Casey Jones was quite a baseball fan, according to Bruce Gurner. During the 1880's he had played at Columbus, Kentucky, while he was a cub operator on the M & O.
"He seldom got to go to a game unless his layover time allowed him free hours after he got his rest. One day, however, he had a chance to see a game and even better, he got to haul the Water Valley team to Jackson, Tennessee."
On a Sunday during the summer of 1898 the Water Valley shop team was scheduled to play the Jackson shop team. The company had set a couple of passenger cars in the passing track and the team, families and employees who wished to go were to board by 6 a.m. They would be picked up by northbound passenger No. 26 and returned by southbound No. 25 that night.
"Rivalry between the shop teams and between the railroad teams and municipal groups was keen in those days," Gurner says. "Many a young railroader got his start because his talents with a ball and bat were brought to the attention of a master mechanic or yardmaster who would suddenly discover that he needed a new apprentice or switchman or fireman."
Fate intervened and No. 26 blew a cylinder head below Coffeeville and would be several hours late. An extra crew and engine were called and assigned to haul the team and three cars of soldiers to be picked up at Grand Junction.
"Casey, (Fireman J. W.) McKinnie and the 638 responded and put the team and soldiers in Jackson just five minutes off No. 26's scheduled time. Mr. Bob Ward, who made that trip, said it was a sight to look out the window and watch that little 638 balling it around the curves. He said it looked like a big billy goat all bowed up in the middle running fast as he could go."
Gurner speculates it must have been a day of glory for Casey. "Not only did he get to see the team play, but the dispatcher must have given him running orders with rights over all trains. That was pure joy for a freight engineer."
Copyright © 2000 Jack Gurner