Before politics, there was baseball for DeFore

sports@macon.comApril 28, 2014 

Ed DeFore has been in plenty of headlines during his long career in public service.

DeFore’s record includes 44 years as a member of Macon city council, 20 years on the Macon Water Authority board and 12 more years serving on the Bibb County Board of Education. He is also one of the first commissioners of the Macon-Bibb County consolidated government. But the 82-year-old DeFore was already making news long before he entered politics.

Most of DeFore’s noteworthy accomplishments came as a result of his exploits on the baseball field -- in high school at Lanier, with the local American Legion team and later during a stint in professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

Edgar, as he was known back in those days, was a fleet center fielder who was a mainstay for Lanier head coach Lem Clark for three seasons for the Poets. Ed calls Clark the “best coach in America.”

Lanier made it to the state playoffs in all three of DeFore’s high school seasons, finishing as runners-up his sophomore and senior seasons.

To give you an idea of what type hitter he was, during his junior year against Jordan he was 3-for-6 with a home run, against Robert E. Lee of Thomaston he was 3-for-5, and, in a game that determined the GHSA Region 1-AA title, he had two hits as Lanier trounced Jordan 11-2.

During his senior campaign, he had three hits, including a home run, to power Lanier to a 9-0 win over Commercial of Savannah, putting Lanier in the state title game against Bass of Atlanta. Unfortunately, the Poets lost that game 5-3, and the state title went with it.

DeFore and teammate Inman “Coot” Veal were both invited to play for the South team, coached by Clark, in the first Georgia Lighthouse for the Blind Classic in Atlanta following their senior seasons. The North beat their South squad 5-4.

DeFore was part of a championship baseball team in 1948, as the Macon Buddies won the American Legion state title. The Buddies advanced to the Region 5 tournament in Thomaston but were eliminated in the double-elimination event, losing one game in which they were one-hit. DeFore provided that lone safety for Macon. He was one of four Macon players named an All-State American Legion All-Star from that competition. The legendary Babe Ruth was at that event and gave out signed baseballs, and DeFore said he still has his today.

Following his high school days, DeFore gave professional baseball a try. In 1951, he played for Tallahassee in the Alabama-Florida League, for Albany in the Georgia-Florida League and for Hazlehurst in the Georgia State League. In 1953, he played for both Tifton and Eastman in the Georgia State League. His best professional effort came for Tallahassee, where he hit .281.

A longtime supporter of all types of athletics events, he was a participant in the Soap Box Derby in 1946 and 1947 and was instrumental in its revitalization 40 years later with the help of Bill Fickling Sr. and John Shoemaker. He was a major influence in renovations of Bowden Golf Course and Luther Williams Field, and he led the charge as Macon became the first location in Middle Georgia to have a Miracle League for children with disabilities.

The Bibb County Board of Commissioners recognized DeFore’s work on behalf of sports and youth in Macon and Bibb County by naming the Bibb County Sports Complex on Tucker Road at Westside High School in his honor in 2008. In 2012, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Foundation presented DeFore with the Erk Russell Spirit Award for his numerous contributions and unfailing dedication to sports in Macon and Middle Georgia.

Bobby Pope is the executive director of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Email him at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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