Liles claims 'love of the game'

Published 9:08 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2003

By BY LYDIA GRIMES – Feature Writer
Summertime is in full swing and people are paying more and more attention to "America's favorite pastime" which is still considered to be the game of baseball.
Thomas Pershing Liles, better known to most in Brewton as "Mr. Tommy" is very fond of baseball. These days he watches most of his games on television but when he was able, he was one of the faithful attendees of local games.
Liles not only likes to watch baseball games, but at one time he played professional baseball in Class D and then Class A.
He was born in Brewton into a family whose ancestors were early settlers to this area. He attended T.R. Miller High School where he graduated in 1935. He enrolled at the University of Alabama and, although he had no scholarship, he played some ball. He wanted to someday become a teacher and a baseball coach.
After two years he learned that Troy State Teachers College was in need of a first baseman. They offered him a scholarship to come and play on their team. In 1938 he was in Clearwater, Fla. when he was offered a $1,000 bonus to sign with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
He graduated from college in 1940 and got a job teaching school in Clio, Ala. and started playing baseball with Andalusia in the Alabama State League. He would teach in the winter and then play ball in the summer.
He left Clio and got a job coaching in Blountstown, Fla. He became school principal there and later was superintendent of the city school system. Someone found out that the Allentown, Penn. Fleet Wings was in need of a first baseman. The Fleet Wings was a Class A team in the Industrial League and a farm team of the Philadelphia Athletics. He played there until the team moved to Lancaster, Penn. and became a farm team for the St. Lewis Cardinals. He continued to play there until an injury during a game tore up his knee and he was forced to retire from baseball.
Liles received a call from T.R. Miller High School about 1943 to come to be their coach. He came back to Brewton and began to coach. Due to a law at that time that stated natives of a town could not teach in hometown schools, Liles was not available to teach. He met his future wife, Ida Smith, who was a teacher at the school. While she was not originally from Brewton, as soon as they married she was considered to be local. The school system was short of teachers at the time so she was allowed to continue with her job on a temporary basis. The rules were later changed and she became the first to teach under the new rules.
Liles coached for about a year at T.R. Miller. He and Ida Smith were married in 1944 and he stopped coaching as it was such a low paying profession. He was a family man now and it called for a better-paying job. As luck would have it, Monsanto opened about that time and he got a job there. He became a supervisor with the company and worked there for the next 30 years before retiring.
He and his wife have two children, Thomas P. "Buddy" Liles Jr. and Susan Liles, and two grandchildren. His daughter lives in Mobile and his son lives in Destin where he is in the import business.
Liles enjoys sports and although they have season tickets to some games, he said that he is unable to travel to see them anymore. He does still like to watch the kids play.
He is now 85-years-old and problems with his legs make it hard for him to get around. He still is very active in one of his projects. He is the manager of the Community Food Pantry which opens every Tuesday morning at Brewton First United Methodist Church, the Liles' home church. The food pantry is open to those who are in need of food on a temporary basis. Food is collected in various spots around town and carried to the church to be distributed. People can apply and be placed on the schedule to receive food for up to 90 days. When asked why he is a part of this program, Liles says, "someone has to do it."
He has been around long enough to see many things change including the game of baseball. He has been a player and now is a devoted spectator. He has seen it all. Today baseball players receive huge salaries and that is certainly different. Gone are the days of long bus rides to and from distant games.

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