Cultural icon Claudette “Cookie” Allens contacted me with the sad news.
Her brother-in-law, Phillip “Phil” Francis, had passed away.
“Just wanted to let you know of the passing of Phillip Francis. He was 78 and died in Florida,” informed Cookie. Francis died on Tuesday, October 2.
Thus, yet another of those immensely-talented, valiant, dedicated and heroic sporting stalwarts, the true architects of the Bahamas Sports Brand that is so special to the world today, has gone on into eternity.
I never got to cover Francis during his prime years on the diamond because by 1967 when I hit the sports beat, he was no longer active. However, as a copy boy in the Editorial Department of the Nassau Guardian during the mid 1960s, I got familiar with the exploits of the baseball mound star, who even in the latter years, was still considered by some, to be the best.
Francis was the first standout pitcher of organized baseball in Bahamian history, and, led I-Need-A-Laundry to several championships during the 1950s, mesmerizing batters he faced, season after season.
Asa Ferguson remembers Francis quite well.
“(Chuckle) I have to remember him. I can recall getting just one hit, during all those times I went to bat against him. You see, Phil was a lefty. When he threw that leg out, and up, in his wind-up, towards first base, and then came home with the delivery, you couldn’t pick up the ball. By the time you saw the ball, it was usually too late.
“He was a killer to us (Winnie Ann Reds). We couldn’t do much with him at all. Boy, I tell you, we are all moving off the scene,” said Ferguson in a somber tone. He reminisced, also, a bit about baseball during that embryonic period.
“When I look back, we were so serious about the game. We would get up at 5 a.m. in the morning to practice. When we got off from work that evening, it was back to baseball practice. We prepared the field (Clifford Park). We put a lot of time and effort in the game. We were very dedicated and listen, from that rock field at Clifford Park, we produced the first two Major leaguers (Andre Rodgers and Tony Curry),” stated Ferguson.
It is from that backdrop that Francis emerged as one of the prime catalysts of the first baseball teams rivalry of note (I-Need-A-Laundry versus Winnie Ann Reds).
In subsequent years, gradually, more quality hurlers, those capable of handcuffing opposing teams, emerged. I refer to such as Chris Strachan, Bertie Murray, Henry Williams, Wenty Ford (who made it all the way to the Major Leagues with the Atlanta Braves), and the more recent mound top performers.
Of the lot though, Phillip Francis was the pacesetter.
May his soul forever rest in pace!
I extend condolences to the family and friends of the late pitching legend Phil Francis, inclusive, particularly, of wife Eugenia, son Peter and daughters Phillippa and Keisha.
•To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org or on WhatsApp at 727-6363.