Beloved local baseball supporter Sam "Bosie" Bennett Jr. died Sunday morning at the age of 87, surrounded by his family in a Bluffton home he shared with his daughter.
The career oysterman was the primary architect of the decades-old Bluffton Eagles baseball team, spending 30 years as a player and more than 20 as a manager.
"Sam Bennett was baseball for this area," said Fred Hamilton, former manager of the team and current chairperson of the Bluffton Eagles Community Action Committee. "He provided the property that has allowed us to have one of the greatest pastimes in Bluffton history."
The 14-acre Eagles Field, located on Buck Island Road in Bluffton, was renamed The Sam Bennett Sports Complex in 2002, honoring his half century of dedication to the community institution.
Bennett's daughter, Renae Frazier, confirmed her father's death on Monday, saying he died of natural causes at 11:20 a.m. on Sunday at the house she shared with him for the past five years.
A monument shaped like a baseball diamond is located at Eagles Field and features a short biography of Bennett and his contributions to the team and community.
In the late 1930s, when Bennett was 16 and living in Rose Hill Plantation, he gathered friends, family and coworkers to play ball.
"We had a lot of young folks out in the street, with nothing to do. I figured it would keep them out of trouble," Bennett told The Island Packet in 2002.
Back then, black communities living on the many plantations across Beaufort County played baseball together on the weekends. By the 1950s, however, the plantations were changing and developing. Bennett moved and took baseball with him.
There was Troy's Team, whose players lived on and around Goethe Road, and Bennett's team, the Buck Island Hawks, which played on several fields along Buck Island Road. In the 1960s, the two teams combined under Bennett's leadership to become the Bluffton Eagles.
"He was just a good man," said Sharon Brown, Bennett's granddaughter. "It's a great loss for our family and the community. ... He inspired a lot of young men to do positive things within the community."