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Hillside Fields

A History of Sports in West Virginia

written by Bob Barnett

Publication Year: 2013

West Virginia’s championship teams at WVU and Marshall and athletic superstars like Jerry West and Mary Lou Retton are familiar to all, but few know the untold story of sports in the Mountain State. Hillside Fields: A History of Sports in West Virginia chronicles the famous athletic triumphs and heart-breaking losses of local heroes and legendary teams, recording the titanic struggles of a small state competing alongside larger rivals.
Hillside Fields
provides a broad view of the development of sports in West Virginia, from one of the first golf clubs in America at Oakhurst Links to the Greenbrier Classic; from the first girls basketball championship in 1919 to post Title IX; from racially segregated sports to integrated teams; and from the days when West Virginia Wesleyan and Davis & Elkins beat the big boys in football to the championship teams at WVU, Marshall, West Virginia State and West Liberty.
Hillside Fields
explains how major national trends and events, as well as West Virginia’s economic, political, and demographic conditions, influenced the development of sports in the state. The story of the growth of sports in West Virginia is also a story of the tribulations, hopes, values and triumphs of a proud people.

Published by: West Virginia University Press

Front Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

I owe a debt of gratitude to the West Virginia University Press and specifically to Carrie Mullen, the Press’s Director, who provided excellent advice and comforting reassurance. Robert Pruter, author of a number of books including The Rise of American High School Sports and the Search for Control: 1880–1930 (Syracuse University Press, 2013), ...

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pp. xiii-xxvi

For a state with fewer than 2 million citizens, no cities of more than 60,000 people, and limited economic resources, West Virginia has established an impressive record of success in sports. Everyone knows the names of its native superstars, like Jerry West and Mary Lou Retton, and most sports fans will recognize its other All-Americans, ...

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1. Baseball Comes to West Virginia: A History of Minor League Baseball in the Mountain State

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pp. 1-24

The first recorded baseball game in the new state of West Virginia was played in Wheeling in August 1866, a year after the end of the Civil War. With this game, baseball became the first organized sport played in West Virginia. ...

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2. Oakhurst Links: From the First Golf Club in America to the Greenbrier Classic

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pp. 25-52

The mountainous terrain drew many Scots, accustomed to rugged surroundings, to the blue-green Appalachian Mountains. Most were poor farmers with little time for golf, even though the game had been invented in Scotland and was avidly pursued by its leisure class. Eventually, however, the region and the game came together. ...

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3. The Beginning of Football in West Virginia: The First Three Decades, 1891–1919

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pp. 53-76

On November 28, 1891, a band of football players from Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) stepped off the packet boat that had carried them up the Monongahela River from Washington, Pa., to Morgantown, the home of West Virginia University. Morgantown was a sleepy college hamlet in north-central West Virginia, not far south of the Pennsylvania border. ...

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4. Davis & Elkins Beats Navy: The Rise of College Football in the 1920s

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pp. 77-96

All things seemed possible in America in the 1920s. Heady with its new status as a global power after World War I and flush with stock market-driven prosperity, there seemed to be no limit to what America could achieve. Expanding rail transportation and advances in communication, as well as the new entertainment that radio and movies provided, ...

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5. West Virginia’s “Separate but Equal Basketball Tournament”

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pp. 97-118

On Thursday, March 19, 1925, eleven of West Virginia’s twenty-four black high school basketball teams gathered at the tiny West Virginia Collegiate Institute gym at Institute, West Virginia (the school’s name was changed to West Virginia State College, in 1929). ...

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6. West Virginia University and Marshall College: National College Basketball Champions

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pp. 119-142

In the first quarter of the twentieth century, basketball was considered a second-class sport, unequal to major league baseball, boxing, or college football. Few coaches or players of that era understood that basketball was a game of finesse rather than power—the games were rough and crude. ...

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7. West Virginia State College: National Champions

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pp. 143-170

West Virginia was a segregated state from the very beginning of its existence, in 1863. West Virginia separated from Virginia and successfully sought statehood because of long-held resentments against the eastern half of the state, popular dissatisfaction over Virginia's secession from the union, ...

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8. The 1950s: The Golden Age of West Virginia University Athletics

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pp. 171-204

The 1950s were the golden age of West Virginia University sports. It wasn’t that WVU had been weak or even mediocre in football and basketball before the 1950s. They had, in fact, fielded consistently winning teams, and occasionally had exceptional teams. ...

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9. No Field of Dreams—Not Even a Field: West Liberty’s Golden Baseball Season

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pp. 205-226

If Hollywood had produced a movie like the story of the 1964 West Liberty State College baseball season, the critics would have panned the film for being too unbelievable. How could a baseball team from a tiny college in the hills of West Virginia win enough games to qualify for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national tournament? ...

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10. West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Basketball: 1935–2013

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pp. 227-254

The West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) was founded in 1924 by the West Virginia Department of Education, during a meeting at the Waldo Hotel in Clarksburg. The charter member schools were WVU, Marshall College, Broaddus College (which became Alderson-Broaddus College), Bethany College, ...

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11. The Girls’ Turn To Play: From the First State Basketball Tournament in 1919 Through Title IX and Beyond

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pp. 255-284

The 1920S were exciting years to be a woman in America. Congress had ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote, at the beginning of the decade. Even though the women’s suffrage movement itself disappeared after the success of what turned out to be its single issue, the types of “acceptable” roles for women continued to increase throughout the decade. ...

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12. Ashes to Glory: Marshall Football from 1960 to We Are Marshall

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pp. 285-316

At the beginning of the 1960s, the 130-year-old Marshall College and its hometown of Huntington seemed poised for greatness. Huntington’s population had grown to more than 85,000, making it the largest city in the state, and on February 16, 1961, the West Virginia Legislature had granted university status to Marshall College. ...

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13. A Major Leads His Army: West Virginia University Football, 1960 through the Don Nehlen Years

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pp. 317-342

In the 1960s and 1970s, the WVU athletic program was in a state of flux. That was not unusual for an era when protests over the war in Vietnam, civil rights, women’s rights, and student rights were sweeping the nation. Although such social unrest surfaced in Morgantown to a degree, the turbulence in the athletic program was caused by a college athletic program seeking an identity. ...

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14. A History of High School Sports in West Virginia

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pp. 343-375

The Super Six High School Football Championship is held annually in Wheeling, West Virginia, despite protests that Wheeling’s location in the Northern Panhandle is too far from most of the other schools in the state. Others might contend that Wheeling is an ideal place for the football championship because the town was an early leader in the sport, ...

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Epilogue: Sports in West Virginia, 2011

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pp. 376-380

WVU and Marshall both had excellent seasons in football. In the opening game of the season, WVU beat Marshall, 34-14, to maintain its position as the power college football team in West Virginia. Neither team had more than two starting players that hailed from the state, and both had more starting players from Florida than from West Virginia, demonstrating their increasing move to national recruiting. ...


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pp. 381-405


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pp. 406-417


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pp. 418-428

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About the Author

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pp. 429-457

Bob Barnett taught sport history classes at Marshall University for thirty-five years. He is a prolific researcher and writer with more than three hundred articles, research abstracts, and book reviews to his credit. In addition, he was a section editor for the Journal of Sport History, the Encyclopedia of Appalachia, and River Cities Monthly. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781935978688
E-ISBN-10: 1935978683
Print-ISBN-13: 9781935978671
Print-ISBN-10: 1935978675

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 45
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sports -- West Virginia -- History -- 20th century.
  • West Virginia -- History -- 20th century.
  • West Virginia -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.
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