Tuesday, May 2, 2017

T-Willie found his calling in teaching and officiating

T-Willie Moore: A man in charge.
(photo by John James Marshall)
     His name is Clyde Oliver Moore, but few people know him by that. If you say T-Willie Moore, they'll know him.

      That is especially true in Shreveport-Bossier and across North Louisiana when it concerns high school football and any kind of baseball.
       For the past 45 years or so, T-Willie has been one of the most prominent, and most respected, football referees and baseball umpires in that area.
       He has worked hundreds of games; no, probably a thousand-plus. And he's still working -- at age 70, with no intention of stopping.
       Just last week he was umpiring baseball games in Jonesville, La., and Ruston, and this week he's off to DeQuincy. It's playoff time, so the games are taking a trusted veteran umpire a pretty good way out of Shreveport.
       But his life is much more than football or baseball, and always was. June and T-Willie, married since 1972, are the parents of two daughters and grandparents of seven (five girls, two boys). The kids and grandkids live in Texas and South Carolina, so there is time spent there by JuJu and PaPaT.
       And as long as he's been refereeing or umpiring, the
T-Willie, June -- and seven grandchilden
Moores have been teachers, and devoted to their religious beliefs and their community.

       For 40 1/2 years, until he retired in May 2012, he taught Algebra I and pre-algebra at one location. First it was Eden Gardens Junior High, then it became Caddo Middle Magnet in 1982.
       And Mr. Moore was one of the most popular teachers there. We know this, having asked some of his students -- anytime I meet someone who attended Caddo Middle Magnet, I ask -- and parents who had children at the school.
       Like T-Willie, June also taught math. But she eventually went into administration and retired in 2007 as an assistant principal at Caddo Magnet High School.
       Even now, T-Willie takes the occasional substitute teaching job, and he and June have a fulfilling commitment -- for more than 20 years, a couple of nights (or days) a week they have mentored students in math at church.
       "God is good. All the time," T-Willie says. "I have been really blessed to do what I love -- teaching kids and officiating. I knew the Lord wanted me working with kids. I hope to bring glory to Him in what I do and help others."
       Monday night, when I called, they were busy at LSU-S, helping serve a breakfast-type meal prepared by their church Sunday School class to Shreveport Baptist Collegiate Ministry students studying for finals.
       If you have known T-Willie for some time -- and we have been friends since the mid-1960s -- and you talk on the phone or meet, this is almost a certainty. He will end conversations with "love you, man." I am not the only one who has noticed that.
       Athletics -- baseball, really -- was how T-Willie Moore first became known in Shreveport, and how we met.
       He was a pitcher, an unusual one, in high school and American Legion baseball, and then -- surprisingly -- even in college at Louisiana Tech, where we arrived together as freshmen in the fall of 1965.
       He was the youngest of five brothers, all two years apart, who grew up on Leo Street (Broadmoor neighborhood) in Shreveport. Their father, Johnnie, was a salesman for a wholesale lumber company; mother Frances was a homemaker.
       Clyde came through the area schools -- A.C. Steere Elementary (grades 1-3), then Arthur Circle when it opened (grades 4-6), Youree Drive Junior High when it opened in 1959 and Byrd High School (1962-65).
       The nickname came from the kids he played baseball with in fifth grade, and from then on he was "T-Willie." Even his school teachers knew him by that name.
No fastball, but three years as a pitcher
at Louisiana Tech.
      At age 11, he began playing SPAR Midget ball for the Optimist Rebels as a pitcher-shortstop.
      By high school, it was evident that he was not going to be a fastball pitcher. But he could make a baseball spin and dance, and he was especially successful as a change-of-pace pitcher following the harder-throwing "aces" of the Byrd High and Cobbs Barbecue (American Legion) teams, Dale LaVigne and James Gillespie.
       "I couldn't break a window," he said, "but I tried to hit spots and change speeds -- slow, slower and slowest with the knuckle curve change-up -- almost like slowpitch softball," he said.
       It was Pete Barrouquere, a sportswriter for The Shreveport Times covering baseball at the time, who was impressed with T-Willie's "stuff" and began calling him "The Snake Doctor" in stories.
       T-Willie's best game, as he recalled, came in the Legion state semifinals in 1965 when he relieved LaVigne against the Lake Charles Stevedores, retired 24 of the 27 batters he faced and was the winning pitcher. He was supposed to start the next game, too, but after a rainout and a day's rest, Cobbs coach Woodrow McCullar decided to start LaVigne again.
        Later that summer, in a conversation at lunch one day at McCullar's drug store (right across the street from Byrd High), Mr. McCullar -- one of the best Legion coaches for a couple of decades in Shreveport and a good mentor of pitchers -- told T-Willie he would not pitch in college baseball.
        "He didn't know my heart," T-Willie said, reflecting on that.
        McCullar also didn't know that Pat Patterson, who was the Byrd baseball coach in Moore's junior and senior years, would begin his long tenure as baseball coach at Louisiana Tech in 1968 and '69.
        T-Willie did not make the Tech team as a freshman, but he was a big influence on a longtime teammate through their kid years.
