Friday, May 30, 2014

At least we spelled Parish correctly

Robert Parish, as a Woodlawn High School senior
(photo by Lloyd Stilley, The Shreveport Times)
      One of the biggest news stories I covered early in my newspaper career, at The Shreveport Times, was the day Robert Parish announced where he was to attend college and play basketball.
      It was Monday, May 1, 1972, at a news conference in the Woodlawn High School cafeteria (my own school, of course) ... and we didn't get the scoop. But there is a little story within this story.
      We got scooped by the afternoon Shreveport Journal, whose guys found out that the answer to the long-anticipated, long-discussed answer to Parish's destination was Centenary College, right at home.
      The news conference and announcement was scheduled for 1:30 p.m., but the Journal people were eager to get the news in that day's paper, so they held the city edition for a little while.
      I don't remember who the reporter was exactly -- Jerry Byrd, Rick Woodson or someone else -- but I do remember Bob Griffin, the KSLA-TV sports anchor who also did much work for the Journal in those days, was scurrying around after finding out that, indeed, Centenary was where the 7-foot talent -- regarded as the best college prospect in the country by many -- was headed.
      So the Journal broke the story that day. I'll tell you the rest in a moment.
      This comes to mind, and I'm writing about it now, because I continue to go through 50 years of newspaper clippings and memorabilia and I am scanning them into the computer, then into an external hard drive and/or USB flash drives.
      Those are much easier to manage (and carry) than a big tub containing all the paper/magazines/etc. of a lifetime. It's been a fun project of sorts -- it takes time -- and a reminder of all the stories, all the work, and all the fun (for the most part) I had doing it.
      So I'm working on the Robert Parish file this week -- I had written a bunch of stories/column on him and saved many items written by others -- and I found my story and column from his signing day. And it makes me think of the Journal scoop and how different things might be today.
---
      If a player of Parish's stature, plus height and ability, is coming out of high school today, he likely would be a one year-and-done college player, only because the NBA put in the clause forbidding the direct high school-to-NBA jump.
      By the time Robert was a senior at Woodlawn, leading his team to the state tournament for the fourth year in a row (the first two at all-black Union High) and to the Class AAA state title about two months before his college selection, a court case had opened the way for high school players to go to the NBA or then-rival ABA directly.
      But no one had done it. I think Robert might've had the chance; I believe the Utah Stars made an effort to convince him after his first year at Centenary. Not until Utah signed Moses Malone from Petersburg, Va., two years later did anyone make the big leap -- and Moses, of course, made it well.
      Perhaps Ada Parish, Robert's mother who was his guiding force and strong influence, might've still insisted that he pass up the big money -- which the family certainly could've used -- and go to college. That was what she wanted for him
      Basketball-wise, Robert could shoot and rebound and block shots -- he had good hands and beautiful timing -- but he was thin, lacked the strength he might've need in the pros. And we can look back now and after four great years at Centenary, he still spent his first four seasons in the NBA (with the Golden State Warriors) as a so-so center regarded as a bit of an underachiever.
      Who knows if he could've handled the pressure of the pro game if he had gone to the NBA or ABA at age 19? Maybe if he had struggled, his confidence -- and career -- might've been shot early.
      Moot point, of course. The way it worked out, he only played 21 years and in more games than anyone in NBA/ABA history. He was on four NBA championship teams (three as the star center of the Boston Celtics, one as a reserve with the Chicago Bulls), a couple of others that came close, and he's among the Greatest 50 Players of all time. Not bad.
      But maybe he could've played 25 years.
---
       About the Centenary decision: It was no big surprise. Centenary had recruited him hard for three years and there already was a strong Woodlawn influence on the Gents' team -- two starters, forward Larry Davis and guard Melvin Russell, had been the leaders of Woodlawn's 1969 state championship team, and two other starters from that team also had signed with Centenary (but didn't stay).
        So people in Shreveport were delighted. I know I was. Not only did I have a Woodlawn bias, I had been a Centenary basketball fan since the late 1950s (except for my four years as a student at Louisiana Tech). Parish playing for the Gents sounded great to me.
        But Robert, as you can imagine, was heavily recruited. My story for The Times on May 2 said that 250-300 schools showed interest and that Robert made seven visits -- Florida State, Jacksonville, Arkansas, Indiana, Memphis State, Northwestern State and Centenary. He said the decision came down to Florida State, Jacksonville and Centenary, and that Florida State was most seriously considered.
         But all that talk, all the speculation ... for a couple of years.
         Mrs. Parish addressed the recruiting process that day in May. It "wasn't too bad," she said. "I kind of expected it." But she was glad it was over. "All I've heard is, 'Where? Where? Where?" she told me.
         (I can remember that Dick "Ace" Towery, a super-fan of all sports in Shreveport, has his prediction, one of his famed "scoops" for our circle of friends. He would wrinkle his face and blurt out: Angelina Junior College.)
         That was a joke, of course. But really junior college could've been a route for Robert. Because as we came to find out, his grades and more particularly his standardized test scores were far below average. Many schools did not feel they could get him enrolled.
         Among them, if I remember correctly, was LSU. Dale Brown had just been named the LSU coach in 1972 during the final stages of Parish's recruiting, but he had seen Robert play because he had come to Shreveport as a recruiting while an assistant coach at Washington State. (At least that's how I remember it; Dale can set me straight if I'm mistaken.)
         Robert could've instantly boosted LSU's program into a contender. But Dale told Woodlawn coach Ken Ivy that he couldn't get him enrolled. Bob Knight, just starting his reign of terror as Indiana coach, also came to Shreveport and told Ivy the same.
         Perhaps Robert could've gone to a school and sat out a year while he built up his grades, or he could've gone to a junior college.
         Don't mistake this. Robert was a conscientious kid who went to class and made the effort. He just didn't have the reading/comprehension skills to score well on the ACT and SAT.
         But Centenary was using a sliding scale of grades/ACT-SAT scores to predict college potential and enrollment eligibility. It had used that scale for a couple of years and enrolled a number of athletes. It declared Parish eligible.
         However, that did not meet NCAA standards and so early in his freshman year, the NCAA ruled Parish and the other athletes enrolled under that scale -- some in baseball, some in basketball -- ineligible. The NCAA hadn't paid any attention previously, but when Parish enrolled, Centenary became a target.
         Long story short: The case went to court, the NCAA "won" the argument -- although Centenary people will tell you it was a trumped-up deal -- and Centenary was hit with a two-year NCAA penalty (no postseason play, no TV appearances) ... unless Parish and others transferred. The penalty would not begin until Parish left Centenary.
         But Robert wanted to stay, and did. To Centenary's credit, it honored that stand, and you'd have to say it was worth the publicity and fan support that the Parish Era attracted ... plus 88 victories in four years. The NCAA penalty amounted to a six-year ban because the NCAA -- in my opinion -- made an example of Centenary.
         Larry Little, who was Centenary's head basketball/athletic director then, put it this way (and I liked it): "It was a murder rap for a speeding ticket."
         Certainly there are people who think Centenary broke the rules to get Parish in school and I've heard speculation that he received extra benefits. Don't know if that's true; it was never a factor with the NCAA.
          What I do know is that the Parish years at Centenary were -- the NCAA be damned -- a helluva lot of fun to watch and to write about.
 ---                  
          Now about the Journal and the signing announcement. In that afternoon's paper, in about 72-point type, the headline across Page 1A said something like, "Parrish signs with Centenary."
          Parrish -- two r's. Yes, they misspelled his name, in the headline and throughout the story. He had played for four years in Shreveport, the greatest basketball player in the city's history, and they misspelled his name in a huge news story.
          Don't know why or who was responsible. But I remember it. I might be the only one who does and the only one who cares. But I was the one who got scooped.
          And I shouldn't laugh too much. Lord knows how many mistakes with names and facts I made over the years; some of them pretty embarrassing. But never in 72-point type on a huge news story.
           I did know how to spell Parish, though.  
        


