spot in her heart.

Her husband, Bill Workman, loved coaching and her oldest son Bill loved playing. They had two other children, Debbie and Phil, who tagged along to games as well. “One was in a stroller,” she said.

Bill Workman, the son, started playing Little League when he was 7 years old when Clyde Chinn drafted him to play for the Orioles of the Ashland American Little League. That launched a baseball career that ended with Bill Workman as the starting shortstop and two-year captain at the University of Kentucky.

That was nearly 50 years ago when Bill Workman was part of Ashland’s first state championship baseball team in 1966. He also played on the 19-1 team that reached the state semifinals.

She said when Billy was given his first Little League uniform, it was way too big. But his skills defied his age and he enjoyed a rare five-year Little League career. He was also part of Ashland’s 1963 state Babe Ruth championship team. His father and Claude Workman (no relation) coached him in Babe Ruth.

But what Martha remembers most are those days in the park when she was watching her son Billy and his friends play baseball no matter what the age.

“It was such a fun time,” she said. “People were so different than they are now. Everybody enjoyed each other.”

Martha says a day at the park was really a day at the park. They didn’t go to watch just one game, they watched all the games. You packed your lunch and went to the park. To play, to eat, to relax, to socialize and to enjoy.

Her husband was an outstanding athlete from Catlettsburg, who played everything for the Wildcats — football, basketball and baseball. They were high school sweethearts and graduated together in 1947.

Bill was good enough to earn a football scholarship at Morehead College. They married after high school and she was pregnant with Bill a year later, so her husband gave up football and college. He started working for Sears, in the brand-new store downtown, but at the age of 19 went to work with Ashland Oil as a laborer and then worked his way up to eventually become the personnel manager at the refinery.

Martha remembers “a good group of boys who didn’t have much more to do than play baseball,” she said. But boy did they ever play baseball. From 1965 to 1969 the Tomcats put together one of the most amazing runs in Kentucky high school history. Ashland was state champion from 1966 to 1968, runner-up in 1969 and a semifinalist in 1965. None can match that feat.

“They went to the park to play ball and to win,” she said. “National League and American League (Little Leagues) were real competitive against each other.”

Martha said the family moved to Illinois during son Billy’s senior year at UK and their youngest son, Phillip, became a good basketball and baseball player in that state.

Her husband, Bill, who died in 2010, was also an avid golfer with seven holes-in-one.

“I didn’t quite make it to cheerleader (in high school) but I had the star of the teams,” she said. “We dated the whole four years we went to high school.”

Martha Workman, who is 84, says those baesball memories are strong, almost like it happened yesterday. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

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