       Glenn Theis had been the third baseman at Byrd when they were seniors, and after he struggled so badly at the plate, he was not going to play at Tech ... until "T-Willie invited me to go out with him and Jim King because practicing baseball was a lot of fun."
        Theis would develop into Tech's top hitter and an all-conference second baseman his last two seasons.
        "I owe so much to him, and I will never forget what he did for me," said Theis, who remained in Ruston to live and work after college.
        "Beside his helping me, I have great love and respect for T-Willie," he added. "... He worked hard to get where he got in every area of his life, and he made a difference in so many lives. He is always so much fun to be around.
        "... And he was a very smart pitcher who used his mind over any outstanding natural ability.
        "Best of all, he is such a great guy."
        It was at Tech in a math methods class that T-Willie met the pretty auburn-haired girl named June Flowers, and they dated his senior year.
       But after graduation, in 1970, T-Willie was drafted into the U.S. Army -- at the height of the Vietnam conflict. However, he got a slight break ... if a stint in the unforgiving cold of South Korea was a break (better than being shot at Vietnam).
       June began teaching math at Youree Drive in 1971. When T-Willie returned from Korea in January 1972, his military time done, he began teaching, too. They were married July 20, 1972. (I remember that date -- and always remind them that I do. I was at the wedding and still have the souvenir napkin with the date on it.)
       "She was a straight A student, and I was a P.E. major," T-Willie noted. "Just like you," he told me, "I married way above what I deserve. She is a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother. I have been truly blessed."
       June took a three-year maternity leave from teaching (1977-80), and Karen and Janet were born. By this time, T-Willie's officiating career was established.
T-Willie and Gene Johnson (background)
about to call a Louisiana Tech vs.
Grambling game at Fair Grounds Field.
       It had begun at Tech. A physical education course in officiating piqued his interest, he began calling intramural basketball games, and "Gravy" (Pat Patterson) arranged for T-Willie and (basketball player) Charles Deville to call a high school game while they were students.
     Back in Shreveport, longtime recreation department boss Chris Sidaris got him into baseball umpiring for SPAR games at the Anderson Island field in 1972 and then assigning him high school and Legion games.
       "Gene Johnson and I worked a lot of high school games together since we were teaching together," he recalled, "and I worked junior high basketball [for years] while teaching at Eden Gardens."
       Helped by Bob Molcany and Lloyd Boyce ("Sarge") -- two umps any Shreveport-Bossier baseball kid from the late 1950s through mid-1970s knew -- he began working college games at Centenary and East Texas Baptist in 1975. He called college ball for 37 years.
       (Eventually the Shreveport Regional Umpire Association was formed, and T-Willie assigned the Legion and college crews for games at North Louisiana schools and East Texas Baptist.)
       Two college baseball memories:
       "LSU played Northwestern State in Alexandria," he said, "and NSU had a lead going into the ninth inning when LSU tied it up on a close call at home plate. Dave Van Horn (then the NSU coach, now in his 15th year as the University of Arkansas coach) came out [and argued the call] and covered up home plate (with dirt, a la Billy Martin], saying I wanted them [LSU] to win. He got tossed. LSU won in the 12th inning. I thought to myself, I should have called [the runner] out, so I could get back to Shreveport earlier (and NSU would have won).
       "Pat Patterson, when I was a player at Tech, was ejected from a game at Nicholls State for taking his hat off and banging it against his leg while arguing a call. Years later I had a game at Tech and Pat came running out at me on a call. He took his hat off and started banging it against his leg, saying 'don't throw me out, don't throw me out, T. I'm just trying to fire them up.' It took all I had to keep from laughing at him. I didn't toss him, and they didn't win."
       As the assignment secretary for the Shreveport regional association, T-Willie said he would have "our members meet at my home and go over rules and mechanics. We did this before each college and Legion season."
       Even now -- as you will see -- that is part of his routine. When I called him early one evening in late February, he was at a scrimmage involving several teams at North Desoto High (near Shreveport) and he was evaluating and instructing young umpires on their mechanics.
The football referee, since 1973
     T-Willie began officiating football in 1973, influenced by second-oldest brother Bobby, who was a high school official for years in Shreveport-Bossier. (In fact, his name was in a game story or two -- much to his dismay -- courtesy of a young sportswriter in Shreveport. That's all I can say about that.)
     "I was supposed to be the clock operator for Green Oaks vs. Mansfield," T-Willie recalled, "when Clark Matkins got sick, so they put me at the umpire position. Jack Ferrell was the referee and told me I needed to call something. In the second half, I [finally] threw a flag. Jack asked me what I had. I turned and saw the No. 52 green, so I called holding on him. I had no clue, but things kind of settled down a little.
       "I haven't umpired [in football] again in the last 45 years.
       "I started working on the end of the line and refereed four games the first year. I still didn't have much of a clue, but since I umpired baseball, they thought I knew football."
       Now he does.