Monday, May 26, 2014

This Knight was right

     
      It is Memorial Day; it is a solemn holiday in the United States, a day to honor those in the military who gave their lives for their country. And that always makes me think of Henry Lee "Trey" Prather III.
      I wrote about Trey and Memorial Day two years ago, recalling my first visit to his gravesite two years earlier -- the first time I'd been there since his funeral in January 1968.
      He was a good friend, a great athlete, he was from a wonderful family with a notable athletics history, and his life ended so tragically and affected me and many of my friends from Shreveport generally and Woodlawn High School specifically.
      There are others from Woodlawn who died during the Vietnam War and their names, like Trey's, appear on the memorial in the center of the quadrangle at the school. They all deserve our admiration; I focus on Trey because I knew Trey.
      I saved several newspaper articles and photos about Trey; obviously I've had those clippings for decades. I am sharing a few today, probably not the first time I've posted them.
      The headline to this blog piece was the lead-in for the cutline on one of my favorite game-action  photos of Trey. It appeared in the afternoon Shreveport Journal the day after one of his greatest games for Woodlawn; gosh, that game happened only 50 years ago.
      It was a basketball game -- not football, in which he was the Class AAA All-State quarterback -- and it was against our arch-rival, Byrd High, and it was a game we did not win (we did not win many in basketball). But Trey was magnificent, the best player on the court that night.
      He had 18 points, although one of my closest friends, Ken Liberto, was our top scorer with 20. Funny how opposing fans and, well, us, too, regarded those two guys' attitudes: Ken was ice, Trey was fire. Some other schools' fans loved to razz Trey, especially the Byrd fans. That's a vivid memory from those games.
      But that night the Byrd fans had to admit Trey was the dominant player, especially late in that very close game. He was 8-for-8 on field-goal attempts, 2-of-4 on free throws, and three times in the final three minutes made shots that put us ahead.
      In the final seconds, he made another basket that would have given us the win ... except the teammate who passed him the ball was called for traveling (it was the correct call, incidentally, much as it teed me off.)
      But, yes, that night "this Knight was right." I do love that photo: Trey is in charge.
      The photo on the right is Trey as the cutline lead-in reads "In Football Pose" -- his LSU football photo-day shot before the only varsity season (1966) he was a quarterback for the Tigers.
       This photo was in the paper in January 1968, a couple of days after Trey's death was announced.
It is not a good memory.
        But look at that photo, look at that ruggedly handsome, tough-looking football player.
        I only saw Trey one time after high school, up at Woodlawn the summer after our freshmen years (mine at Tech) and I've had people tell me that Trey at LSU was -- to put it diplomatically -- not all that focused on football, disenchanted because he didn't fit into LSU's run-oriented, sprint-out offense and wasn't playing all that much. He became, as someone put it, "an edgy person," with priorities other than football and classes. You can imagine the specifics.
        So he surprised even his friends, dropped out of school and joined the Marines ... in the middle of the Vietnam War. He could have transferred to another college and played more football (after sitting out a transfer year), but that did not happen.
        A year later, he was gone.
        It hurt then; it hurts now.
        But it's history, and it's Memorial Day, and four years ago I thought it was the perfect day to stop by Trey's gravesite -- and that of his parents. That visit was long overdue. http://nvanthyn.blogspot.com/2012/05/memorial-day-memory.html
         I add this newspaper clipping, one that Jerry Byrd wrote for the Shreveport Journal in May 1984 after we attended the annual early May memorial service at Woodlawn honoring the school's ex-students who died in military service. It was a day to remember and, as the headline on the column says, "A name to remember."
         R.I.P., Trey. R.I.P. all the service personnel who gave their lives, and peace to their loved ones.

        
  
         

Friday, May 23, 2014

Free at last ... but then what?

