Barnwell Baseball to remember Maybell Mitchell at season-opener

  • Maybell Mitchell (front, left) organized and coached the Barnwell Braves in the 1940s. Her legacy is being remembered during season-opening ceremonies on Saturday, April 1 at Lemon Park in Barnwell.

In the 1930s a young newlywed couple in Luray (Hampton County), Olive Faust and Howard Gordon Dickinson, were about to start their lives together. But the young bride didn’t know a lot about cooking and cleaning for her new husband.

Her mother’s cook suggested they should take her 15-year-old daughter, Maybell Mitchell, to live with them as she had experience in those domestic areas.

Maybell moved to Barnwell in 1932 with the Dickinson family as cook, housekeeper and, in time, nurse to their children.

As part of that child-rearing, the young woman started coaching neighborhood children in the game of baseball. They ranged in age from “barely able to swing a bat to 14 years of age,” notes Editor Ben Davies in a newspaper article.

The team grew from sandlot gatherings to actual baseball diamonds.

The Barnwell Braves formed and a team of young men grew in skills. They also learned about rules and the need to follow them.

“One story I heard was that they had won a game and were on their way home when Mitchell overheard one boy telling another that the “winning” catch wasn’t a good catch. She told the boys then and there that they had to forfeit the game,” said Pam Davis, director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Barnwell. “Honesty was more important than winning.”

“She was an outstanding coach and lady,” said Teddy Girardeau, one of the Barnwell Braves. “She kept the boys straight and there was no sassing Maybell. I doubt if there has been a more respected coach in Barnwell.”

“Our season was from spring through summer and I never remember Maybell missing a day,” said Girardeau. “She was a devoted friend and mentor and I believe all of her boys became better people from having her guidance.”

Parents and local sports fans started following the team, watching home games and driving to away matches.

Mitchell lived in Barnwell for nearly 65 years before returning to her native Hampton County to spend her remaining years with family. She died at the age of 83 in 1998

On Saturday, April 1, Maybell Mitchell’s legacy of baseball and sportsmanship will be honored at the opening of the Barnwell Baseball/Softball Association’s spring season. A special ceremony will be held at Lemon Field beginning at noon and is open to the public free of charge.