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Conway sets up wacky ball game as town benefit

CONWAY — On July 4, not only will fireworks dot the sky, but beach balls, wiffle balls and softballs will shoot across the Conway landscape.

The 250th Anniversary Celebration Committee is holding the first — and it hopes the annual — Conway Chesbro Challenge, to raise money for the town celebration in 2017. The wacky version of a baseball game will be held at the recreation field behind the Town Hall from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rain or shine, the game will go on as scheduled.

In just one week, 72 people have signed up, filling the competition roster. Admission is free to the event. Other foods and competitions will cost money, but the committee hasn’t established the price yet.

The fundraising money will be in addition to the $20,000 the town gave to the committee.

During the match-up, six teams made up of 12 residents and their friends will play three innings of “crazy, slow pitch baseball” using not only bats, but brooms, tennis racquets and frying pans to hit beach balls, wiffle balls and softballs.

The surprise will be when a batter gets to the plate. Players have no idea what they will be hitting and what type of bat they will be using until it’s their turn. Mike Haley, a member of the 250th committee, will size up each batter and then issue the player the “Chesbro Challenge,” using a microphone to loudly announce the challenge.

The ball game is named after local baseball hall of famer, Jack Chesbro, said local historian and anniversary committee member, David Barten.

Chesbro was a pitcher for the New York Highlanders in the early 1900s. The professional ball player made his winter home in Conway — the hometown of his wife — in 1905. Often in the summertime, Chesbro would set off on hunting and fishing trips with local friends and held charities challenging people to bat against him.

After he pitched 454 innings in 55 games and won 41 games, Chesbro retired to the small hilltown in 1912 after a 12-year successful career.

Spending the next few years in Conway, Chesbro died in 1931 and is buried in Howland Cemetery.

Chesbro was inducted into the national hall of fame in 1946.

In addition to the wild ball game, there will be entertainment between games to raise money for the 250th celebration. There will be fast-pitch, softball distance hitting for sluggers, a bat and glove toss, an egg throw and a three-legged race.

The 1981 Conway’s Mountain Mamas will also be inducted into the first Conway’s Chesbro Hall of Fame.

For refreshments, there will be hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, cotton candy, peanuts and ice cream — all treats typical of an old-time baseball game. Berkshire Brewing Company will also provide beer in the Hoffbrau Garden or the beer garden.

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