Post 29 baseball players to gather during Kelly Russell Classic Saturday
By Jim Turner

Posted on April 16, 2021 6:53 PM


The 1970s and ‘80s were arguably the greatest era of teenage baseball in the Land of Logan. The six high school teams were competitive before five of them consolidated, the newly formed Logan County Cougars were perpetual regional contenders, Russellville went to the regional finals in 1988, and Logan won the region the following year. Lots of local guys went on to play college baseball—and two of them—Logan’s Mark Thompson and RHS’ P.J. Jones—played professional baseball.

Making it even more special was the Post 29 American Legion Baseball program. Around 1970, Legionnaires decided to revive Legion baseball from the distant past. An abandoned baseball field was located behind and between the Legion Post Home and the Logan County Fairgrounds, which were owned by Post 29.

The Post 23 Barons of Bowling Green had been the only other active Legion team in the area.

The field was readied for play, and some talented guys in their late teens played very well for Post 29 for 10 seasons. Not only did they come from Adairville, Auburn, Lewisburg, Olmstead and Russellville high schools, but aksi from surrounding areas which didn’t have Legion teams. They included Todd County, Franklin-Simpson, Butler County and Hughes-Kirk in Muhlenberg County.

Plans are for a reunion of players from those teams Saturday as part of the annual Kelly Russell Classic, which has baseball and softball games underway at RHS.

Forecasting what was to come, the first coach was Greg Shelton in the summer of 1972. He had just finished his freshman season pitching for Western Kentucky University, just a year after his graduation from Lewisburg High School. He coached Post 29 for five seasons before becoming coach at Franklin-Simpson High School. As coach of the Wildcats, he put together a Hall of Fame career that includes winning a state championship. After his retirement in Kentucky, he had a successful run as coach of Beech High School in Tennessee. After his second retirement, he has come back to this area, coaching Russellville, Christian County and currently Todd Central.

The second Post 29 coach was Steve Gilliam, a former RHS multi-sport standout who played for the Legion team before becoming the coach while he was a student at Murray State University. He went on to a successful coaching career in the second and third regions.

Succeeding him was Lewisburg baseball and basketball coach David Billingsley, who was the first LCHS baseball coach, winning the district annually in his eight seasons at the helm of the Cougars, including a regional championship and a first-round victory at state in 1989. He went into administration after the 1990 high school system and was head of vocational education in Kentucky before his retirement.

Next came Russellville baseball coach Gwynne Gaddie, who was best known as the architect of the Russellville defense during the Panthers’ first state championship season in 1980. He was assisted by Terry Stuart, Legion leader Randall Coffman, and Todd County’s Jeff Power.

Panthes assistant football coach Ted Zikeli had been hired to coach Post 29 in 1982, but many of the top baseball players had decided to become part of the ARCO A’s, a massively talented Connie Mack League team assembled and coached by Billingsley and sponsored by the predecessor of Logan Aluminum.


Attempts were made to revive the Post 29 team in later years with the late John Hesson working hard to make it happen, but funding was scarce and players were going in other directionsTomorrow’s gathering of the Post 29 Baseball alumni is to begin around 1 p.m., although it is hoped some of them will get there early to watch Shelton’s Todd Central Rebels play Nelson County at 10 a.m. and/or stay late to see Coach Robby McLellan’s Panthers go against Madisonville-North Hopkins at 2:30.

Games are played at Kelly Russell Field. Those former Legion players returning to the area for the first time in many years will see a memorial structure with a plaque dedicated to former Legion player Kelly Russell, who died as the result of an injury suffered while warming up for the regional tournament in Bowling Green during his senior year at RHS in 1974.

Kelly’s best friend, former Post 29 player and coach Steve Gilliam, has been contacting as many former Post 29 players of that era as he can, as has another former player, Greg Owens, who has been a leader of the Kelly Russell Classic for several years, along with Gilliam’s sister, Russellville Councilwoman Diane Gilliam Walker, plus Jean Reynolds, Patti Neal Haeberlin and Kate Gorrell Collins.

Jo anne Russell Bennet—Kelly’s sister—always tries to attend the Classic, flying in from her long-time home in Colorado.

Tee shirts promoting the Kelly Russell Classic and honoring Kelly himself are for sale, and donations are always welcome for scholarships to RHS senior athletes in Kelly Russell’s name. The scholarship was started by the Russellville Optimist Club. Kelly’s devoted father, Joe Russell, was one of the early leaders of the club.


The following is a list of most of the players on those first nine teams:

Coaches: 1972-76 Greg Shelton, 1977-78 Steve Gilliam, 1979-80 David Billingsley, 1981 Gwynne Gaddie, Terry Stuart, Randall Coffman, Jeff Power

Russellville: Kelly Russell, Jeff Ashby, Bernard Bellamy, Timmy Bray, David Costello, Ronnie Croslin, Al Cross, Harris Dockins, Ricky Eggleston, Frankie Farmer, Joe Foster, Mark Gilliam, Steve Gilliam, Kevin Hines, Scott Holloway, Jerry Lee, Mike Lee, Terry Lee, Jeff Litten, Greg Meacham, John Morgan, Greg Owens, Clay Parrish, Steve Pedigo, Mike Posey, Ricky Powell, Jeff Smith, Jimmy Taylor, Mickey Taylor, Danny Williams, Joey Williamson, Mark Wilson, Mike Wilson

Adairville: Marty Goley, Keith Hesson, Randy Robertson

Auburn: Todd Ashby, Barry Blakey, Bo Cooper, Dale Gray, Dennis Pardue, Roger Reynolds, Ricky Richardson, Eric Rogers, Gary Woodward, Keith White

Lewisburg: Pate Carnall, Robbie Carnall, Steve Cauley, David Gilliam, Bubba Grimes, Corky Harrison, Eddie Shelton, Johnny White, Kelly White

Olmstead: Keith Cox and Henry Page

Butler County: Cliff Chapman, Matthew Hampton, Greg Hines

Todd Central: Steve Everett, Hank Malone, Bruce McIntosh, Ralph McIntosh, Tony McKinney, Brad O’Shoney, Craig O’Shoney, Kevin Page, Jeff Power, Daryl Russell, Gary Schubert,

Hughes-Kirk: Dwayne Arnold


Franklin-Simpson: Bobby Brown, Tommy Burrell, Johnny Ellis, Buddy Forshee, Larry Halcomb, Jeff Moody 

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