Text of Sports Day speech for those who couldn’t attend

Text of Sports Day speech for those who couldn’t attend

I need a camera. Who knew we could get this many Baptists in the Elks Lodge?

You know, I’ve looked at those pictures on the wall for the past 40 years but not until my own picture went up there did I know what that really meant. I’m going to tell you a story and if your name happens to be mentioned, I want you to stand up and stay standing up until I’m finished. Don’t worry, this literal off-the-wall story isn’t long but it’s worth hearing.

Last night was the first time my photo was in the room. And let me tell you, when everybody had cleared the building, that wall came to life. I wouldn’t have believed it either if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Ernie Chattin and Bo McMillen were the first to pop down off the wall. They said it was time to start playing ball and invited the rest of us to get down off that wall and follow them to Central Park.

One by one, they started coming off the wall. They were all so fit, hardly an ounce of body fat among the bunch of them. I mean, they were in PRIME shape. I was in shape too. Round’s a shape, right Dicky? Ernie and Bo were so excited. They went outside and you’d think it would be pitch black. But it wasn’t. I mean it was the most perfect blue sky I’d ever seen. Once everybody finally shoved their way out the doors, Ernie and Bo announced that we’d be running to Central Park. Uh-oh, I thought to myself. I may hang out with young marathoners now, but that doesn’t mean I run. Thankfully, I was hanging toward the back and behind me I heard a BEEP! BEEP!. It wasn’t the roadrunner, it was Tom Cooksey in a golf cart. I didn’t even know golf carts had horns. He told me to hop in and he’d drive us over. Tom’s a good driver on the golf course but don’t turn him loose on the streets of Ashland. Just sayin, Tom, you made a couple of crazy hairpin turns that nearly toppled me out of the cart.

But he got us to the park. Everybody else was just getting there too. When we got there, a bag of bats and balls were jammed in an old Army duffel bag leaning against the visitor’s dugout on the main diamond. It didn’t matter to Jerry Henderson because he brought a basketball, baseball bat and glove, football and track cleats with him because he wasn’t sure what we were going to play and, as we all know, Jerry was good at all of them. He was Ashland’s version of Bo Jackson.

Ellis Johnson and George Conley brought a special guest with them – none other than Mr. Adolph Rupp, because they both knew him so well – Ellis as his first All-American and George as a referee that Rupp used often in the SEC. Coach Rupp looked like he was drooling over the talent that was assembled.

I looked over to the home side of the baseball field and Bill Lynch and Don Gullett were engaged in a game of burnout. At least that’s what I think they were doing. I couldn’t real see the ball, only hear it. SSSSSSSSS!!! SSSSSSSSS!!! It was either that or we have a major snake problem in Central Park. It was a certain sizzling sound and a blur of white coming out of their hands. Bill Selbee came up flipping a softball, asking if he could play since burnout and unseen pitches used to be his specialty, too. Chigger Adkins said he could vouch for how hard Selbee could throw a softball although he wasn’t certain if he’d really ever seen one of his pitches either. Charlie Reliford said there wasn’t enough umpiring equipment in the world for him to officiate this showdown between Lynch, Gullett and Selbee. Nard Pergrem said he’d do it, and without a mask. His brother Buck called him crazy and said to go ahead and do it. “It wouldn’t matter if a ball hit you in the face anyway,” he said, and they wrestled near home plate, creating a cloud of dust and messing up the batter’s box. What are you going to do with brothers?

Then I looked around and noticed Bobby Lynch manicuring the pitching mound. Everything was just right as he piled the sand around the rubber and worked on the place where his knee always grazed the dirt when he pitched reminding us all of Tom Seaver. And why wouldn’t Bobby take special care of this sacred place? You know he never lost a game there. Really. Not one.

Jim Host is flashing that million dollar Pearly white smile again as he rubs up baseballs in the dugout waiting for his turn to pitch. He hollers for the Pergrem brothers to stop rolling in the dirt and grab a bat. Pearly is also busy getting a patent on naming this Elks reunion The Final Forty-Four.

In the outfield, a football game is about to break out with coaches Herb Conley and Vic Marsh trying to pick teams and arguing over who goes first. Herb finally gives in and lets Vic pick twice. He takes Ralph Felty and J.C. Kennard. Obviously, Vic is going for some toughness. Herb picks himself. Nobody argues with the selection. In right field, Chuck Anderson and Nick Jordan just collided in a blocking drill. There were no survivors. Somebody called Dr. Marvin Keeton and Dr. Leo Dickinson who, if you didn’t know, helped develop penicillin. Leo told the coaches they better make room for him in the game and Dutch Berry and Eck Allen do the same, saying their days of Tomcats were the best. John Caine was there too, waiting to be picked while going over the playbook and ordering the uniforms because that’s what the best ADs do.

