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Historic baseball team honored with event

Sinclaire Sparkman • Updated Aug 1, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Friends, family and community members gathered at Pickett-Rucker United Methodist Church on Sunday afternoon to remember Lebanon’s historic baseball team, the Lebanon Clowns and to honor current youth baseball players in Wilson County.

The Black History Committee organized the tribute to the Lebanon Clowns Negro League team, which was the first professionally organized sport in the Wilson County area. 

Negro League teams offered the opportunity for African-American athletes to play baseball at the professional level in the mid-20th century before black players were integrated into major and minor league teams. The league enjoyed great popularity in the 1940s and ’50s, and it showed through in families gathering to remember and honor players at the event. 

The annual Christopher D. Price Athletic Award was presented to Jaylen J. Abston, son of Montez and Kim Abston. William and Rochelle Price presented the award. Jaylen Abston is a member of the Lebanon Dixie Youth all-stars team. 

Annie Watkins asked family of Clowns players to stand as she recognized those who played for the team. Many of those in attendance were sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, grandchildren and children to Lebanon Clowns baseball players. 

Gail Corder Hassell was the keynote speaker for the event. Hassell played basketball for the Devilettes, and graduated from Lebanon High School in 1980. She went on to play as a champion at Belmont and later became a teacher. Her speech offered memories of back-porch talks about the Lebanon Clowns and inspiration for the young sports players in the audience. 

The Lebanon All-Stars, the current youth baseball team, were in attendance at the event. The team won at the state championships recently and is on track to go to Alabama to play at the World Series this month. Mary Harris, president of the Wilson County Black History Committee presented members of the team a laminated print of a newspaper article covering the team’s success, and took up a special offering to support the team’s upcoming journey to the World Series.  

Harry ‘Hammerhead’ Harris, husband of Mary Harris, is the last surviving member of the Lebanon Clowns.

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