Monday, January 4, 2016
Mine disaster stirs memories
By BILL HENDRICK
Associated Press Writer
HELL FOR CERTAIN. Ky. (AP) - It was cold and dismal, the ground was frozen, and snow covered the roads when the bodies of 38 men killed in one of Kentucky's worst mining disasters were recovered nearly six years ago.
George Wooten, 60, was chief executive officer of Leslie County then.
He sees parallels between that tragedy and the state's most recent mining disaster, which killed 26 men last March at Oven Fork.
Eleven men died last March ll in an explosion in Scotia Coal Co.’s No. I mine at Oven Fork — two days after 15 men were killed in a blast in the same area of the pit.
The bodies of the first 15 victims were brought out but the dead of the second blast were left inside and the shaft was sealed.
It was reopened July 14 and recovery teams have been inching toward the bodies 34 miles inside the mountain since then.
The bodies are located about 1,000 feet beneath the surface of Big Black Mountain at Oven Fork.
Officials believe the bodies will be recovered some time next month. Wooten, who notes that Hell For Certain, like Oven Fork and many- other tiny mountain hamlets, is "just a place, not really a town," says memories of the explosion that killed 38 men in a mine at nearby Hyden on Dec. 30,1970 are still vivid here in the hills of southeastern Kentucky.
And each time there is news about the Scotia victims, the memories become more vivid, he said.
"There are parallels," Wooten said in an interview "It s an awfully bad time to dig graves for anybody. It’s a problem we faced, and they’ll have to face it, but the people, they’ll manage."
Wooten, who served as Leslie County judge from 1962 until 1974, said it took about 24 hours to recover the victims of the explosion at the Finley Bros. mine at Hyden.
The fact that the bodies were recovered and the men buried in a short time helped end the ordeal more quickly for their relatives, and Wooten said he feels sorry for the widows and survivors of the 11 men whose bodies remain inside the Scotia mine.
"It think it will help the community and the people that have parents, brothers, their kids or friends in there, when they get the bodies out," Wooten said. "Just like anybody, people, all the families, sure want to see their bodies recovered if possible, that’s the way the people feel. I think, over at the Scotia mine.”
In any coal mine such as the one at Oven Fork, "it’s always a possibility they may never get them out," Wooten said.
As county judge. Wooten, who plans to run for the same office again next year, was in charge of coordinating the recovery operation at the Hyden mine.
He said the community came together after that disaster and that “I think that’ll happen down in Letcher County too.”
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Friday, December 18, 2015
Atlanta Bullpen Pitcher Catches Famous Home Run
By BILL HENDRICK
Associated Press Writer
ATLANTA (AP) - "Someday when I'm an old man watching television I'll see myself on the other end of history," said Tom House, a reserve pitcher for the Atlanta Braves who caught Henry Aaron's record-setting 715th homerun Monday night.
The 25-year-old Californian said he was thrilled just to witness the event, much less be a part of it. He said it was the high point of his baseball career.
"I was hoping in spring training that I'd get a chance to make the club just to see him, to see the record set," said House, who had a 4-2 record for the Braves last season.
"I looked up and there it was, coming in my direction,"' said the young pitcher, who leaned against the left-center field wall to make the catch in the bullpen. "I thought, it's coming to me, it's coming to me. "All the ball players let me have it. I saw it coming all the way and I caught it right at the base of the backwall," House said. "I caught-it and all I could think about was putting it in Hank's hand." The blonde-haired pitcher said he had jokingly told Aaron before the game that he would retrieve the historic home run but never really believed he would have a chance at it.
"I told him, "Hammer, if I get it, I'm going to put it in your hand. And that's what I did," he said.
After the 400-foot shot, when Aaron's teammates converged on him as the sellout crowd of more than 53,000 roared its approval, House kept his jestful promise.
"I put it right in Hank's hand," the young pitcher said. "He said, 'Thanks, kid," when I gave it to him. It was a very emotional moment for him and me, too," said House, who added he wasn't sure if Aaron knew his name or not.
Rewards ranging from $25,000 to $36,000 had been offered for the home run ball, but House said he never considered doing anything but giving it to Aaron. "I'll admit, I didn't do the businessman-like thing. I figured it was a mighty expensive decision. But I am sure that anyone else who could have got it (in the bullpen) would have done the same thing."
House holds a masters degree in marketing from the University of Southern California. Before the game, pitchers in the bullpen discussed what they would do if Aaron's homer landed in their territory.
"We kidded around a lot, but I think anybody would have done what I did. The decision I made at the time was the right one.
"As far as baseball is concerned, this is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me," said House.
Magnavox Television Corp.-which sponsors Aaron--offered to give House the TV set of his choice after he gave the ball to the slugger. "I wasn't expecting anything, so this is better than nothing. All the talk about money was just kidding. For being a fringe player, just being able to play with Henry is reward enough," House said.
The historic shot triggered 11 minutes of bedlam in Atlanta Stadium as a standing room only crowd of 53,775 cheered the soft-spoken Alabama native who claimed baseball's most cherished record. A call of congratulations came from President Nixon while the famous No. 44 was still in the game.
Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who ordered the Braves to play Aaron in Cincinnati Sunday, called him "one of the greatest we have ever seen."
Kuhn's order renewed a controversy. Aaron's 34-ounce bat probably ended it, at least temporarily. It undoubtedly will be remembered for years.
"If God didn't see fit for me to hit the home run here, then I would have hit it somewhere else," Aaron said at a post- game news conference. Did he feel a big weight had been lifted from his back? "Oh, you don't know," he replied. "This would have to be my top thrill in baseball," said the man who holds more than a dozen major league records. "It wasn't one of my better ones, but the wind helped to carry it," he said. "I hit it fairly good. It was a fast ball. It was inside, but I think he wanted it further inside. He just hung it a little."
Downing, a 13-year-veteran who had yielded only two other homers to Aaron, left the game after walking the next two hitters following Hammerin' Hank's blast that drew the Braves even at 3-3.
Atlanta went on to win the game, 7-4. The Dodger hurler vanished from the ball park, leaving behind only a tape-recorded message in which he said, "Like a great hitter,when he picks his pitch, he's pretty certain that's the pitch he's looking for and chances are he's going to hit it pretty good."