Buffalo Hopkins and Paul Reliford found a connection and it’s not surprising. They keep throwing footballs to each other because that’s what they remember about their playing days with the Tomcats. J.D. Ison, whose nickname was The Hand, tries to get a hand on one of their passes as he stands between them. No luck but he never stops trying. And if The Hand ever even gets a finger on one of those tosses, it’ll be his for sure.

I walked over to the park basketball courts and watched Larry Conley go behind his back and over the shoulder to Brother Adkins for another basket. Five people are trying to guard them to no avail. They are like basketball magicians. Freddie Simpson and Steve Gilmore, a couple of Holy Family hotshots, each have their own balls because neither one of them ever saw a shot they didn’t like. They can make them from anywhere, including the old Bayless gym that they’d broken into a few times to fire up some baskets. Darryle Kouns, who knew how to score too from his days with Army, is begging – make that ordering – Freddie to pass it to him just once. Gilmore just laughs and says ‘Why do you think I brought my own ball?’ Then the heavily guarded Simpson, with two players draped on him like a bad sports coat, launches another one from 25 feet out that rattles the chains that are used for nets.

Jimmy Anderson, Jack Fultz, Marvin Meredith, Jeep Clark and Bob Wright are not only putting on a Hall of Fame coaching clinic near midcourt but they’re telling the best stories you’ve ever heard. But they’re like a bunch of fisherman: We’re not sure how many of them we can believe.

Al Atkins is launching golf balls the length of the park and Tom Cooksey has organized another youth golf event by giving kids a Central Park cherry snow-cone if they will bring back some of Atkins’ long blasts, including some that went up and down over the Indian Mounds.

Meanwhile, they’ve put in a diving pool and 10-meter board for Meg Neyer, whose perfect form has everybody cheering. She’s the only girl in the club – and also the only Olympian. She’s good as gold and as close to the perfect athlete as we’ve ever seen around here.

Lus Oxley is challenging anybody in the park, young or old, to a game of one-on-one basketball because he never met an opponent he didn’t want to beat.

Fred Rigsby is sitting back and taking it all in. He’s got the oils out and is painting a group photo of the 44 honorees and George Stout is begging him to let him have it for the next Sports Day program.

The last pick for the games? That’s me, until they realize I’m the guy who puts their name in the newspaper and then everybody wanted me on their team.

For the past 43 years, I’ve not scored any touchdowns, made a game-winning basket or hit a home run, but I’ve been a eyewitness to sports greatness in the Ashland area. Look around this room at those standing. Now you’re a witness to greatness, too. Give these gentlemen a round of applause.

When trying to understand my place on that wall, I’ve figured it’s because they need somebody to tell the stories, to be that eyewitness of unprecedented sports greatness. The amazing feats of these men – and Meg – should never be forgotten. They are part of a tradition of greatness that rivals any in the country. We are the coaching cradle with some of the greatest basketball, football and baseball coaches in Kentucky history, we have All-Americans, Olympians, major league umpires, world champion pitchers and even a Cy Young Award winner.

I was young when I started recording history and never understood its importance until my days of covering sports daily came to an end. That’s when I started writing books and I experienced four Tomcats who still had passion burning inside of them. They taught me and inspired me and motivated me to tell the stories of their teams and the special seasons they encountered right here. Dale Sexton, John Radjunas and Bill and Bob Lynch were the inspirations behind my books on state championship Tomcat seasons in basketball, football and baseball. It was important to them still and it didn’t take much convincing from any of them that it was important to me, too. Those seasons now have a book that chronicles what happened and why. It’s a history lesson of how greatness can be obtained not because of any one person but a group committed to nothing short of excellence and winning every time they competed. They did it the right way and the only way. They did it together. The most successful TEAMS are just that. They are teams. These men understood that.