Louis Van Thyn, pre-World War II photo
(22nd in a series)
     "You was not normal. On one side, we were happy, and on the other side, we were not happy."
      -- Louis Van Thyn, on liberation from concentration camp
---
      One early January morning in 1945, all was quiet in the camp hospital at the Janina coal-mine, sub-concentration camp in south Poland. It must've been strange; it must've left my father (Louis Van Thyn) and 26 other men confined there wondering.
      No Nazi guards around, no activity. What the hell was going on?
      That sound of silence was the sound of freedom. But how could they know that?
      What they soon realized, what they certainly hoped, was this: The Nazis had abandoned camp, had bolted, and probably were on the run, trying to save their own lives.
      Same was true for the nearby big camp, the camp of death -- of the gas chambers -- at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Nazis gone, camp empty.
      There, and at Janina and other places, only a few days earlier, they had taken all the able prisoners -- many sick, deathly, many ravished and diminished to sub-human condition -- and marched them for miles and miles and days and days, the infamous "Death Marches."
       It was obvious, and had been for some time (or since D-Day -- June 6, 1944) that the Allied forces were coming, that they -- Germany, the Nazis -- would not win the war, that their world was about to be destroyed, just as they had destroyed most of Europe.
---
      My mother and the women imprisoned in Block 10 -- the grotesque medical-experimentation block -- were among those who were marched into the woods, into the middle of nowhere. How, in the middle of the usual brutally cold winter in Germany and Poland, did they survive that, on top of 2 1/2 years in the concentration camp?
       But Dad was lucky ... if you consider taking a copper hammer to the left elbow lucky.
       Because he lost count counting the prisoners coming out of a mine shaft where they were helping build an elevator, a Nazi guard -- a kapo (German criminals used as guards in the camps) -- got angry and struck him on the elbow. The wound required an operation and a camp hospital stay.
       When the "Death March" began -- Dad recalled that as Jan. 6 or 8 -- Dad and the others were left behind.
       So it was quiet ... and there was hope. Was this the day they must've thought about so often, just as they must've thought that this could be their final day?
       Can you imagine, can you put yourself in their place? This thought just haunts me, and it always will. How could my father (and mother) and all those Holocaust survivors not have come away from the imprisonment, and the punishment -- some of it severe -- and the starvation and sickness and, yes, death all around them, and not be scarred mentally?
       There was also fear, just as there had been for almost five years. Here is what else faced Dad and his fellow prisoners: What to do next?
        For the first time in those years, there was no one to give them orders, to abuse them or harass them ... or feed them the slop they'd (barely) lived on.   
        How could they leave that camp and be sure that the Nazis weren't waiting for them around the next turn? What was out there? Where was food and housing? How to get back to Antwerp, where Dad had lived with his wife and in-laws before (and after) the German invasion? How to get back to Amsterdam, where he'd grown up, where his parents and brothers and so many friends lived?
        And, what had happened to all his people? Were they alive?
        So, as Dad recalled in his 1996 USC Shoah Foundation interview, they just stayed where they were. For two weeks, they just stayed right there in the Janina camp. It actually seemed the safest place to be.
        "Where could we go? We didn't know where to go," Dad told the interviewer. "We no spoke the [Polish] language. We don't know where to go. Where do you have to go? You never been there before in your life. I mean, I know where to go to the coal mines; we walked to the coal mines every day; that was about a half mile walking."
---             
         For eight days, the prisoners roamed the camp, looking for food, for supplies, for clothes perhaps ... hoping, waiting, and no doubt anxious about what was in their immediate future.
         "How did you know when you were free?" the interviewer asked Dad.
        "When the Russian Army came in the camp," he answered, recalling the events of 51 years earlier. "After eight days -- we heard shooting and everything in the days before -- then a Russian officer came in with some soldiers.
        "The officer, he was not older than 20 years, he was a Jewish boy, he says, 'The next war is against the United States.' That's what he was telling us. He spoke German. And then he left ... he left."
        (And you could say that the Russian officer was correct -- the next war was against the U.S., but it was a Cold War.)
        "There was no Red Cross, there was nothing there," Dad said of the liberation. "You know there was no organization in 1945. The Polish people [in the area] were mad that the Russians were coming in; they were scared of the Russians, too."
         Interviewer: Can you describe the day you were liberated?
         Dad: "Yeah, yeah. I was still lying on the bed, but I could walk already. We no had no food the last couple of days. People were not coming in the camp; the civilians was not coming in the camp. The gate was open, I remember that. We walk in the camp met [with] a couple more [men]. We were with two from Holland, one Joe DeHaardt (don't know if he's still living, but I saw him after the war a couple of times), and then we saw the Russian Army coming in."
---
         Free, but not really free -- and certainly not "home," whatever meaning that had by then.
         And what of their mindset? The interviewer asked Dad to describe how he felt.
         "You was not normal," Dad said. "On one side, we were happy, and on the other side, we were not happy. And then we find out that Auschwitz was liberated, too, and there was a place in Katowice [Poland] where we could go and they would care of us."
          Interviewer: "I understand why you were happy, but why weren't you happy?"
         "Boy, that is something I nimmer [never] realize," Dad answered. "You was happy for yourself, but then you find out what happened around you, you couldn't be happy. ..."
          Next: The meaning of D-Day.


 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

'Smooth Man' Remembered

       I could write pages and pages, a dozen blog pieces, thousands of words about Coach Joe Aillet. I will sum it up this way: He was the most brilliant, and one of the most polished, men I've ever met in athletics.
      No, that's not a wide enough focus. He was one of the most brilliant and polished people I ever met in life, period.
      He was the epitome of a teacher, of a leader, of a visionary. He was religious and scholarly and ethical, an outstanding public speaker, a molder of young people ... and old people.
      Fortunately for so many of us who were part of his 30 years at Louisiana Tech University -- Louisiana Polytechnic Institute when he came there in 1940 -- he was a football coach and athletic director.
      This man could've been anything he wanted to be -- doctor, attorney, English professor, chemistry teacher, political science expert, fund-raiser, dean of arts and sciences, writer ... whatever. He could have been president of the university, no doubt.
      He chose football, he chose coaching, he chose to run an athletic department. And that way, he became a legend in Louisiana.The football stadium and field house (offices, dressing rooms, training rooms, etc.) that opened in 1968 -- near the end of his tenure -- stand as a monument to him. A year after he died (Dec. 28, 1971), what was then Tech Stadium became Joe Aillet Stadium. The field house also was named for him.
      We all knew that always was going to happen. Just hated to lose him -- at age 67, colon cancer -- too soon.
      That stadium, and most of the athletic complex at Tech, are located in that area just off Tech Drive in what used to be woods. It's in that place because that was Coach Aillet's vision; he had envisioned the location years and years before it became reality.
      Darned right I revered him, and still do. Which puts me in the company of thousands -- Tech students, the coaches he worked with and coached against, the wider Tech community from Ruston and points far beyond.
      He could have been a politician, too; he was that popular and had so many followers, especially in the area where he lived. But politics probably had too much of a seamy side, too much horse-trading (to use a cliche') for Coach Aillet. College football recruiting was seamy enough.
      But if anyone was going to play by the rules, it was Coach Aillet. And when kids were being recruited for football at Louisiana Tech, they knew that he and his staff were going to emphasize the student in student-athlete, that they were going there with the intention of earning a degree, and developing for success in the real world.
      That was his reputation, the way he operated -- and most everyone understood that.
      Winning football games was part of the deal, too -- 151 wins (86 losses, 8 ties) in 26 seasons, 13 league championships. He was innovative -- always among the first to change to what would be the popular offenses of the day, including the pro-set passing game in the early 1960s -- and he was a detail-oriented stickler for the little things that won games ... the right blocking-tackling fundamentals, the right steps, the right pass patterns.
      And like two of my other football coaching idols -- Tom Landry and Lee Hedges -- he had a calm, unshakable foundation. He spoke softly, deliberately, with purpose. He was every bit the teacher.
      I watched many Tech football practices in 1965 and '66, and he rarely raised his voiced, his language was never improper, and the worst thing I ever heard him say was "something is screwy here" as he dealt with offensive-line play.
      Off the field, in and around his office, he was reserved, but approachable, always the gentleman. I sat in on many an interview with the sports information director, and it was fascinating to listen to him talk about athletics -- or anything else. And, yes, he could quote Shakespeare and other classic writers. That was often written about him, and I heard him do it several times.
      One of my great thrills during my time at Tech was to ride to Shreveport with him, in his Cadillac, to watch the 1967 Class AA state football championship game -- Jesuit of Shreveport vs. Lake Charles. One of Coach Aillet's grandsons, Bobby Aillet -- was a backup quarterback for Jesuit, which won one of the greatest high school games I've ever seen, 34-33.
      Suffice to say that Coach Aillet -- and me -- got royal treatment in the jubilant Jesuit locker room afterward. Even Jesuit's toughest-of-all head coaches, C.O. Brocato, was a Coach Aillet admirer.
      It was a bit strange to me that in my first two years at Tech, we struggled in football. His 1964 team almost went undefeated; the third 9-1 team he had had in a 10-year period. But we were only 4-4 in '65 (my freshman year) and the 1-9 record of 1966 -- with Phil Robertson and freshman Terry Bradshaw at quarterback -- was an anomoly for Coach Aillet's career.
      By then he was 62, and it was getting to be a grind. So he retired from football, remained as athletic director for another four years and saw many of his recruits become the foundation of Tech's revival to football power under Maxie Lambright and an almost new staff.
      But he remained Tech's golf coach, and here, too, he was extremely successful. He had built a conference dynasty in that sport, too. And in a reprint of a column -- which I will attach to this blog -- I wrote in the summer of 1973, when Coach Aillet was posthumously inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the first part of the column deals with golf.
      By the time I began thinking about college, I had heard so much about Coach Aillet from then-Woodlawn assistant coaches Jerry Adams, Billy Joe Adcox and especially A.L. Williams -- all of whom had played football at Tech. Several of Woodlawn's top players in its early years had gone on to play at Tech, too.
      Ed Shearer, a late 1950s Tech journalism student and early 1960s The Shreveport Times sportswriter who was one of the guiding forces in my going to Tech, also revered Coach Aillet, but he rarely referred to him by name. Ed called him "The Smooth Man."
      I credit Ed for creating that nickname, although it might've been one of my mentors, Pete Dosher, the sports information director at Tech then. Pete certainly promoted "The Smooth Man" nickname and he is the one who first introduced me to Coach Aillet when I was a high school junior and prospective Tech student (and student SID worker).
      "The Smooth Man" was everything everyone had always built him up to be. Which is why the headline on the accompanying column is the same one as you see on this piece.

