Clearwater, Fla. is a nice place to visit. Moreover, a lot of people want to live there. In the past 20 years the population has jumped from 15,000 to more than three times that number without, so far, spoiling the essential character of the town. Clearwater's streets are scrupulously clean, neon signs are at a minimum and the general tone of the town is set by the classical fare that emanates from the local radio station, WQXM—a welcome relief from the washboard strummers and corncob soloists who usurp most of the South's airwaves.
Northern sports fans may be aware of Clearwater only because that is where the Phillies go for spring training. But Clearwater's own fans can't wait for the Phillies to move out of Jack Russell Stadium so that the real champs, the Clearwater Bombers, can move in. The Bombers are the pride of the area. The best Softball team in the world, they have won the national championship nine times. They started out in the 1940s as the Blackburn Bombers, sponsored by a lumber company. Then local merchants took over, and all the team's expenses are now underwritten by the city and the Bomber Boosters, who pay $25 for a season ticket. Regular admission to Bomber games is only $1 on weekends and 50¢ for adults, 25¢ for children on week nights, and the Bombers play mostly night double-headers from late April through August. They also play about 15 games on the road, traveling as far as Washington D.C.
The Bomber players, known to every kid in town, are strictly amateurs. "They're good boys," says Joe Lewis, a hospital comptroller who is the manager, "and they play very well as a team." Some of the stars are Ron Weathersby, the slugging outfielder who is purchasing agent for a lumber company; Bill Parker, .300-hitting second baseman and assembly line foreman; and Weldon Haney, a carpetlayer who both pitches and plays center field.
Fishermen find no shortage of charter or party boats. The footloose angler may also cast from shore or pay an admission fee to fish from Big Pier 60, which juts into the Gulf. The usual bait is live shrimp, and the fish range from small, plump butterfish to large tarpon.
Sixteen miles from Clearwater is a pleasant little Thoroughbred racetrack, Florida Downs, formerly Sunshine Park, which was the favorite racing site of the late Grantland Rice. The horses are cheaper than at the larger Florida tracks, and the patrons are gentler and look local. Clearwater residents and visitors come over for the chance to win the Daily Double or the Perfecta. Payoffs are sometimes large and sunshine is usually prevalent.