I’ve had the best seat in the house for some of the greatest events in our area’s history, including watching a future Cy Young award winner make the first major league pitching start of his career in Shea Stadium while sitting next to his nervous father who had coached him all his life on Ashland’s baseball fields. Brandon Webb won that game, striking out 10 Mets in seven scoreless innings. His father Phil sat next to me listening to the Mets broadcast of the game on a portable radio I’d happened to bring. He was in his own special world. I was a witness to that event and it’s the favorite story I ever had the pleasure to tell, including me driving my mini-van down the wrong way of a one-way street in New York City on a Sunday morning when, thankfully the city that never sleeps, was caught napping.

When Brandon won the Cy Young award only three years later, guess who was the first media person he spoke with? What an honor. I was also on the other end of a phone call talking to the umpire from Ashland who was involved in a crucial call of the 2000 Subway Series when he prevented a riot after stepping between Mike Piazza and Roger Clemens, handling it the way professional umpires handle things the right way. I was the first and only media person who spoke to him about the story. How about that?

I was witness to other big events and rubbed shoulders with celebrities. I covered three Final Fours, the Christian Laettner game – we’ll just leave it at that – watched the Reds win the World Series in 1990 and had interviews with Muhammad Ali, Pete Rose, Rick Pitino and even the great Mickey Mantle. But nothing trumps watching a young man hit a two-out, three-run home run to win the state baseball championship or watching a father and his daughter win a state basketball title for their little town, or following some of the greatest football teams in Tomcat history when JAWS was a theme song and when Juan Thomas was running roughshod over everybody, or watching Boyd County win a baseball championship with coach and son making a dream come true. And, you know what, there was always something special about those sticky hot opening nights at Putnam Stadium. When it happened to any one of you, that’s what gave me a special spark. I loved being your eyewitness all these years.

I do wish my father, who died 16 years ago, could be here tonight. He’d have loved this. He came with me to probably 20 of these Sports Day events, if not more. We’d sit back there around George. Dad loved it. My mother passed away just last week. She’d have been the proudest person in the room. My hope is they get to watch this together tonight. And George, I know you can’t officially count them, but my father has probably been passing out tickets for two months. He doesn’t have Facebook. He has Heavenbook so he doesn’t have to worry about fake news. My mother-in-law and father-in-law are here and they consider me not just a son but their son. It wasn’t until their three beautiful daughters were married that the sons came along.

You heard my big brother do the invocation. Of all the great athletes and people in the room, and there are a lot of you, none of you measure up to the hero status of Tim in my eyes and it has nothing to do with sports. The guy is a rock in my life and my spiritual mentor. My faith and my family are my calling cards and if you never knew anything else about me, I hope you knew that.

I’d have never been able to take this ride without my wife Beth and God’s provisions on our lives. When we were dating, I had to teach her a little about sports. She quickly learned who was in every division in major league baseball. Then they went and changed it. She became a fan of all sports – what choice did she have? – and put up with a lot because the life of a sportswriter means night shift, low pay and a lot of ESPN. But she never complained and made plenty of sacrifices because she knew I loved it, and how many people really love their job? I’m one.

My son is a sports lover like me and a student of every game. He was a good athlete and an outstanding baseball player and we loved every single game of catch we ever had. Those are indelible memories for fathers and sons. And remember the dogpile at West Carter, Stephen, when Rose Hill broke a long two-year losing streak? It’s not always about winning championships. Sports will always be a connection for us. It’s that unbreakable bond, that something you say when there’s not really anything to say. We can turn a simple phone call into an hour-long debate on what the Reds, Browns and Wildcats should be doing.

My daughter Sally understood her daddy was involved in sports too. As a little girl, like 5 or 6, she thought when I went to “cover the game” that I was responsible for tarping the field. She later learned what “covering the game” meant. When she was a JFL cheerleader, I quizzed her about what she was cheering in regard to “sack that quarterback.” She had no earthly idea. So I began teaching her the game and today she’s as knowledgeable as anybody and is an avid UK football and basketball fan. We text throughout nearly every UK game.

They both have wonderful spouses, Suzette and Derrick, and my only grandchild, Brooks, came tonight too. You may have seen his picture on Facebook. Well, if you have Facebook and follow me, you definitely have seen him over and over and over again. He’s the next sports eyewitness in the family. His dad was raised on St. Louis Cardinals baseball, but they live near Great American Ball Park, so I’m telling you, there’s a chance…

I know God has a sense of humor. There was one sport that I never loved covering over the years and that was track and field and especially the 1,600 and 3,200 races. So in the last five years, what does God do? He has me work with a pair of marathon runners in a mission organization called Amy For Africa. My wife and I have become marathon groupies. Beth is like a human GPS. When Amy ran in the NYC Marathon, Beth navigated us through the subway maze, even though she had never been to New York, so we could, almost like clockwork, catch glimpses of Amy running through the city. But mostly we’ve watched in wonder and amazement at God’s movement 8,000 miles from here through Amy For Africa. Chris and Amy Compston are like family and, as most of you know, this Amy For Africa mission has become a passion in my life. In fact, if you buy one of my books at that table over there before you leave, every penny of that money will be going to our mission. Amy and Chris will be over there manning the table if you have any questions for them.