       Mike Thibodeaux was a big-time college basketball official (Southeastern Conference group) for 27 years until hip injuries forced him to retire. He also has been the assigning secretary for high school officiating in Northwest Louisiana for football for three decades and baseball for four years. And he appreciates T-Willie Moore.
       "After 46 years in baseball and 44 in football, T-Willie still is excited about every game he works," Thibodeaux said. 
       "In baseball he treats every game the same, from Class 5A to Class C," he added. "He still works just as hard in every game.
       "I have worked baseball games with T-Willie at Fair Grounds Field where Centenary was playing LSU and there were 6,000 fans there and I have worked Class C games where there were 20 people there and he works just as hard no matter what level." 
       In football, Thibodeaux said, "He always has his crew of six officials prepared for the game. Even though he has the same crew for 10 weeks, T-Willie always has a solid pregame where his crew spends 30 minutes going over positioning, rules and at all times hustle. Nobody will outwork T-Willie on the field."
      Mike Suggs has been coaching football at Byrd for 26 years, the last 19 as head coach, and said, "Through the years, I've had T-Willie as an official many, many, many times, and seen him do football and baseball games often.
       "You know you're going to have a quality person, a nice guy and a professional."
       Suggs said that "no official is going to get all the calls right, and as a coach you're going to complain some. But you go back and look at the films and realize that sometimes when you complain, the official did get it right.
       "With T-Willie, year in and year out, he's going to do a consistent job. He's going to treat you right, treat the kids right. He's consistent and that's important to know. That's something you always want. You appreciate that as a coach."
       Glenn Maynor was a high school and college pitcher in the late 1980s/early 1990s when T-Willie umpired a few of his games and since 1995, he's been the Haughton High School baseball coach.
       "He's chatty," Maynor says. "He talks to everyone. He's vocal -- not in a bad way; he talks to players, coaches. He's cordial, very professional, and pretty fair."
       But there was one day, one game, a couple of years ago ...
       "He ejected me," Maynor said, "one of the two times I've been ejected as a coach. Granted, I deserved it; it was warranted. [In arguing a call] I said the wrong thing. He had made some pretty rough calls earlier in the game. I thought I had a valid point."
       Maynor said as the argument developed -- it was a bunt play and a throw to first which, as Moore recalled, hit the batter/runner who was well inside the baseball when the throw hit him in the back (an out) -- "he's looking at me and I knew I had screwed up. I could see by the look on his face, he's thinking, 'I'm going to have to eject him.'
       "Next time I saw him, when he had one of our games, I apologized," Maynor said, "and it was fine after that."
T-Willie Moore has made thousands of strike calls in his long
 baseball umpiring career. (Photo by John James Marshall)
       John James Marshall observed T-Willie's officiating as an athlete, sports writer/editor and as an American Legion baseball coach for a few summers.
       "He is just so fair," JJ said. "He's never putting on a show like some officials or umpires do. He's so level-headed.
       "[As a coach] I always felt obligated to ask about some calls because you had to stick up for your team," he added, "but he would explain it, and you knew he would be calm about it. Not like some of those umps you see on TV that start arguing with the other person."
       Doug Bland, a football and track star at Woodlawn High in the mid-1960s who went on to play football at LSU and is a longtime insurance agent in Shreveport, has been a football official for 27 years, 20 as a referee.
       "T-Willie, as you can probably guess, is highly thought of by all his fellow officiating team members," Bland said. "That also carries over to the coaches. I know coaches breathe a sigh of relief when he is assigned to their games.
       "He knows the rules and, more importantly, knows how and when to apply them. He does a great job of explaining them to coaches even though sometimes they don't agree. He is always willing to help new officials, which has improved the overall performance of our association. He works all levels of football -- middle school, jayvee, varsity -- which helps the young officials."
      The reward in officiating, says T-Willie, "is enjoying calling a game where both teams have an equal opportunity to win the game, and nobody noticed that we [the officials/umps] were there."
      The rewards are just as great in mentoring kids.
      "June and I started teaching preschoolers when our girls were young," he said. "When the girls moved up to the young department [at church], we did, too." They have continued working with middle and high school students at church.
      "We have a motto at our church that "every member is a missionary," T-Willie said. "It is such a blessing helping others and encouraging them."
      It is the same in athletics.
      "T-Willie, after all these years, still loves the game and the kids," said Thibodeaux. "He is still giving back to the game with his time and is still respected by coaches and officials every time he steps on the field.
       "The three most important things I can say about T-Willie," said Thibodeaux, "are (1) He is a dedicated Christian man; (2) a dedicated family man; and (3) a dedicated official.
       "I am happy to say he is my friend."
       Many of us share that feeling about Clyde Oliver ... T-Willie.
       Love you, man. 