http://nvanthyn.blogspot.com/2014/05/smooth-man-remembered-from-june-1973.html

'Smooth Man' Remembered (from June 1973)

      (This column is from The Shreveport Times, published on the day that Joe Aillet was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.)

Golf Was His Game, Too
       One of the happiest moments in the last years of the late Joe Aillet's life came in the spring of 1969 at a place which, for him, was like a second home.
        At Ruston Country Club that May, the Louisiana Tech golf team won the Gulf States Conference championship. It was the last championship for a team coached by the man who served over 40 years teaching young men the finer points of athletics and life.
        When Rick Hollan, the team's captain that spring, rolled in an eight-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to clinch the title by one shot, Joe Aillet's face broke into a wide smile. He simply beamed with pleasure.
         It was a rare emotional moment for the man they called "The Smooth Man."
         He was unlike many college golf coaches who consider the game a "minor" sport and merely serve as chaperons for the players. Joe Aillet took his golf very, very seriously.
         He was intensely dedicated to the game, studied and knew the finer points and could teach them to anyone willing to learn. He coached the game.
         It was typical of the intensity with which his life was filled. He was a brilliant student and teacher of football, golf, and athletics in general -- and people, in particular.
         Tonight, Joe Aillet will be inducted posthumously into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in ceremonies in Natchitoches. Also entering the state athletic shrine are basketball great Bob Pettit and ex-Grambling College and pro football star Paul "Tank" Younger.
          Born in New York City and raised in New Orleans, Aillet's coaching career took him to Haynesville High School and Louisiana State Normal (now Northwestern State University) before he became athletic director-head coach at Louisiana Tech in December 1939.
          The man with the French name (pronounced eye-ay) and the dignified manner built a football record of 159 wins, 86 losses and 8 ties in 26 years at Tech before leaving the coaching field for the AD job fulltime.
          He took great pride in his golf record, too. Eleven times in 16 years Louisiana Tech won Gulf States titles in golf.
          But what pleased Aillet about that last championship in 1969 was that his teams had gone without one for five years after a streak of 10-in-11 years.
          The 1969 team was, he admitted to close observers, not a team with exceptional golfing ability as some of his previous champions had been. But he worked with them, cajoled them, counseled them and in the two-day tournament on their home course, the players put it all together.
          Rick Hollan, now a banker in Haynesville, remembers that day he made the winning shot.
          "It was the only time," he recalls, "I ever saw him just really break out and laugh. He wasn't one to let his emotions show outwardly."
          Hollan remembers the teaching, too.
          "He could analyze a golf swing and pick out the weak points as well as anyone I've known," offers Rick. "And he knew how to explain it, how to get it across to you. If I called him at midnight, he'd be willing to talk about it. I think enjoyed teaching golf as much as anything he ever did.
          "I wasn't associated with him in football, of course," adds Hollan. "But he couldn't have taken a greater interest in football than he did in golf."
          So admired was Aillet's golf knowledge that brothers Jay and Lionel Hebert, who came out of Lafayette to become established regulars on the pro tour, often corresponded and visited with the coach for advice.
          And Longview's Roy Pace, who played at Tech in the early 1960s and is currently on the pro tour, was a regular correspondent, too. It was one of Aillet's pleasures to check the golf scores daily for Pace's progress.
'He Always Cared'
          It was through football, however, that most people will remember Joe Aillet.
          So high was Alabama's "Bear" Bryant's personal regard for Aillet that he accepted a game with Louisiana Tech in 1966. At the time, 'Bama was the national champion with little to gain and everything to lose by playing the "Davids" from Louisiana.
          What pleased Aillet tremendously was the fact that 90 percent of the athletes he recruited came away from Louisiana Tech with a degree.
           "He always told you that education was the reason you were there," recalls Leo Sanford, a personal Aillet favorite who was a standout linebacker at Tech in the early 1950s and played professional football before returning to Shreveport for a successful business career. "Education came first with him."
           Sanford also remembers the low-key, soft-spoken manner in which Aillet did his football teaching.
            "He knew as much football as anyone, knew how to get it over and knew how to handle the individuals," offers Sanford. "When he criticized, he did it constructively. He never dressed anyone down.
            "What he did," Sanford adds, "is take a young boy and make him a man. He helped you grow up and accept responsibilities in life. Plus he made you a better football player. Not a day goes by that in some way I don't think of Coach Joe Aillet. ... When a decision has to be made or something, you wonder what he would have done."
             Aillet asked for loyalty and he got it. Twice in his lifetime his large group of ex-athletes and supported honored him. First, with a Joe Aillet Day in 1963. Then again with a Joe Aillet Banquet when he retired as Tech athletic director in June 1970.
              At the banquet, he was his own guest speaker -- an unusual idea implemented by his friends -- and he thrilled the audience with a moving, 40-minute address on his philosophies of coaching and life.
              His son Bob, who played football for him at Tech in the 1940s, recalled at that banquet his dad's thoughts when he first moved to Ruston in 1940. How he had plans for a new athletic plant at Tech and, although he knew they wouldn't materialize until 20-25 years later, he already had a place picked out on the campus for it.
               In his final years as Tech AD, Aillet helped finalize plans and oversee construction of a new football stadium, fieldhouse, baseball stadium, track and tennis courts on the campus. Today, his personal memorial stands as the Joe Aillet Fieldhouse and Football Stadium.
               "Even back then, he was planning, not dreaming," Bob recalled of his father.
              He's remembered, too, as a pioneer. How he helped found the Louisiana High School Coaches Association and the Gulf States Conference. How he became the first coach in the area to use daily practice plans and games films and the pro-T offense.
               He could recite Shakespeare and he easily could have passed for an English professor so sharp was his command of the language. He'd have been a great color analyst for football games on television.
              But mostly he's remembered for his relationships with people.
               "He always saw good things, the positive things in people," said George Doherty, who with Jim Mize were right-hand men as assistant coaches at Tech. "He always cared."
              Doherty, now the head coach at NSU, will be at the awards ceremony tonight. So will Mrs. Joe Aillet, Ruby, who was a perfect complement to the coach with her grace and dignity and whose Cajun cooking -- she was raised in Youngsville -- was bragged upon by the close Aillet friends.
                "Joe Aillet, above all," says Leo Sanford, "was interested in the total man. He could handle people; he just had that way."
                 Already Coach Aillet is in the NAIA Hall of Fame. It was a question of whether he would make the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, just when. The same is true for Bob Pettit and Tank Younger.
                  Tonight's the night.           

