Lydia community honors a beloved coach and mentor
By Sheila Davis Joint
When a former coach of the Gamecock League’s Lydia Red Sox team, Luke Arthur, was asked to join his former players at the ballfield last month, he had no idea what they had planned for him.
Arthur was surprised and emotional when the group unveiled a sign erected outside of the ballfield bearing his name and photo.
Now 80, he began coaching and playing with the Lydia Red Sox at 21, and remained coaching for 52 years. The team won approximately 21 championship seasons with Arthur as their leader.
His father, the late Sam Arthur, passed the baton on to his son. “It was great to be able to coach and play ball with my dad,” Arthur said.
Although he is now wheelchair bound due to Parkinson’s Disease, Arthur was all smiles as he reminisced about dedicating most of his life to the team and the community he loved.
“When you have done all that you could do, it feels good to be appreciated and remembered,” he said as he stared lovingly at the sign created in his honor.
Not only is Arthur remembered for being a great coach, but many fans also thank him for providing a positive experience and gathering place for entire families in Lydia and surrounding counties.
Girls would dress up and hope to have the best-looking outfit at the game, hoping to catch the eyes of the boys, while they cheered on their favorite team.
Mary “Lil” Davis remembers the anticipation of going to the “game” on the weekends with her friends and family. “Erecting this sign is a momentous occasion. My most favorite childhood memory is watching the Red Sox play on Saturday and Sunday. Luke has been a part of Lydia ever since I can remember, and I truly believe if it was not for him the Lydia Red Sox would not have existed so long,” Davis said in a Facebook post.
She also remembered hanging out at her Uncle Harry Moore’s juke joint after the games, which was also a positive and safe outlet for children in Lydia. The store was located across the road from the park.
The Moores’ daughter Catherine, a huge fan to the very end, was also present to pay tribute to Luke and the Lydia Red Sox. Their home was adjacent to the store; however, she was unable to attend many games because she had to help her parents operate the store. “Although I could not go to the game, I still felt a part of it all because Luke and the players would meet at the store before the games and after to celebrate their wins,” she said.
Going to Harry Moore’s after the Red Sox games is also a rich part of the history.
“It meant a lot to our family that the parents trusted us to look after their kids while they played pool and pinball and danced to the music on the jukebox. Mother would be busy cooking and Daddy would be outside with the men talking about the game,” Catherine added.
In 2016, Darlington County Council member Le Flowers brought a motion to council to rename the park in Arthur’s name. They voted and the motion was passed to rename the park The Luke Arthur Ball Field, Home of the Lydia Red Sox.
Last year, former players came up with the idea to have a sign created and erected in Arthur’s honor.
Arthur’s daughter Janelle Graham, and former players Mitch “Bones” Davis, Warren Arthur and Penny Arthur, formed a committee to design the sign and raise the money to have it made and erected.
His brother, Richard Arthur, who served as Assistant Coach for 22 years, proudly ushered him in his wheelchair to the site of the sign. “It’s awesome that these players put up this sign to support Luke today. The sign is awesome and a great tribute to my brother who I love so much. He was an outstanding coach for so many years,”’ Richard explained.
Richard also played outfield and catcher positions. Being a part of the Lydia Red Sox meant just as much to Richard as it did to his brother Luke. “It was a great privilege to be on this team and I loved it!” Richard added. Although he was sad when he had to resign as Assistant Coach, Richard said he was confident that Luke would keep the team going, and he did.
Their cousin, Robert “Penny” Arthur, was also present for the sign unveiling.
“This day is a celebration for Luke. He deserved to be recognized as a No. 1 coach for the League,” he said. He played on the team for 22 years as a center fielder and pitcher.
For Warren Frierson, being a member of the team meant everything to him. He started playing at the age of 14 as a shortstop and left and center fielder in 1988. “I grew up watching my dad, Emmanuel, play, and I couldn’t wait to be old enough to play!” Frierson said.
He also served as head coach of the Red Sox in 2013 and 2014 when Luke Arthur’s health began to decline. “Luke stayed on in a management position and it was wonderful for me to coach a team that I loved all of my life,” Frierson said. He added that the Red Sox won the Gamecock League Championship in 2013 while he served as head coach.