Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A gathering of my old friends

Two sportswriters and longtime friends: O.K. "Buddy" Davis
(right) is a Hall of Famer; the guy on the left is a blogger.
     I touched my past but managed to stay in the present Friday and Saturday in Shreveport. Good combination.
       It was a pleasure to see so many familiar faces and at least say hello at the Ark-La-Tex Sports Museum Hall of Fame induction reception Saturday evening at the Shreveport Convention Center.
      As I indicated in a couple of Facebook posts and e-mails last week, I had ties to each of the six people honored -- lots of respect and admiration for all of them, and a couple (sportswriting pal O.K. "Buddy" Davis and Coach A.L. Williams) have been close friends for 50 years or more.
       But I did not stay for the banquet. I am off the reunion/banquet circuit ... for now. Did enough banquets to last me for years and years, and turned down several  reunion invitations last year.
        OK, some I'm fudging a bit here because going to the reception Saturday was like a reunion. I saw many people I had not seen in years and at times it's tough. As a friend noted, "I had a hard time putting names on faces that I knew."
         I agree.
         Still, I did not have the need to hear three hours-plus of speeches. I know the introductions and speeches were good, and I was told they were good, but I knew a great deal about each of the inductees -- and agree totally that they were deserving of the honor.
         Bea and I had more of a need to take the 3 1/2-hour drive home to Fort Worth, and I'm sure we were  home before many of the people who went to the banquet did.
         Since my parents died -- in 2008 and 2010 -- we don't get to Shreveport-Bossier all that often anymore. We come in for Holocaust-related events and mostly for funerals, when we see some of the people we know, but it's not a pleasant occasion.
          The Hall of Fame reception was not the top priority on this trip, visiting with a few people important to us was -- Bea's youngest sister and her family, a couple of ailing friends (saw one, called one) and the sweet woman who was our longtime neighbor and my mother's best friend for 51 years, 87-year-old Lou Gwin. She's hanging in there, and we had a wonderful visit. She spoiled us, as usual, with homemade pound cake.
           Plus, we attended the Friday night service at B'nai Zion Temple, where we received a  surprising honor (thanks to Rabbi Jana), and I sat next to my closest Jewish buddy from boyhood, Ben Sour Jr. Then we went to Ben's house to meet his family and enjoyed a sensational meal and visit.
           (Ben, the SMU/Oakland A's/Los Angeles Kings fan, remembered that we became friends because we both wanted to be sportswriters. I made it; he went on to a more successful career.)
           But the timing of our trip did tie in nicely with the Hall of Fame induction.
           While Bea went to visit her sister, I spent most of two hours at the Shreveport Convention Center, a fairly new building I don't think I'd ever seen. It was built long after we left Shreveport in 1988, and I don't recall even driving through that north part of downtown since then.
           The people who run the Ark-La-Tex Sports Museum have done a nice job with the exhibits. I understand that this is a new location for the museum, which was dormant for six years.
           This was -- one reason for my attendance -- a largely Woodlawn/Louisiana Tech crowd because of the background of these inductees. So these were some of my favorite people and longtime friends.
           The crowd touched every phase of my life in Shreveport-Bossier and North Louisiana: Kids from Sunset Acres days; my junior high principal's widow, son and grandson; high school coaches, teachers and friends; Tech football, basketball and baseball players from my era, before and after; players from other schools; guys whose games I covered and wrote about early in my career; media co-workers and friends; highly successful coaches; many of this Hall of Fame's past inductees; and area sports legends.
           Then the Woodlawn football connection: Best I could count, 17 former players. They were there to proudly witness Coach Williams' second Hall of Fame entry in the past seven months.
           One scene that Woodlawn people will love: Billy Laird and Joe Ferguson kidding and laughing with each other -- two of the five great Knights quarterbacks of the 1960s, both with long, brilliant careers in football and coaching.

