HARTSVILLESC – Saturday was a day to celebrate Luke Arthur and his contributions to baseball and the Lydia community. Arthur coached the Lydia Red Sox baseball team for more than half a century.
Saturday, about 50 friends, family and former players showed their admiration for their mentor, friend and coach at a luncheon at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Hartsville and afterwards joined him at the Hartsville Museum where an exhibit has been created to honor him.
Debbie Johnson, a former neighbour, organized the celebration.
She said he lived across the street. She remembers playing ball with her two daughters, Janelle Arthur Graham and Angie Arthur Gantt, who both attended Saturday’s celebration.
Johnson said every Saturday and Sunday Arthur would load up his truck with ball equipment and head to the Lydia ballfield. After she graduated from college and came home she saw him doing the same thing every weekend.
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“He taught me how to pitch,” she said.
Arthur has coached three generations of ballplayers in the same family; he even coached his own father.
She said two players that he coached went on to play professional ball.
Arthur was born in Darlington County in 1942.
The team was formed in the early 50s by Henry McFadden, Samuel Arthur and Jay Mack.
From a young age, Arthur enjoyed the game of baseball.
In high school he played on the Butler High School baseball team while also playing with the Lydia Red Sox team. Shortly after graduation from high school, Arthur became the manager of the team and also worked full time at Sonoco Products Co.
Arthur started coaching the team when he was 21 years old.
He joined the Lydia Red Sox team because it was part of his family tradition. In 1963, he became the head coach of the Lydia Red Sox, and during his first four years of coaching, he coached his own father, Hazel Arthur.
The story goes he had to go to the pitcher’s mound during a game and pull his own father from the game that he obviously wasn’t doing well.
That didn’t go over so well with his father, one person recalled.
Arthur managed the team for over 55 years, and his brother, Richard Arthur, helped manage the team when Luke Arthur was either playing or unavailable. Richard Arthur also played on the team.
Jannie Capers became the person in charge of concessions and manned the field’s entry gate operations in the 60s.
She and Arthur married, and together they worked supporting the team and ensuring its survival. They both remained with the team until it was dissolved in 2018.
In 1971, the Lydia Red Sox joined the Gamecock League, which had teams from Florence, Sumter, Columbia and Hartsville.
That same year, the Lydia Red Sox played a game against the University of South Carolina at the American Legion Stadium in Florence. The game was won by Carolina.
They traveled as far away as New Jersey to play a three-game series.
Arthur won 18 championships from the time the team joined the Gamecock League in 1971 until 2018.
He coached several players from the Lydia Red Sox that went on to play for major and minor league teams.
Former players and friends said Arthur was a natural born leader for the community of Lydia. He helped with the organization and creation of the Lydia Community Center as well.
Under his leadership the team and the Lydia Red Sox baseball field grew and became a place for friends and family to not only share their love of baseball but to make lasting memories.
Arthur has been a community leader, coach, a mentor and a father to many of his players, one person said, to which an “amen” was added by several in the room.
Darlington County Councilman Marvin Le Flowers read the resolution that was passed in August 2018 renaming the Lydia baseball field after Luke Arthur. It is now the Luke Arthur Baseball Field.
“It was a very proud day for me as a member of the County Council,” Le Flowers said.
Arthur’s younger brother, Richard Arthur, said his brother was someone to look up to.
“I played with him, too,” Richard Arthur said. “He coached all of us; it was a family affair.”
He said his brother was an easygoing guy, a role model, a mentor, a good coach and had good instinct about when to remove someone from the pitcher’s mound.
“He was a role model on how to be humble,” Richard Arthur said.
He said his brother was dedicated to the sport of baseball.
“He was passionate about baseball,” Richard Arthur said.
Richard Arthur said in the 80s he was coaching a Little League team and his older brother would help out, while still coaching his own team. He said his brother was always there for him and others.
“He set a standard, a great path for you to follow,” Richard Arthur said.
He said if you followed that path you would be a great person today.
Darlington County Sheriff James Hudson also spoke about what a great influence Arthur was on many young men. Hudson said Arthur wanted to make sure the community had somewhere to go on Saturday and Sunday that was positive and would demonstrate the talents of some great young athletes.
Hudson said he was honored to be a part of this day. He said Arthur was someone he looked up to as a role model.
Hudson presented Arthur with a copy of the book “Just Like Us.”
Rosalin McFadden Green read a history of the Lydia Red Sox at the dinner.
In celebration of the game, the group sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” led by Brooks Shumate.
Others gave testament to Arthur’s influence over their lives.
Arthur expected the best from his players. One of them said, “He believed in me. I love you.”
Graham said her father now has Alzheimer’s yet he remembered much of what they talked about on Saturday.
“I want to commend Debbie (Johnson),” Graham said. “She had the idea, and we couldn’t ask for anything better. It made him very happy. He has been doing baseball all of his life. I can’t say enough about what she did.”
Arthur said the event was “real, real nice.”
Graham lives in Darlington and her sister lives in New Jersey.
It was said that Arthur loves his church, his family and his community. He was dedicated to his job at Sonoco Products Co. and worked there for about 40 years.