Joseph “JJ” Antone, who is Pima and Maricopa, recalled when he first played baseball on a team, back when he was still in high school. He started playing baseball at age 11 because it was something to do, and also to keep out of trouble. “There wasn’t much to do around here,” he said.
Antone played for Lehi for a while on his uncle’s team, then when his uncle passed away he played for the Braves, a team that was coached by Billman Hayes Sr., Johnson Enas and Harvey Enas.
“Once [his uncle’s team] was no more, [the Braves] asked me if I wanted to play with them, since most of them were my friends,” Antone said. “I remember that their wives would be selling food and other things to raise money for us to buy equipment, such as baseball bats and gloves for our team. The ladies would always go and try to raise money for gas so we could play at different fields [in] different communities.”
Antone talked about how everything was different back then. The baseball fields in the Community were in different locations than and positioned in different directions. Many of the fields were mostly dirt and rock.
He reminisced about how the Southwest tournaments were always held in the monsoon season, and they would always have to stop the games because of the storms.
Antone said his team won a lot and received championship trophies. He doesn’t know what happened to the trophies as the years have gone by.
“I remember we would always be getting hurt during games. This one time I broke my jaw. I went down too soon and got hit, but I didn’t know [I had broken my jaw] until they took me to the hospital,” said Antone.
He played different positions on the team, all except for catcher.
“I did not like being the catcher. One time I tried, just to see how it was, and I got hit with a foul ball. It hit me right on my toe; I threw my gear off and said that was it for me,” said Antone. “I preferred to play shortstop because they always hit it my way. I was there to show off.”
One time in a game against a team from Parker, “They hit the ball in my direction, and I just up and stretched and caught the ball. Everyone started cheering and clapping for me. I still remember that to this day. It was a good play,” said Antone.
He said that Emmitt King and Rayburn Lewis always played with them and that they played really well.
Asked what baseball has done for him, Antone said that today he has difficulty using his right arm from playing so much when he was younger.
Today, when the seniors take trips to Salt River Fields, he daydreams that he is out on the field playing again.
“Some days I think back about when we all used to play,” Antone said, meaning himself and his friends. He said now only a few of them are still alive. The last time he played in a game was when he was 57.
“One thing that I wish we could have had was a picture with all of the players in it. Most of [the team photographs] have a couple of people missing, including myself,” he said.