Charles Wells, 66, manager of store, Little League coach

May 01, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

It was Charles Wells' policy that when his Little League team won a game the children got free soft drinks at his store. Mr. Wells had a somewhat liberal policy -- nearly every youngster who went into his Columbia store received a free drink.

The manager of a Columbia convenience store in the early 1980s -- about the time he started coaching baseball -- Mr. Wells died Tuesday of heart failure in his native Cleveland. He was 66.

Whether baseball was in or out of season, adolescents gathered almost daily in his 7-Eleven store -- talking sports, playing pinball and drinking soft drinks.

"He always seemed to have a soft spot in his heart for kids," said his longtime girlfriend, Cynthia Gibbons of Cleveland. "There's not much he wouldn't do for kids. He'd go broke providing for kids."

Mr. Wells coached 10- to 12-year-olds from about 1981 to 1986. His teams never won a championship -- or even most of their games each season -- but the players seemed to have more fun than other teams.

Ice cream followed most games, parties at his house were routine, parents were given pompoms to help cheer the team on and Mr. Wells often used a portable loudspeaker to announce at-bats.

"This was a high-class operation he ran," joked Scott Parsons of Elkridge, an old friend and former assistant coach. "Fun and learning were his main objectives. If they won a few games along the way, great. If not, so be it."

Mr. Wells, who played semiprofessional baseball in Ohio, would let any eligible youngster play on his team -- whether they paid the league fee or not.

"If necessary, he'd dig in his pocket for the money or have an earnest talk with the kid's parent about paying for their kid," Mr. Parsons said. "He wanted them to have fun."

Mr. Wells attended Ohio State University in the 1950s and served in the Army from 1957 to 1959. He moved to Cumberland in 1963 to work in construction, and lived in Elkridge from 1973 to 1985.

While in Elkridge, he worked as a carpenter in addition to putting in time at the store, first as a part-time clerk and later as manager. He was a skilled woodworker and tried his hand at crafting baseball bats.

"He was able to make bats of varied sizes, but he'd get frustrated when kids would use them and they'd break," Ms. Gibbons said. "He said 'to heck with it' and bought a bunch of aluminum bats."

A memorial service in Cleveland is being planned for late this month. He is survived by a brother, Roland Wells of Cleveland.

Pub Date: 5/01/98

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