I’d like to share one last thing before I hand over the mic to Dicky. George Stout, would you come forward please? This is George Stout’s last Sports Day as chairman and I couldn’t let it go by without honoring him. You guys have some big shoes to fill replacing George, who has kept this event alive with his tireless work. This plaque says: To George Stout, ELKS SPORTS DAY ALL-TIME CHAIRMAN of the BOARD. Thank you, George, for everything and thank you everyone for honoring me with your presence tonight.

 

 

 

DOLL ESTATE SALE FRIDAY TO BENEFIT AMY FOR AFRICA

DOLL ESTATE SALE FRIDAY TO BENEFIT AMY FOR AFRICA

My mother, who died last week at the age of 90, had a special love for dolls.

She always said she was making up for her childhood when she didn’t have any dolls. But she certainly made up for it by purchasing hundreds of collectible dolls and others maybe not as collectible but still lifelike in the past three decades.

My mother also had a heart for others, especially the less fortunate. She became interested in Amy For Africa over the past few years through my involvement and especially loved co-founder Amy Compston who, during one of mom’s hospital stays, checked in on her and kept her company. The more she learned about AFA, and Amy, and what was happening in Uganda through this organization that her son also loved so much, the more she liked it and wanted to support it.

So here’s what my brother and I decided to do since we are suddenly the owners of Mom’s beautiful dolls that need a new home. We are having a DOLL ESTATE SALE on Friday and the proceeds will benefit Amy For Africa. The dolls originally ranged in price from $10 to $500. But just make us an offer and a collectible can be yours for far less than its original value. Her only request to me and my brother: Please don’t throw away my dolls.

This is a way for our late mother to make a difference 8,000 miles away – and even for all of eternity – by selling her dolls that can find their way into the hands of a young girl, or even an adult who likes collecting as much as Mom did. Continue reading “DOLL ESTATE SALE FRIDAY TO BENEFIT AMY FOR AFRICA”

History of Ashland Elks Sports Day

History of Ashland Elks Sports Day

ASHLAND, Ky. – Saturday marks the 44th year the Ashland Lodge BPO Elks 350 has put on its Sports Day program.

Here is a year-by-year look at the honorees.

1975: Jimmy Anderson, legendary high school football and basketball coach at Ashland. Coached the 1928 Tomcat national champions.

1976: Ernie Chattin, played and coached football and basketball at Ashland High School and was longtime Ashland YMCA director.

1977: Ellis Johnson, played on ’28 national champions and was Adolph Rupp’s first All-American at the University of Kentucky.

1978: Al “Fonse” Atkins, famed Ashland pro golfer who won several championships.

1979: James “Bo” McMillen, former 3-year UK quarterback and local YMCA director for 27 years.

1980: Dr. Leo Dickison, All-state football player and helped develop penicillin during medical career.

1981: Raymond C. “Chigger” Adkins, multi-sport athlete and also local softball star and basketball official.

1982: Fred Rigsby, basketball and football player for Tomcats and served 40 years in AHS school system.

1983: George Conley, basketball player and coach at Ashland. SEC basketball official.

1984: George “Eck” Allen, played on ’28 national champions and All-State in football at Ashland. Played on 1930 state champs.

1985: Luster “Lus” Oxley, Basketball standout for Tomcats and Morehead State.

1986: Bob Wright, coached Tomcats to 1961 state title and 1962 runner-up. Played for Cam Henderson at Marshall.

1987: Dr. Marvin Keeton, played basketball at Ashland and Vanderbilt.

1988: Bill Selbee, fast-pitch softball pitcher in area and played basketball and football at EKU.

1989: Charles “Buck” Pergrem, football and basketball player for Tomcats and Ashland Junior College.

1990: Ralph Felty, All-State football at Ashland and played for Duke in the 1942 Rose Bowl.

1991: Larry Conley, basketball star on ’61 champions and ’62 runners-up and went on to play for “Rupp’s Runts” at UK.