Ralph Garr, left, and his presenter,
Joey Cannatella, a kid from Sunset Acres.
           A personal highlight: the presence of two Sunset Acres guys.           One was Ross Oglesby, the big/fast kid who lived just down the street from us and became an All-State running back -- "Ross The Hoss" -- and state champion hurdler. He's  now, well, a few pounds over his playing weight, but the same lovable Ross. Seeing him, as I've done over the years, was not a surprise.
            The other was a thin, small guy in a suit, wearing an Atlanta Braves hat and talking to Ralph Garr and his fans. Dang, that looks like Joey Cannatella, I thought, but I didn't get a chance to go over and talk. Joey was one of those friendly little kids in the neighborhood, often hanging around while the older kids -- yes, I was one -- played games on the schoolground. 
             Reading the story in Sunday's Shreveport Times, it indeed was Joey, now a Shreveport attorney -- and he did the introductory speech for "Alligator" Garr. Little Joey.
            Another beautiful moment: John McConathy with his arms around 91-year-old Clem Henderson, whispering in his ear, sharing a thought. Two coaching giants of Shreveport-Bossier high school basketball in the late 1950s/early 1960s, two longtime school administrators after that. Two state championship coaches -- McConathy at Bossier in 1960, Coach Clem at Fair Park in 1963.
              Two tough competitors whose teams had many great battles. It would have been complete if Scotty Robertson had been there. His Byrd teams beat Bossier and Fair Park often. Scotty left us three years ago this month.
              McConathy, the former NBA player now silver-haired but still stately. Henderson, ailing but standing tough, his handshake grip ever strong, the ex-Marine with the rock-hard body and attitude, a Fair Park staple/leader for three decades. These men worthy of respect.
             One of the first people I saw Saturday night was Buddy Davis. I had visited him three times in Ruston since his stroke last summer, and -- as always -- we had a great time together Saturday. There's the usual good-natured ribbing and the mutual memories; Buddy's sports knowledge is as broad and deep and sharp as anyone I know.
              We looked at some of the Hall of Fame exhibits, Buddy wheeling around and pointing out some of our favorites.
              Any time I spend with Buddy is good time.
              A couple of weeks ago, on his birthday, we traded several e-mails ... as we do often. And Buddy -- the sweet-natured great friend of everyone -- wrote that it's not the games and the memories, not the thousand bylines, that count most in a career. It's the people we know, the friendships we've made ... and that have carried on over all these years. Those are irreplaceable.
              I agree totally, and it always comes through most on visits to Shreveport-Bossier and North Louisiana. It's not where Bea and I live anymore -- and it won't be -- but it's always really home in my heart.                                             


  1. From Joe Ferguson: We all talk about what a pain it is to go to some of these events, but once you get there you realize what a great group of people the Lord has put around you. Great seeing you there because you are one of the great ones. By the way, you nailed it on the speeches.

  2. From Teddy Allen: That’s a solid [writing] effort. Joey Cannatella told me that Ralph Garr drove to Houston eight times to visit him while he was in cancer treatment. They had been in the hospital together. That’s a story in itself … Love the Roadrunner.
    Buddy was still “high” Monday. Great night for him. I’ve heard him make three acceptance speeches in the last three years –- LSWA, Tech and the other night -- and he hit it clean and hard each time. Proud. I don’t think our friend could have done any better.

  3. From Jack Thigpen: Nice article on the Ark-La-Tex Sports Museum ceremonies and reception. ... It was great to see you and many others that I have not seen is several years. There is never enough time to visit at one of those receptions or reunions. As soon as you start talking to someone, another person from the past walks up. So many memories of the past go flashing through your mind. It always takes several days of reflecting for me after seeing so many friends that mean so much and I shared so many memories with.

  4. From Larry Powell: Just got home from my post-newspaper job in marketing and PR, and saw this e-mail, quickly opened it and read it while my tiny brain swelled with such great memories of my time at The Times and my affection for Shreveport-Bossier. You really touch hearts when you write.
    I think of all those years ago and see young men, many still wondering what they're going to be when they grow up.
    During my year-or-so at The Times, I covered Ralph Garr as he played for the Shreveport Braves. I covered a football game or two with Bradshaw, Ferguson, Bert Jones, James Harris ... goodness gracious, I had no idea what I had playing out in front of me.
    If I could go back in time, I'd try to live a smarter life -- but if I'd gotten smarter, I might not have had a career in newspapers.
    Anyway, I'm just so glad to have read this today. It's a real spirit booster and a reminder of great things and great experiences.

  5. From Jerry Sumrall: Thank you for posting this.This Cedar Grove boy just thought pretty girls came out of Sunset Acres.

  6. From Beverly C. Porche: Loved the article -- saw some familiar names other than the Woodlawn connections.

  7. From Jimmie Cox:Shreveport is my home also, but I don't live there anymore. I do not have the connection to it as you do. I recognize the names and places you mention and I really enjoy your writing, always have.