Friday, May 16, 2014

Patience, tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness

     When I told a friend recently that I was working on being more patient, more tolerant, more accepting and more forgiving -- with myself and the rest of the world -- he laughed.
     OK, so anyone that knows me, even just a little bit, knows it's a laughing matter.
     But really, I'm serious. I think about this, try to work on it, on a daily basis now. Maybe retirement, and no work pressure, allows me lots of time.
     If it seems as if this is another soul-searching, bare-all, bear-with-me blog piece, you are correct. You can stop here if you want; I'm going on because I need to work this out for myself.
     I had a couple of good tests recently, and I did not fail. Didn't exactly handle them as well as I could have -- should have -- but if you read on, you might understand.  
     One of my bosses, being asked for a reference, told someone that my page design/layout skills were not my "strong suit." He was correct, so I don't have to forgive him.
     But admittedly, patience, tolerance and acceptance have not been among my "strong suits." It has cost me plenty over the years (personally and professionally), made some relationships difficult, and caused me many times to assess why it was this way.
     I'm an intense person; always have been. Unfortunately, anger -- temper -- has been part of that package forever.
     There are people that I didn't connect with all that much, or that -- honestly -- I didn't like, didn't  approve of what they said or did. Getting along with those people has always been a huge test for me, and I've often not handled those situations well.
     And again, honestly, it would be fine if I never saw or talked to them again. But if I did, I promise I'd be civil. Time has a way of healing feelings, at least that's what I believe now.
     There are people, in job situations or in places I shouldn't have been, who told me point-blank to move on. But those people felt they were doing the right thing for their situation.
     Sometimes, I think, their egos got in the way, or maybe they were just plain obnoxious.
     So at times, I was bitter or resentful about them. But I've come to realize that holding grudges is just pointless. What's past is past. That's forgiveness.
      I could blame them; perhaps I once did. But the person I blame is me. It's my mindset, my actions, that I could have changed, and I probably should have left some situations before I was forced out.
      Now, about patience and tolerance. My wife and my kids, my close friends and the people I worked with know full-well how impatient and intolerant I can be.
      I would say I'm improving, except ... my sports teams. I expect a lot from the Yankees,  Cowboys, Mavericks, LSU (whatever sport) and the Dutch national soccer team, and I'm often not willing to wait or not very understanding.
      People know how intense a fan I am -- always was, always will be -- but let's face it, these are games. It still matters to me, but I'm gaining perspective. And I'm writing this piece about the real world, not the sports world. 
      I've written this before -- I enjoy Facebook, but I do find that my political and social views are not in tune with a lot of my friends, and sometimes I get aggravated at what I consider name-calling and disrespectful posts. Yet, these are people I like -- even love and admire some of them -- from way back, and I respect them, respect their right to their views. I can turn off what I need.
      This is how I see acceptance and tolerance.    
---
      On to my recent experiences: (1) a battle with my AT&T U-Verse remote control and (2) a travel-club sales presentation. I wasn't all that nice either time.
      Making the call to the customer-service with U-Verse, I had to go through the process of identifying myself -- that takes a couple of minutes -- and then try to explain to a far-away person for whom English isn't a natural language. You've probably been there.
      Result: I was impatient. If anyone should identify with people trying to speak English when it isn't natural to them, it should be me. This was my family many years ago.
      Anyway, the problem got solved pretty quickly; I actually figured it out shortly after the  customer-service call began. But I felt terrible for being curt with the service rep.                  
      About the travel-club presentation: We were tempted by an offer of a "free" trip for a couple of days with some perks. So we agreed to go across town and listen to a 90-minute spiel.
      When they tell you at the start it isn't a high-pressure sales pitch, you know it's going to be ... a high-pressure sales pitch.
      The people were as nice as could be, the presentation was interesting ... and tempting.
      Actually, the travel-club membership can be a heckuva deal ... if you can commit to paying  $8,000 or $6,000 or whatever the bargaining price is. But you have to do it right now.
      We don't travel that much, and we can't afford the membership and meet some other commitments we have (mostly to family). We tried nicely to tell our salesperson that, tried and tried to say no.
      He just kept pushing and pushing and after about 15 minutes, when he kept saying "if in a dream world ..." -- he used that term a half dozen times -- and then I just stood up and said, "That's it, I've heard enough. It's time to go." Didn't yell or make a scene, just got impatient.
      He was a little shocked and asked us to wait a second, then went over and got his supervisor, who introduced himself and began his sales pitch. Again, I cut him off, stood up and said, "No, I want to go."
      They were apologetic, but I assured them I was not "mad," it was really about the money commitment. They then had us sign for our "reward," the free trip. We'll see how that works out; what strings are attached.
      We left and I was upset -- not at them, but at myself for not handling it more easily. In retrospect, I should've just written out a note and handed it to them. The note would've said: "At what point will you take 'no' for an answer?"
      Bea keeps telling me to forgive myself for how I felt and how I handled it.
      So I'm trying. It's my new world. Thank you for indulging my self-analysis session.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Graduation day ... it's a beautiful thing