1992: Marvin Meredith, basketball star at Catlettsburg High School and longtime coach at Russell with more than 700 wins.

1993: J.C. Kennard, All-State football player at Ashland and played for Bear Bryant at UK.

1994: John Caine, basketball and baseball player at Ashland and coach and AD at several colleges.

1995: Norman “Dutch” Berry, and basketball player at Ashland and longtime city commissioner.

1996: Herb Conley, 3-sport star at Ashland and starred on ’58 undefeated team. Tomcat head coach from 1968-1976 including 14-1 season in ’75.

1997: Earl “Brother” Adkins, standout basketball player for Tomcats voted state’s top player in 1953. Played on UK’s ’58 national champions.

1998: Darryle “Sam” Kouns, former Tomcat who led Army to its first consecutive winning basketball seasons in more than 50 years with 21.6 ppg career average.

1999: Megan Neyer, winningest diver in NCAA history and 1980 Olympic team diving member.

2000: W. James “Jim” Host, pitched for Tomcats and professional in White Sox organization. Began public relations/consulting firm that is synonymous with college sports.

2001: J.D. Ison, starred in football for Tomcats and was All-American tight end at Baylor. His nickname was “The Hand.”

2002: Ernest “Nard” Pergrem, great athlete who starred in baseball and basketball. He was first Tomcat to score 300 in a season.

2003: Gerald “Jerry” Henderson, 4-sport athlete who did them all well at Ashland. Played basketball at Florida and averaged 12 ppg as senior.

2004: Fred “Freddie” Simpson, prolific scorer with more than 2,000 points at Holy Family and also played for both Marshall and Morehead.

2005: Paul Reliford, football and basketball standout at Ashland and longtime teacher, coach and administrator at Fairview High School.

2006: Eugene “Jeep” Clark, All-State basketball player for Tomcats who had extensive coaching career that included developing Boyd County into 16th Region powerhouse.

2007: Jack Fultz, longtime Olive Hill coach who recorded 396 victories and four regional titles. Also played for the Comets, leading team to first region crown in 1944.

2008: Charlie Reliford, former major league umpire who called World Series in 2000 and 2004. Began umpiring career in Central Park.

2009: Bobby Lynch, basketball and baseball star for Tomcats who was part of all three of Ashland’s state baseball crowns from 1966-68. Played basketball at Alabama for C.M. Newton.

2010: Nick Jordan, football, baseball and track & field star who played college football for Michigan State and participated in “Game of the Century” in 1966 with Notre Dame.

2011: Maj. Gen. Chuck Anderson, former Tomcat football player who was quarterback-middle linebacker on 75 JAWS team. He went on to Army and rose to rank of major general.

2012: Steve Gilmore, outstanding basketball player at Holy Family and former Ashland Tomcat basketball coach who was a lifelong educator. He also has served as mayor of Ashland for several years.

2013: Vic Marsh, Tomcat football coach who led Ashland to 1990 state championship and is the winningest coach in school history with 112 victories.

2014: Don Gullett, perhaps the greatest athlete in northeastern Kentucky history. He played everything at McKell High School but his blazing fastball took him to the major leagues with the Cincinnati Reds. He played on four consecutive World Series champions from 1975-1978.

2015: Buffalo Bill Hopkins, played football and basketball for Tomcats and has been a longtime mayor in Russell.

2016: Bill Lynch, southpaw pitcher who had 27-2 career record with 303 strikeouts. He guided Tomcats to first state baseball title in 1966 and was drafted into pro ball by the Indians before being sidelined with injury.

2017: Tom Cooksey, spent a lifetime contributing to golf in the area and co-founded the prestigious AJGA Bluegrass Junior. He is a Kentucky Golf Hall of Fame member.

2018: Mark Maynard, Ashland sports historian who worked 30 years as a sportswriter/sports editor of the Ashland Daily Independent and also authored six books about the area.

 

Saying goodbye to my sweet mother

Moms are something else. Mine sure was. As a little tike, I was always near mom, tugging on her leg or at least leaning up against her. I didn’t move too far without her. The Great Protector. She loved me like nobody else.

As I grew a little older, I can remember going with her to Parson’s Department Store. She’d drop me off on the mezzanine where I found a world of books – specifically a category of sports books. I’d flip through the pages and narrow it down to two or three books and then she’d always buy me one. It was tough sometimes to make that final call, but I did it. Mom didn’t care if it was a sports book I was reading because, well, I was reading. Being an avid reader herself, that’s what she wanted anyway. Mothers are sneaky that way.

