Southside Park was basically an empty lot with a less-than-sturdy wire backstop, no outfield fence, no bleachers, no dugouts ...
There was a dropoff in left and center field. If a ball went over the lip, it was a home run. A picturesque stream ran along the bottom of the dropoff. Many outfielders had to dip baseballs out of the water.
Many outfielders at times dipped other than baseballs out of the water. The stream was an open sewage line.
In those days, several teams scrambled to use the field. There was no system in place and it was just first-come, first-served.
Games started early in the morning and went late into the night under the lights.
“Under the lights” might be too strong a statement. You could strike a match and have more candle-power. A couple of the lights shined all the way to the ground.
Southside Park in those days was a true jewel. It was a place to play. It was the YMCA, the mall and the community center all rolled into one.
What you did was play baseball. If you wanted the field smoother you hooked a railroad crosstie to your folks' car and dragged it yourself. Players rode the drag for added weight. There were no known fatalities.
Those pretty lines from home plate to the outfield fences? Never happened.
The dugout was a bench if you were lucky. The scorebook was a mark made in the sand. Umpires volunteered from the fans out for the game and in those days the crowds were pretty good.
If you wanted something to eat or drink, you brought it. There were baseball and softball leagues. Durant boasted a really good fastpitch softball league for men. Hancock's Mighty Mites come to mind. The team was sponsored by a sporting goods store.
Some enterprising kids sold squirts of mosquito repellant and did a good business. Some of those skeeters were big enough to be designated hitters in today's game.
All of this was great because that's all we had.
Then came Lloyd Plyler and everything changed. Lloyd absolutely loved the game of baseball. He was a blue-collar catcher who moved into coaching and eventually into every aspect of the game.
He used his own money, materials and labor from his just-starting construction business to build what eventually became Lloyd Plyler Park. The park was built especially for American Legion baseball.
Plyler brought in kids who wanted to play summer ball and put them to work with his construction company. Some outstanding players and teams have graced Plyler Park. The State Tournament was played here one year and memory says it rained for maybe three months.
Plyler Construction darn near went under because Lloyd put teams in motels to keep them in town. The tournament was completed.
It's safe to say Lloyd Plyler is the father of Durant American Legion baseball. It was his baby. He birthed it, fed it, burped it, changed its diapers and grew it into one of the better programs in the state.
Durant is hosting the Zone Tournament tonight and Friday. It's a two-team field with the Lawton Colonels. There is a 7 p.m. game today. Friday's action starts at 5 p.m. with the if-necessary game to follow.
If all goes according to plan, this will be the last Legion games at the former Southside Park. Action moves to the new Sports Complex next year. That's good news and bad news.
The good news, of course, is plenty of parking, seating, restooms and concessions.
The bad news is that a huge slice of Durant history is being laid to rest.
It's called progress. It's necessary, but it's not always a happy thing.
Lloyd Plyler will be at the game tonight. He is the Alpha and Omega.
Come on out a few minutes early and say hello. A huge crowd, like the ones back in his heyday, would be a fitting tribute to the man who made Durant American Legion baseball possible.