      It is a rite of spring, a sea of purple in the nearby neighborhood on the second Saturday each May.
      Spring graduation at TCU is a beautiful day, a wonderful weekend. Doesn't matter that the roads -- University Drive and its arteries -- are clogged for hours, the eating establishments, motels and shopping centers are busy.
      I love graduations everywhere, but I'm writing about TCU because it's right here. I have no vested interest in the university, no sentimental ties, no Frog ties, hardly know anyone there, and attend only a couple of events on campus in a year. But I do cross the campus on my walks several times a week, and I admire how progressive -- and aggressive -- the powers-that-be have been in construction or renovation of the buildings on campus.
      My guess is that more than half of TCU's structures are new since we moved into the area eight years ago.
      And I do find graduation day inspiring. I find hope for our future, for the graduates' future.
      I do like the pomp, but not the circumstance. I don't want to attend the ceremony -- too long, too tedious and too crowded -- but it's neat to see the graduates in their purple gowns (with caps in hand) walking on campus and I love all the picture taking (usually with TCU landmarks in the background).
A beautiful graduation scene at TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium
(Facebook photo courtesy of the Rebouche family from Shreveport) 
      It so happened this past Saturday that -- with a noon meeting appointment -- I had to be out early for my walk and even before 8 a.m., the prospective graduates already were all over the place. When I came back by an hour later, traffic was beginning to stack up.
       We're accustomed to the traffic jams; happens for any TCU home football game, the Armed Forces bowl game, the PGA tournament at Colonial Country Club -- next week -- and we live about 100 yards from the fourth green, the many high-school graduations at TCU, and those spring-break days when half this area's residents come to visit the Fort Worth Zoo about 300 yards from our apartments.
      Hey, it's all good. It all pumps up the local economy.
      But I like TCU spring graduation day best of all.
      I've been known to stop and randomly congratulate some and their family members, ask about their plans, and on occasion offer to take a family photo. Just doing a public service.
      I appreciate the hard work the seniors have put in for four or five years and the price they've paid. And when you're talking about TCU -- a private school where tuition is hefty -- you know they've literally paid quite a price.
      This was a special graduation at TCU because it was an outdoor ceremony. In past years, the ceremony has been inside in Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, but because it is being renovated (long overdue), the scene this year was the almost brand-new Amon G. Carter Stadium.
      Fortunately, it was a beautiful sunny day. Could've been quite a mess otherwise (TCU officials did have contingency plans for an inside-the-stadium club ceremony).
      Every year I get choked up because I know it's such a happy, proud day for most everyone there, and because I can think back on how it felt personally 4 1/2 decades ago (oh, wow)  and how it felt when our kids graduated -- Jason from LSU in 1997 and Rachel from University of Tennessee in 2002.
       Honestly, I don't remember much about my graduation from Louisiana Tech, except that I was happy to be there and pretty worn down after having run the sports information office for three months (including media needs for the spring conference championships).
       Plus -- and I'm not hesitant to admit this -- I was tired of classes and tests after 16 years of school. I was a good student at times, but not an avid one and not a disciplined one. But I vowed then that I would never go back to school ... and so far I've stuck to that.
        (Conversely, Beatrice was a diligent, conscientious student when she took college courses after we were married, and so was Rachel.)
       I had to miss Jason's graduation because I was working in Knoxville at the time and Rachel was still in high school, a couple of weeks from graduation. But Bea made it to Baton Rouge and so did my parents, so we were well-represented.
        We had moved to Fort Worth by the time Rachel graduated from Tennessee, and we were delighted to return for that day. And we got two bonus graduation ceremonies: (1) My mother's honorary doctorate (of Humane Letters) from Centenary College in 2002 and (2) Rachel's master's degree from Tennessee in 2011.
         The memories of those special days is what comes to mind when I see the purple caps and gowns at TCU. It is, as the headline says, a beautiful thing, a happy day. Congratulations to the graduates here, and everywhere. Go out and make it a better world.