She always wanted what was best for me and my brother and if that meant she was sacrificing something, well, then that’s how it would be. My brother and I never wanted for anything. My parents were Christian role models for us, too. For all my growing up years, she was either on the piano or organ at Oakland Avenue Baptist Church, making beautiful church music and putting in hours and hours of practice at our house. It was her ministry and she loved it and it worked well with my father too, who may have the record for being the longest-acting “interim music director” in church history. He never wanted to take on the title full-time even though he led music for decades.

Church music was a big part of their lives and one of the joys of their experience in worship. Ask anybody about either one of them and church music will surely come up in the conversation. With mom, she will always be remembered as the receptionist at the Ashland Oil R&E Building. Salesman would come and have to wait and she’d carry on long conversations with them. The next time they showed up, she remembered their names, the names of their children and everything they were doing. She was amazing. She may well have been the kindest receptionist in Ashland Oil history. Mom was a sharp person with a friendly personality that made everybody comfortable. She had the gift of hospitality in that business setting.

Mom would tell you she didn’t have a happy childhood, but she  made sure her sons could never say that. Our stockings were always full along with (too?) many presents under the Christmas tree. She loved Christmas because she loved giving. Mom wanted to make people happy, make them smile, make their day. She also loved my father with all her heart. Their love story would rock anybody’s world. They were both giving people who had a heart for others, along with each other. I’ve heard stories of times when they taught Sunday School at Second Baptist Church that would melt your heart, how they gave and gave to make others lives easier.

When my grandfather (mom’s father) was in the nursing home, every Christmas Mom would gather up perfume, lipstick and other items and individually wrap them up so we could pass them out to the residents. It must have taken her hours. Those residents unwrapped those packages and smiles and squeals were the result. Mom just flashed her beautiful smile back at them.

Of course, she also had to keep my filthy uniforms clean and take me to practice. I can remember after Junior Football League practice one day we gave one of my teammates a ride home but first stopped at McDonald’s. They paid for everything and made sure my teammate had enough to eat, even asking if he wanted to take something home. I learned later they did more than pay for his meal. His family had some needs and so did he. They met those needs without attention.

There are a million other instances of her generosity and her spirit of service to the church and love to our family and community. Her grandchildren enjoyed a bounty fit for kings and queens. She showered them with gifts and with love. When they came along, they were her pride and joy – and could do no wrong in her eyes even if they were caught doing wrong in ours.

Mom had her own weaknesses, like we all do. She loved purchasing dolls, many of them collectables, but never knew when to stop. It became an addictive habit. So if you’re looking for a doll … we have them.

Mom died on Wednesday afternoon about 12:15, her kind and sweet heart stopped beating for the last time. She was 90, about two months shy of being 91, but you wouldn’t have known it by looking at her. Her skin was still so pretty, so smooth. How can anyone be 90 years old and not have wrinkles? She was a beautiful woman, inside and outside, always. The nurses at the hospice center noticed. One of them had to do a double-check the charts when they saw her. “Is she 90 years old?” she asked. “I thought I was in the wrong room and somebody had written something down wrong.”

Mom spent two days in hospice and our family is thankful for the care she received. Our community is lucky to have this hospice center that respects everyone, the dying and the living with the dignity that everyone deserves. God bless them all.

Her passing wasn’t unexpected. Mom has been dealing with breast cancer for at least three years and has spent the past 18 months in our home. My wife, who retired from teaching after 37 years, found the calling of caretaker. Mom called her “my nurse.” Beth never claimed to be a nurse but her care for my mother would push her toward super-nurse status in my family’s opinion. She changed dressings every four days, sometimes in the middle of the night, and showed her grace when she needed it or honesty when it was warranted.

Mom loved her daughters-in-law because she knew those women loved her sons. That was most important to her. She wanted us happy and knew a meddlesome mother-in-law would interrupt that goal.

Mom was a good mother-in-law who didn’t interfere. She was so helpful, especially to me and Beth, because we lived close. They went on vacations with us when the kids were young and mom always stayed behind at the hotel to hang with the kids so we could go out and eat or relax on the beach. There was nothing she liked more than being with her grandkids and spoiling the daylights out of them.

(I may have learned how to do that from her).

In whatever accomplishments that came my way in life, my mother was always the proudest person in the room. She was proud of my brother, too. Her boys made her tingle inside. They could do no wrong in her eyes (unless we were disciplining the grandchildren).

