WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - Saturday was major league baseball icon Dizzy Dean's birthday, and the welcome center dedicated to him in Wiggins had a proper celebration as an informal beginning to Stone County's centennial celebration.
Dean, a long time Major League Baseball All-Star and member of the Hall of Fame, made an early impression on Michael Cruthird of Perkinston.
"Dizzy Dean was a big part of my childhood, not only watching him as a commentator on baseball, but he was a fixture here in Wiggins," Cruthird said. "And when I was a little shavetail, I used to sit in his lap occasionally at the Blalock Barber shop in downtown Wiggins and get my haircut."
The celebration included memorabilia - even Dean's celebrated hat - courtesy of the Old Firehouse Museum.
The Dean display has proven to be a must-stop.
"It's very popular," said Lynette Havens of the museum. "As a matter of fact, people come along the Gulf Coast to the welcome center in Mississippi and ask about Dizzy Dean and where they can find information."
Dean moved to Stone County in 1960 after his careers in baseball and broadcasting, and became involved in the community.
"He was always friendly. Big, big man. Big jokes. Big smile," Cruthird said. "And Dizzy was a big supporter of baseball and the youth here in Stone County. And I don't think he ever had a bad word about anybody."
Rachel O'Neal Cooley illustrated Dean's good heart with a story involving a teen-age fruit stand operator, Jerry Alexander, who eventually became mayor.
"Dizzy pulled up in his car and said, 'Fill my car full of fruit, and I'm taking it to the children that need it for Christmas'," Cooley said. "So he came back and he looked. Jerry filled the trunk. He thought he meant the trunk. He looked in the car and he said, 'I said fill the car up, where's the fruit?'"
There will be Stone County centennial celebrations throughout the year with events and activities that highlight the county's past, its citizens and a look to its future.