Loren’s Smith’s column: Sports and Springtime
While March can be fickle—pollen, sinus headaches and aggravating
winds that seem never to abate—it is a month when the sports schedule
is a smorgasbord of activity with unending choices.
Basketball and March Madness, spring baseball and spring football
are among the options that a serious sports aficionado covets. It is the last
month for quail hunting and the trout are biting in North Georgia streams.
Masters anticipation builds in late March for that glorious first full week in
Highlights of past springs are good for reminiscing by that last fire as
March tempts and teases us as we yearn for short sleeves and barefoot
excursions to the mailbox. Jonquils, azaleas and dogwoods begin to
emerge in our part of the world; the birds sound off with the sweetest
offerings to make your day as it is getting underway.
There have been many March memories from the past to savor, from seeing Texas Western upset Kentucky, 72-65, at Maryland’s Cole Field
House in 1966 to spring training in Florida (and a couple of times in Arizona) to Snook fishing on the Sunshine State’s west coast to bone fishing in the keys.
There is always a sports personality or two in Florida who either has
settled permanently in the state or makes their winter home there where
they can play golf, enjoy the MLB spring baseball camps and get in a few
days fishing for those with multiple interests. One spring, there was the
opportunity to visit Red Grange, the Galloping Ghost of Illinois, which was
followed by encores for several years.
Dinner came about a couple of times with Ted Williams, the Boston
Red Sox slugger, just before his health went into decline. You wander up
behind a batting cage and you might find Bill Parcels, the former New York
Giant coach in conversation with the Braves’ Bobby Cox.
Baseball icons such as Red Schoendienst (Cardinals), Don Zimmer
(Dodgers), Johnny Pesky (Red Sox), Whitey Ford (Yankees) and Bob
Feller (Indians) would give you the time of the day. They enjoyed baseball
conversation with most anybody, including the fans who came early and
wandered down to the first row of seats.
When Vero Beach was the home of the Dodgers, time spent there
was the ultimate spring experience. Streets were named for Dodger greats, the players sat in the open within arms-length of the fans—there
were no dugouts—and fruit bearing orange trees near the outfield fences
reminded you that you were enjoying the best of times.
You could go to Bobby’s Restaurant & Lounge in Vero and enjoy a
nice dinner with Dodgers, past and present, hanging around, save
one—Sandy Koufax. The most iconic of Dodgers makes Vero Beach his home, but the foreground is never a place where he appears.
No former player has ever shunned the spotlight more that this Hall of
Famer who retired when he was only 30 years old. At that time, he had
thrown four career no-hitters and had a lifetime earned run average of 2.76.
The strain and stress of baseball made him worry about his health, so he gave up the game.
If you ever go to Bobby’s and find him sitting in a corner enjoying
dinner, you’ll get the coldest shoulder possible if you introduce yourself and
ask for an autograph. Now 85-years-old, Koufax’s incognito lifestyle is,
perhaps, the most intense ever for any major league superstar.
Former players make good money at card shows. Koufax has no
interest. Even if you told him, he would get a thousand dollars for each
signature. His privacy means that much to him.
On the way home from Florida, there was always the opportunity to
stop by Boggy Pond plantation, near Moultrie and get in one last quail hunt,
which allowed for a nice quail cookout as you got in the mood for the Masters.
The Masters! With the playing of the Masters, the arrival of spring is
confirmed. Usually, the weather is near perfect, the blooms are
spectacular and the completion is keen and resonating. Tranquility trumps
all when the Masters comes around. Can any season top the spring and its cornucopia? Oh yes! October.
ELLAVILLE – The Schley County Wildcat baseball team (SCHS) faced stiff competition from GHSA Class AAAAAA opponent Lee County (LCHS).... read more