She was a good, good mother and I’m sad that her life has come to an end. But the reunion with my father, her other daughter-in-law and many of her other relatives and church friends that went before her had to be something else. I’m sure they brushed off the piano bench for her. She probably hasn’t stopped playing and singing yet.

And you know what, face to face with Jesus ain’t a bad place to be.

New adult league, Yo Momma Basketball, brings back memories of pool ball

Charlie Scott invites everybody to his dunking good time in the Yo Momma Basketball adult league in Central Park this summer.

Charlie Scott learned how to play basketball in the School of Hard Knocks on the concrete courts in Central Park.

He had more than a few skinned knees and elbows but there were lessons he took with him on the organized basketball courts later. “Bill Bradley would come out there in his Converse and just put it on us,” he said. “Dirtiest player I ever played against.”

Bradley would consider being called the “dirtiest player” that Scott ever matched up against a great compliment.

Smart, dirty, you get the idea. Bradley may even call it “crafty” and his 37 years of running the CLEM extravaganza in his backyard court says everything you need to know about his love for outdoor basketball.

Many of the greatest teams and players in area history cut their teeth on summer basketball games at Southside Pool, Dreamland Pool and Central Park. Teams at Southside and Dreamland would stay up until somebody beat them. Some of the best Tomcat teams from the 1950s through the 1980s sharpened their skills and teamwork abilities at the pools and the park.

Scott said he’d like to see some high school players put together teams for the league and learn like he did – from some hard knocks of older players who knew their way around a concrete court and knew how to put the young guys on their butts.

“We’re missing that toughness and this brings that out in players,” Scott said. “I just want to do something that makes me smile, to help basketball be where it should be in Ashland.”

Scott’s dream is to bring the Central Park courts alive again with an adult basketball league named Yo Momma Basketball. It’s for male and female, high school age and up. The league has a start date of June 18 and goes through August 11. They will play games every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. Teams will play three games per week and they will be officiated. There will be a postseason tournament with the winning team getting individual trophies, championship t-shirts and a return of the entry fee.

Cost is $500 per team but some simple math shows that a 10-man team pays only $50 per person. Each player receives a t-shirt and is in the running for the league Most Valuable Player award.

The league has been approved by the Central Park board and Scott is promising a good time with games being played and music blaring from the courts near Central Avenue. He’s passionate about making it work enough to even dress up like “Yo Momma” for some promotional photographs and videos.

It could be a business would like to sponsor a team for the summer. Teams are guaranteed three games a week through the eight-week season. That means 24 games per team. Learn more by calling Charlie at (606) 585-4029.

Jody Hamilton, Kentucky’s greatest high school baseball coach, retiring after 37 seasons

Ever the gentleman, Jody Hamilton walks his wife of 37 years Denise back to her car hand-in-hand after last week’s district tournament. Jody told his West Jessamine players on Sunday that this season will be his last.

ASHLAND, Ky.  – Thirty-seven is enough for No. 37.

Jody Hamilton, who has to be in the conversation as the greatest high school baseball coach in Kentucky history, told his players at West Jessamine High School on Sunday night that this will be his last season. The Colts begin 12th Region tournament play on Monday.

Hamilton, who two years ago was the National High School Athletic Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year and has won state championships at Boyd County in 2001 and West Jessamine in 2015, notched his 938th career victory when West Jessamine defeated East Jessamine 3-2 to win the 46th District title for the seventh year in a row last week.

The Colts are 22-10 and have won seven games in a row, peaking at the right time in typical fashion of Hamilton’s teams. They play Rockcastle County in the regional tournament opener

Hamilton, who has worn No. 37 throughout his playing and coaching careers, cracked into coaching at Raceland, where he endured his only losing season. The Rams were 13-15 in 1986 while playing every single game on the road. Raceland won the district crown in ’86, anyway, and was the home team on the scoreboard for the first time — in 28 total games — in the opening round of the 16th Region Tournament.

Hamilton moved to Boyd County and captured his first of 11 region championship trophies with the Lions in 1988, taking them to the state championship game. Casey Hamilton, Jody’s son, helped bring Boyd County to a state title in 2001. The coach has been at West Jessamine since 2004. The Colts have collected four region crowns (2008, ’10, ’15, ’16) under his leadership.

