Passing on the Legacy: Dr. Clyde Muse – T-Ball Inventor and Loving Father and Granddaddy
T-Ball, the popular ballgame played today by young boys and girls, was first invented and played in Starkville, MS in 1961. Now it is played all over the world using rules almost identical to the original ones.
Four teams and thirty-six boys ages 10-12 were involved the first year, and regular baseball was then played. As the program grew, money became available through Rotary sponsorship, city help, and boys’ fees to hire coaches to handle daily activities as a summer job. Dr. Muse felt very strongly that eight- and nine-year-olds needed to be involved in the program. But the rules of the game in regular baseball meant that too much game time would be spent by a young pitcher trying to get a good pitch across the plate and by a young batter trying to muster eye and muscle coordination enough to hit it. They needed to make the game interesting and provide the right experience for boys who needed to be ready to play in the Little Boys Minor League at age ten.
Much thought was given to how to make the Tee, and several parents and boys were involved in demonstrations to figure it out. Dr. Muse remembers going to an auto shop for help and deciding on a radiator hose to use for the top of the Tee because it was flexible and could be pushed up and down on the metal plumber’s pipe used for the lower part to adjust for height. A clamp was attached around the hose at the top of the pipe to keep it from going down the pipe.
Dr. Muse’s son Vernon said, “I remember going to the store to get the pieces my dad and I needed to build a Tee, so I could practice before our season began. That was a bigger memory then hitting my first ball off the Tee. I had no idea the positive impact that sport would have on families years later.”
The result was a stationary ball, instead of a thrown pitch, and a much shorter game.
Today boys start T-ball at age five and players get two swings at the ball positioned on a Tee, made of plastic with an adjustable tube at the top to position the ball about waist-high as in the original Tee.
Julia Muse Cole, who facilitates professional learning with educators to create effective family school partnerships, said, “When my father invented T-Ball, his motive was to ensure children had healthy fun with their friends and their families. That might very well be the value still of this game. Many generations of children have since enjoyed this opportunity, including my own grandchildren. I’m just sadly disappointed he didn’t get the patent,” she says with a chuckle.
The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Dr. Clyde Muse share a special memory of support from him. Not only was he there to support them as they learned the game, but so many other life’s lessons.
Vernon shared, “When my father was in college, his mother saw just one game he played. His father did not attend any. I think that’s what made my father want to create a positive experience for families through sports. I don’t remember my father ever missing any of my football, basketball or baseball games, and he always had something positive to say even if we lost.”
Susan Muse Rucker, Dr. Muse’s daughter, remembers how he always supported her in everything she did. “He was always there. guiding me to make the right decisions and holding me up when I was down. He gave me the confidence I needed to move forward in difficult situations. The calmness of his spirit and his way of making me feel like the most special person in the world molded me into the person I am today.”
Susan also noted, “My father made a huge difference in how I supported my children and now my grandchildren. No matter how busy he is at work, his family always comes first. As parents and grandparents, we should all adhere to that commitment.”
Recently Dr. Muse was honored at his great-grandchild Lee Monsour’s T-ball game. At the game Dr. Muse received a gift from the Orioles team – a special T-ball diamond that was signed by the 4-year-olds on the team, and a home plate from one of the league’s Tees, signed by the team. Smith Boykin, coach of the team and President of North Jackson Youth Baseball and Softball, stated, “Our entire league was honored by Dr. Muse’s presence and participation today. He’s a founding father of a game that has brought and continues to bring such joy to so many children and families worldwide.”
As Lee prepared for the season, she had an opportunity to learn a few pointers from her Great-Grandaddy. He always has a way of making her feel special and confident. No pressure to win, be the first, the best, or a home run hitter. The goal has always been just to experience the spirit and fun of the game. Lee’s Dad, Chris Monsour said, “Since I can remember, Granddaddy stressed the importance of family and being involved. Whether it was any of my major milestones or those of my two girls, Grandaddy has always been there, actively engaged in every victory or encouraging them in defeat.”
Jamie Hall, one of Dr. Muse’s granddaughters said, “Granddaddy’s kind and gentle spirit and voice of encouragement are ever-present in my childhood memories. He has always been there for me for major life events to everyday moments—supporting and guiding me by his positive example and with his sincere and generous heart. Seeing the joy and excitement of my three children, Elizabeth, Benjamin and Emmaline, as they share their own milestones and stories with Granddaddy, constantly reminds me of how special he is.”
We wanted to wish Dr. Clyde Muse a happy Father’s Day and thank him for sharing his gift with not only his own family, but generations of young athletes for years to come.
We are thankful to Susan Muse Rucker and the whole family of Dr. Clyde Muse for helping us with this article. .