Friday, May 9, 2014

It's blue ... but we're not blue

The blue outfit Rachel posted on Facebook
... for her and Russell's baby boy
     The message we'd been waiting for came in a text photo of a sonogram early Tuesday morning, and it was labeled, "It's a boy!"
     That's great. Either way it would've been great.
     It's actually great that the sonogram had the "boy" label on it because I don't know how you can tell what's what, although as my daughter -- who sent the text -- pointed out afterward it's pretty obvious if you look at it closely.
     Rachel, our Rachel, is having a boy, due in September. We've known for 3 1/2 months that she is having another baby; she's talked about it on Facebook, and so have we, but we didn't know if Josephine ("Josie"), who is 6, was having a brother or sister.
     On Monday, Rachel posted photos of a pink infant outfit and a blue one and said, "Looking forward to finding out Tuesday which of these we'll be using."
     As Rachel put it some 24 hours later, "Blue it is."
     Hey, we're excited. Honestly, although I had a 50 percent of being correct in guessing what the child's sex would be, I am 100 percent wrong. And that's fine.
     But if you think we're excited, a reliable source told us that when Russell, the father, looked at the sonogram and realizing it is a boy, jumped out of his chair, waved his hands above his head and did a victory dance.
     Not so excited: Josie. Our granddaughter -- a beautiful, bright, creative and amusing child who  pointedly told us a couple of months ago, "I ... can ... read --  obviously wanted a baby sister.
     "I'm OK with it," she told her parents, "but I'm not happy about it."
     I suspect in at least two years, she will be more than happy to give orders to Baby Boy Smith, and for many years to come. I also suspect she will be fabulous big sister, protective of little brother.
     That evening, when I spoke to her on the phone, I said, "I hear you're getting a baby brother."
     "Oh, yeah," she answered, and I could hear her rolling her eyes.
     "Well, you can play baseball and basketball with him," I said.
     "I don't know how to play baseball or basketball," she said.
     "You'll learn," I told her.
     "Oh, you're crazy," she replied, a standard answer for her in many situations recently. But maybe she said it specifically targeted for her silly Opa.
     Now Rachel and Russell -- and maybe Josie will have a say-so -- enter into the serious phase of picking a name. They've been trading names for weeks; well, Rachel was making suggestions and Russell was non-committal, and we were witness to a discussion during dinner a week ago.
      "I don't want to talk about this," Russell finally said, "at least until Tuesday." My comment was that at least 50 percent of the conversation could be cut after we knew ... boy or girl.
      About a year and a half ago, I wrote about our three grandchildren, and how they are the greatest blessing life has given us: http://nvanthyn.blogspot.com/2012/09/these-kids-are-grand.html
      Changing diapers? No problem. Reading stories? It's fun. Playing games? They love it. Watching them grow and learn is what it's about.
      We weren't sure if we would have any more grandchildren; Rachel and Russell had not said point-blank that they wanted to add to their family. But when Rachel called on Jan. 24 and said she wanted to do Facetime with us, and when we answered the call, Russell -- not Josie, as usual -- was sitting next to her, and both of them were beaming, we instantly knew what the news was going to be.
      Sure, we are anxious, we wish for good health for the baby and for his mother. We hope and pray for the best; we believe in being positive.
      I know this from experience; there are few moments that top this miracle of life. That moment in 1979 when Dr. James Smith came out of the delivery room and said to me, "Congratulations, you have a daughter" was a great one, topped only a few minutes later when the nurses handed me our baby, Rachel.
       Almost three decades later, it was the same type feeling when I held Josie for the first time, and then twice more -- with her cousins Jacob and Kaden. I think Bea will tell you she had the same feeling.
        Now it's going to happen again, and it will be a thrill. And we will put him in a light blue outfit to carry him home. Neat.
           

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The hangings: a gruesome spectacle

(21st in a series)

The gallows at Auschwitz (from Jewish Virtual Library;
photo by Mitchell Bard from Auschwitz museum
     The subject is gruesome, as most things concerning the Holocaust are. Most everything the Nazis did to their prisoners -- most of them Jewish -- were gruesome.      My Dad (Louis Van Thyn) saw many men beaten, and he was a victim of that several times. He saw them starved, tortured ... and shot to death. And twice in his 1996 USC Shoah Foundation interview, he mentions the hanging of prisoners.
       Those are two of the times in viewing his 2 1/2-hour interview that one might stop and swallow hard or reflect on the madness of it all. Of course, there are quite a few moments like that.
      He was detailing some of the various types of punishments the Nazis dealt out when he said, "... And I saw some hanging over there in Auschwitz. There were eight [men] escaping (or trying to escape), and they hanged them; we [all the other prisoners in camp] had to stay on appell [stand at attention].
      "We had to stay 24 hours on appell [because] there were something going on," he said. "But it was not the invasion of Europe [by the Allies]; we had to stay on appeal in June [1944], too (after the D-Day invasion)."
      Dad pointed out that the Nazis used the hangings for shock value, for warning of what could happen, and made the entire camp of prisoners stand and watch, waiting for hours, until the hangings were finally carried out.
      The subject surfaced again as he talked of missing the "Death March" that marked the end of hell-on-earth for the prisoners who survived it and was the end for thousands of the starving, debilitated who never made it to another camp, or wherever the Nazis were marching them.
      "You know we had a hanging over there, too," Dad said to the interviewer. "We had a German prisoner who escaped eight times out of different camps. Then in '44, he came to our camp, and he tried to escape, and they catch him. He had made [dug] a hole under the fence and he was close [to getting] out, and they catch him.
      "That was the eighth time he had escaped [or tried to], and then they hang him in our camp, and we had to stay in the camp and see how he was killed. We saw that."
      From the section about hangings on the web site en.auschwitz.org:
      "Execution by hanging took place sporadically. Hangings took place in public, usually during roll call, in order to intimidate the other prisoners. One of the most notorious episodes was the hanging of 12 prisoners from the surveyors’ labor detail on July 19, 1943, in reprisal for the escape of three others from the same group.
      "The last hangings came shortly before the liquidation of Auschwitz. Five participants in an unsuccessful escape attempt two months earlier (three Austrians and two Poles) were hanged in the main camp on December 30, 1944, and four Jewish women were hanged on January 6 for supplying Sonderkommando prisoners with explosives that they used during their mutiny."
 ---
      The interviewer asked Dad: "Was it the first time you had seen such atrocities?"
      "Yeah, yeah, that was the first time," he answered.
      Interviewer: "What did you think?"
       "What do you think? They scare you to death," he replied. "You know they used things to let you see that you were scared."
       The fact is that many of the Nazi officers captured and tried after World War II, at the Nuremburg Trials and the like, were sentenced to death by hanging. Some of them died by suicide before their hangings could be done.
       I don't know how Dad felt about that. I believe he found value in every human life; I know he was not a vengeful person. But knowing that so many millions died -- including almost his entire family -- and so many suffered, including himself -- at the hands of the Nazis, I think he (and the rest of the world) could find justification for the post-war hangings.
       On this blog, I could have used photos of people hanging at the gallows; there are plenty available online. But it's difficult to look at those photos.
       Just imagine -- my Dad and thousands of other prisoners had to stand there and watch it happen. Gruesome.
       Next: An empty camp

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Make the calls, wait for the reactions

