July 19, 2005
Douglas - Artist Andy Warhol says we are all famous for at least 15 minutes in our life.
15 minutes was probably the amount of time then 12-year old Joe Reliford played for the old Fitzgerald Pioneers in the Georgia State League in 1952.
That 15 minutes has made Reliford famous for the last half century and has even earned him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown as the youngest player to ever appear in a professional baseball game.
Reliford now lives in Douglas and that city honored him with the dedication of a sign at their athletic complex on the north side of town acknowledging the accomplishment of a man who later would become a Coffee County Sheriff's Deputy and Douglas City Commissioner.
The dedication comes 53 years to the day that when the Fitzgerald Pioneers were losing 13-0 at Statesboro.
The lopsided score prompted Statesboro fans to start yelling at Fitzgerald manager Charlie Ridgeway to put in the batboy who just happened to be Reliford.
When the home plate umpire gave his okay to the move, Ridgeway put Reliford in the game in the eighth inning.
The 12-year old held his own against the adults with a sharply hit groundout in his only at bat and a spectacular catch in right field.
The catch even thrilled the Statesboro fans but the Georgia State League was not thrilled that Joe played that night.
The League fired Reliford from his batboy job and the home plate umpire and they fined and suspended manager Ridgeway.
Reliford may have lost his job but he made his way not only to the Hall of Fame but also the Guinness Book of World Records.
Joe Reliford said "It is just an honor to be in Cooperstown. My exhibit was in the upper deck section in the Baseball Hall of Fame and right across from Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth."
Charlie Ridgeway said "I am glad I did it for Joe now. Of course I keep getting some recognition for it."
Joe Reliford has written a book on his life story and is hoping that his story will one day come to the big screen.