Winning the state championship and getting attention from college recruiters for his players was always the goal for Hamilton, who  estimated 70 percent of the seniors who played for him found themselves on college rosters.

A 1976 graduate of Ashland, Hamilton enjoyed a tremendous career at Morehead State University that included winning the Ohio Valley Conference Triple Crown before playing for the minor-league Paintsville Yankees. He was with the Yankees on the night that Darryl Strawberry made his professional debut with the Kingsport Mets in Paintsville, Ky. Despite hitting better than .300 for the Yankees, he felt the calling to coach and the rest, as they say, is history.

Hamilton elevated not only the way baseball was played in the 16th Region but brought it to a level the area hadn’t seen since Ashland dominated in the 1960s. He also was responsible for getting the Luther Craig Baseball Complex built at Boyd County with the help of Addington to become the envy of eastern Kentucky. Baseball fields began popping up throughout the region and Boyd County’s showplace was the reason why. As the places to play became special for other teams, the level of play began to rise too. It was either get better or get left behind because Hamilton was in it to win it every year.

His teams became known for excellence throughout the state and  hundreds of his players – and even many who played against him -went on to become college baseball players and later coaches on a number of different levels. Hamilton moved to the highly competitive 12th Region with West Jessamine, but continued to produce baseball that rivaled anybody in the state. He was the ultimate teacher of the game.

Jody Hamilton was among the inaugural selections into the Ashland Baseball CP-1 Hall of Fame in 2015.

By the way, 37 had another significant meaning for No. 37. He and wife Denise have been married for 37 years. They have two children, Casey and Neena, two grandsons and a granddaughter on the way. Jody and Denise also have a healthy bee farm they tend to in Jessamine County.

By George, this Sports Day will be special to me for more than the obvious

By George, this Sports Day will be special to me for more than the obvious

For as long as anybody can remember, George Stout has been the chairman of the Elks Sports Day committee.

This year, the 44th in the annual summer event, will be his last. I’ve worked alongside George for probably three decades of his planning Sports Day weekends and that makes me being the honoree for the Elks Sports Day on June 16 all the more special. I’m still not convinced that my photograph belongs on that wall of greatness in the Elks Lodge.

Flipping through pages of a scrapbook recognizing the first 16 Sports Day honorees made me realize even more that I’m in elite company. All-Americans, an Olympian, football and basketball greats and coaching legends, a marketing genius, community leaders who impacted hundreds, a Rose Bowl participant, a major league umpire who was a part of two World Series are only a few of the past honorees.

I’m honestly not sure how my photo fits up there with such legendary people. And I’ll tell you another one that deserves a spot somewhere: George Stout. Nobody – and I mean nobody- has done more for this program than him. Anybody who has played a part in Sports Day understands how much George means to the program. He’s a do-it-all machine, organizing everything down to the smallest detail, down to what the person who introduces the honoree is supposed to say word for word. Let me just say this and the Elks know it’s true: Without George Stout’s passion for this program, it would be kaput by now. He has nearly single-handedly kept it alive and we should all be thankful.

George has been around the block. He was witness to the first game ever played in Putnam Stadium and then saw the last one before the walls came down to make way for the “new” Putnam Stadium. He has been a friend to this community longer than I’ve been alive and still drives meals to shut-ins during the club’s Thanksgiving and Christmas feeds.

George deserves a good sendoff. It would be fitting to set the attendance record on his last night as chairman. The program will be a one-day affair with the reception and banquet on the same night. Charlie Reliford, one of the best storytellers you will ever hear and a former Sports Day honoree, is the speaker. If you’ve never heard Charlie speak, you are in for a treat. If you have heard him, you know he’s worth the price of the ticket. Reception food, Elks famous baked steak and Charlie Reliford speaking for $30? It’s worth the price.

I’m not asking for me, although I’d love to see players and coaches I’ve covered through the years in attendance along with my friends and family, but let’s make the last Sports Day that George will be the man a night he will never forget too. I know it will be one that I’ll never forget.

Like George, I was no athlete. I was only a witness to the greatness that has come from the Ashland area. Of the previous 43 honorees, I’ve covered nearly all of them one way or the other and about 27 of them directly. Many of them I didn’t see compete as athletes, but I’ve written about them as part of the glorious history of this area. What an honor that was for me to tell the stories of the great individuals on the wall.

Do I belong up there? I’m not sure but the recognition, while maybe not deserved in my eyes, is humbly appreciated.

We’ll have to get about 250 there for the record. Can we do it Ashland?