This type scorebook was my friend
 for almost 40 years
 (from baseball.epicsports.com)
      Baseball scorekeeping, Part 3 ...
---
      Before I get to the story of how a one-time World Series hero called me in the press box to complain about an error I called on him, some observations about being an official scorer in baseball.
       No matter what level (recreation, high school, college, professional), scoring games was always fun for me, never a chore. Took it seriously, but remembered these were just games. It's not like it was that important.
       What you learn -- especially at the pro level -- that managers, coaches and players were concerned about the statistics, about hits, errors, earned/unearned runs, etc., and they all want the scoring calls to go their way.
       So the official scorer sometimes hears their opinions -- either gently or in a suggestive manner, but also vehemently or downright ugly.
       One of the expectations teams have is that the official scorer should "protect" the home team, that is, slant the calls that way. I did not score games by that premise, thus irritating a few home-team folks when I told them I wasn't operating by their rules. I was scoring plays, regardless of the uniform.
        I have been chewed out by former major-league players, future major leaguers, managers, coaches, even high-school kids if you go back to when I was in high school myself. That's only 50 years ago.
        So I've experienced a few scorekeeping tales, but don't get this wrong. I'm not complaining or bitter or holding grudges. In the long run, it was all enjoyable -- even the controversies. And it's given me a few columns and blogs to write.
---
         A couple of our infielders at Woodlawn High School, a year older than me but guys I liked and admired, at times badgered me about hits I didn't give them or errors I did. They might be irritated, but they weren't irate.
         Irate would describe a former Woodlawn outfielder who transferred to Fair Park, maybe because he wanted to help win a state championship (and did). He was unhappy with me the first summer I scored American Legion games at old SPAR Stadium in Shreveport, coming up to the press box after his game and complaining about a hit he felt he deserved. He yelled at me for a minute, then turned away after saying that I was "just a pissant."
          I've told that story to a few friends, and one of them -- I have been told not to use his name -- loved it. Guess what he calls me whenever he wants to rib me about something?
          SPAR Stadium was the site of several scorekeeping "moments" when I was not the scorer involved -- one I didn't see but heard about, one I witnessed, and one when I became the target.
           -- Larry Mansfield was a huge (6-foot-8, 235 pounds) first baseman out of Memphis and the University of Tennessee, a power hitter whose five-year pro career ended after 63 games with the Shreveport Captains (Angels' organization) in 1972. He batted .212 that season, which is why he might've been upset about a couple of hits he thought he deserved. But Bill McIntyre -- sports editor of The Shreveport Times and official scorer this night -- called errors on the plays.
           So after the game ended, McIntyre was alone in the press box totaling his boxscore and preparing to write his story when the giant Mansfield suddenly (and angrily) appeared before him in a darkened ballpark.  Must've scared the bejeebers out of McIntyre.
            I didn't see this, but Bill -- my first professional boss -- told us this story the next day in the office. We were all laughing at the thought.
            McIntyre was as pleasant and as sharp as anyone I ever worked with, and as good an official
scorer as I've known. And I'm pretty sure he didn't change those calls.
            -- A few years later, one of my good friends was the scorer for an afternoon Captains' game.
 He twice charged the Captains' second baseman with errors on ground balls; I thought he was right on both calls.
           The second baseman didn't think so. Moments after the game ended, he was up at the press box and screaming at my friend. He was a Latin American player who didn't speak much English, so what he mostly screamed, and repeatedly, was two words. The first word started with an "f"; the second word was a barnyard epithet concerning a horse.
            It wasn't funny ... except it was.
            -- Another year, another Captains game, two errors charged to the Captains' shortstop by the official scorer (not me). I was working for the ballclub and as I came down from the press box after the game, the shortstop was in front of the dugout yelling at me about the errors. I just shook my head "no" and continued on to the club office.
            The shortstop didn't go to the clubhouse; instead, he came to the office and he was hollering. I told him I wasn't the scorer, but I agreed with the calls. That infuriated him even more. The argument escalated. Let's say there was a stapler and a baseball bat in the vicinity, and I put them into play until cooler heads prevailed. I took those two errors for the team.
---
           The biggest chewing-out (telling it like it was, a cussing-out), I received face-to-face -- compared to at a distance, as I described in the previous blog -- was by a future three-time major-league All-Star catcher. This was in Jacksonville (Southern League) in 1995.
           But Jason Kendall was only 21 when he played for Carolina that season and declared me "the worst scorer I've ever seen."
           Actually, his tirade was filled with profanities and ended only when the team's manager, Trent Jewett, came into the dugout, heard what was happening and said, "Jason, go warm up."
           I had gone to the dugout before the game to get the lineup and it was the day after a Carolina batter had lined a single to center field, the Jacksonville center fielder had come in to field it and simply missed the ball. The ball rolled practically to the fence and the batter came around. I called it a single and a three-base error; the Mudcats -- including Kendall -- thought it should have been an inside-the-park home run. No way. No bad hop; the outfielder, in my opinion, had a routine play and messed it up big-time.
           Anyway, Jewett -- whose team (the Pirates' Class AA affiliate) that year was 89-55, dominated the league and won the championship -- stopped the tirade. Then he asked me why I'd made the call I did, and he wasn't happy with it, either. Oh, well.
           Kendall played 15 years in the majors, was a .288 hitter and a fine player, retiring in 2012. Jewett was a minor-league manager for 17 years, and that 1995 season was his biggest success. He is now bench coach for the Seattle Mariners.
           I didn't forget their names. I don't think they cared to know mine.
---
           I was scoring a game one night at Wolfson Park in Jacksonville in 1994 and called an error on the Suns' third baseman on a hard-hit ball. The next half inning, with the Suns batting, the phone rang in the press box and the team official who answered it handed me the phone.
            It was the third baseman, and he was unhappy with the call. His name was Luis Quinones, who had played eight years in the majors as a utility infielder and was one of the heroes of the Cincinnati Reds' 1990 World Series sweep of Oakland. But by 1994, he was back in Double-A ball.
           So I guess he felt entitled to call the press box in the middle of a game. But on the play, he was practically next to third base and the ball was a two-hopper to his right ... so he took about a half-step before the ball got to him and got away. Yes, it was hit fairly hard, but I didn't think it was a difficult lay. Thus, the error call.
           As I wrote in a previous blog, in my official-scorer days, I never had benefit of TV/video replays. It was one look, and make a call.
           But as I thought about Quinones' call, something came to mind. One of the Jacksonville TV stations had a photographer at nearly every Suns' game, shooting a few of the early inning plays for the night's sportscast. The guy had been sitting next to me that night, so I thought he might have this play on film.
            When the game ended, the Suns' manager, Marc Hill, called the press box, as he did several times that season to ask about a scoring call. He asked me if Quinones had called the press box during the game and I told him yes. "I don't want my players doing that," Hill said. "I will talk to him about that. You let me know if that ever happens again."
            He then asked me about the call, saying he thought it could be a hit, and I told him I would think about it. What I didn't tell him was that I had called the TV station -- which was located very close to the ballpark -- and had arranged with the photographer to come look at the play as soon as I got my boxscore totaled and sent to the league office.
             So I went to view the film. I looked at the play about a half-dozen times and again my feeling was that Quinones hardly had to move to field the ball; he just had let the ball play him. I didn't change the error to a hit.
              And maybe I'm bragging here, but it was the type of conscientiousness I put into my official-scorer duties. I didn't get them all right, in some people's opinion, but I put thought into it.
              These days the official scoring is compiled by computer, rather than by hand in a scorebook, but it still requires judgment calls. At the college and pro levels, the scorer most often has the benefit of looking at replays, so that's a big help.
              I haven't scored games in 15 years, but the process still interests me; I pay attention to the calls that are made. I'd do it all again because I loved the game. If I couldn't play, I could keep score. And, after all, I'm "just a pissant."