From atmore magazine

The Boys of the Summer of ’61: Where Are They Now?


TODD RODGERS was selected as a first baseman for the ‘61 All Stars, who went to the 1961 Sr. Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. Like many of his teammates, his most vivid memory of their trip was making it to the top of the Washington Monument. However, of his visit to D.C. he also remembers  “ … going to the US Treasury Building and seeing the money printed.” Surprisingly, he was the only All Star who mentioned this.  

    Todd’s athletic prowess shone brightly as a member of the Escambia County High School basketball team for three years. He also played a year each of baseball and football for the Blue Devils during his sophomore year. His academic career at ECHS was punctuated as Vice-President of the Latin Club and as a member of the Future Teachers of America.

    #FunFact: During high school, Todd was known for his legendary “Blue Light Parties” – when his parents were out of town. Years later, when his mama found out, she “ … couldn’t believe Jo Sherrill and other neighbors hadn’t told her.”

    In 1968 he joined a high priority Army National Guard Unit in Montgomery, ALA. For the next six years he committed one weekend a month to Guard, and later Reserve, duty plus two weeks of active duty every summer. 

   After Todd earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing from the University of South Alabama, he moved from Mobile to Atlanta, Ga, where he spent his career in sales and sales management.

   Now retired, Todd and Deborah, his wife of 26 years, live in Marietta, Ga., where they have spent years rescuing Weimaraners, averaging 45-50 rescues a year. Several years ago they and their dogs were featured on the popular TV series, “It’s Me or the Dog,” hosted by Victoria Stillwell. 

   Todd has a son, a stepdaughter and stepson, plus four grands, and two great grands. Of course, Todd and Debbie also have two adopted Weimaraners. That number could change any minute. 

    CLAUDE STEELE played second base for the ’61 All Stars and played football for three years for the Escambia County High School Blue Devils. Off the field, Claude was giving heart-throb Steve McQueen a run for his money, at least at ECHS. Claude’s accolades included being voted Campus Cutie as a sophomore, and one of the seven Most Handsome his sophomore and junior years. Senior year, the student body elected him Mr. ECHS in 1963, the year he graduated.    

   He spent his freshman year of college at Marion Institute before transferring sophomore year to Auburn University, where he majored in Industrial Design. With the Vietnam War raging in 1965, Claude enlisted in the Air Force. His assignments included Turner AFB in Albany, Ga. (for technical training); a TDY (temporary duty) to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, “Where,” as they say, “America’s Day Begins,” and where it’s summer year ‘round, and nobody mentions that it’s hot, hot, hot on the flight line – especially when you’re working on B-52s as Claude was. His assignment to Offutt AFB in Omaha, Neb., was most memorable because while home on leave from there in 1967, Atmore classmates set him up on a super successful blind date with a lovely lady from Virginia named Ellen.

     After his enlistment ended, Claude was honorably discharged from the Air Force — and he married Ellen in 1969. #FunFact:  Claude helped his father-in-law with a dairy farm in Louisiana, but he told us “ … It only took two years of dairy farming for this ‘city boy’ to decide he didn’t want to be a dairyman all his life.”       

     Instead, Claude took a job with a Louisiana( John Deere dealer, which led to a career in sales and management. He retired in 2008 after 25 years with John Deere Farm and Lawn Equipment. He and Ellen, his wife of 52 years, live in Bay Minette, Ala. Their two sons have gifted them with two grandsons and a granddaughter. 

    RICKEY WEBB, or Rick as he prefers, played second base for the ‘61 All Stars. He also was the mastermind behind the team reuniting in Atmore last October for the 60th anniversary of going to Williamsport, Penn., and playing in the Sr Little League World Series. Rick’s  favorite memory of going to Williamsport was taking turns riding in the car of the Alabama State Trooper, who accompanied the team on their journey.

    At Escambia County High School, Rick played three years of  baseball and tennis, plus a year of basketball. He also was on the ATMORALA yearbook staff.

    After graduating in 1963, Rick joined the US Navy because he loved the ocean and boating. He knew he’d enjoy being on a big ship, or maybe even a submarine.

    #FunFact: The US Navy assigned Rick to … The Kingdom of Morocco in NW Africa. He was in a highly secret unit … in the Sahara Desert … in a security vault. Or as Rick said, “Join the Navy! See Morocco?!” While there, Rick enjoyed playing on a soft ball team.

    After fulfilling his commitment to the USN, Rick was honorably discharged. However, he told us that when he got out of the Navy, the only ship he’d still ever been aboard was the USS Antietam anchored at Pensacola, Fla., when his Atmore Boy Scout troop toured the aircraft carrier. 

    After his sea-less military service, Rick enrolled at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In1970, he graduated with his Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing. Rick spent most of his career working in sales and advertising. Today he is a retired Account Executive with CBS and Fox Television. He lives in Sacramento, Calif., and enjoys playing golf and watching Alabama football on TV in sports bars to enjoy camaraderie with other out-of-pocket BAMA fans. He is also a part-time Reclamation Tour Guide at Folsom Dam in Folsom, Calif.

    When asked his wife’s name, Rick replied “Wanda—she’s married to another man now.” He was quick to add that they had been, “. . . Married for eight years — and divorced for 39.” He and Wanda have a son and three grands. Rick is currently in a long distance relationship with a chatty lady named Siri.

    It’s complicated, y’all.

                                          ~ * ~ 

Eleven of the original 15 members of Atmore’s 1961 Sr. Little League All Star team served either in the active duty Armed Forces or the National Guard/Reserves during the Vietnam War. More than two-thirds of that team is a phenomenal percentage. 

Atmore native Bonnie Bartel Latino is a former columnist for Stars and Stripes in Europe, and an

award-winning novelist and journalist.