This recent standoff with a Calvary baserunner heading for home plate did not
 go well for the umpire. The runner banged into T-Willie Moore and bowled him
 over. Playing to the spectators, T-Willie climbed to his knees and signaled "safe." 


  1. From Billy Don McHalffey: Always fair and always a smile on his face! Enjoyed him working games I coached in baseball and football. We did have our disagreements but when the game was over, it was over, as it should have been.

  2. From Dick Hicks: What a great article,brings back lots of memories. T-Willie and I got to be good friends in high school as we developed a mutual respect for each other's ability as a pitcher although combatants. He had a mean 12-to-6 Uncle Charlie (curveball).

  3. From Brian McNicoll: Terrific piece. Going to call my dad and read it to him.
    T-Willie ran me once. I helicoptered my bat toward the dugout after being called out on strikes. I wasn't mad; I was just getting rid of the bat.
    He comes up behind me and says, "Brian, you realize I have to throw you out because of that? Me: Because of what? Him: Because you threw the bat. Me: What if I promise never to do it again? Him: Sorry. But I'd still never do it again if I were you." I haven't.

  4. From Jack Thigpen: Loved the article on T-Willie. I got to know him as teammates on the Tech baseball team. Super guy and so glad he stayed involved in sports as an official. I wish all officials had the love of the game, dedication and prepared as much as T-Willie. He may not have thrown a fastball but he had the best windup I have ever seen. Congratulations to him on such a wonderful career of officiating and having such a positive influence on others.

  5. From Charlie Booras: I was glad to see T still calling games. He called my son's game vs. Sulphur early this year.

  6. From Orville Davis: Love T-Willie. Known and covered him since his days at Tech and in summer league games.

  7. From Randy Hay: He had a WICKED knuckle curve. Tough to hit.

    1. From Orville Davis: [He was like] Stu Miller (ex-Giants' pitcher) with an assortment of pitches: slow, slower, slowest. But he could keep batters cross-eyed.

  8. From Beverly Ann Tozier Harlan: Great blog. His wife June and I were neighbors as little girls. Our parents were friends. Wonderful family.

  9. From Carole Fox Hartfield: My husband Ed Hartfield, also a math teacher and baseball coach, umpired with T-Willie in Legion and college baseball. He is everything you said. Good article.

  10. From Patrick Netherton: Fantastic profile of one of the best men in this area (who also happens to be a hell of an umpire/referee): T-Willie Moore. You always knew you'd get a quality game when T-Willie was your man in charge.

  11. From Patrick Booras: This takes me back a few years (about 42 years back, in fact) ... 7th grade. Mrs. June Moore was my math teacher my first year at Youree Drive, 1973.
    The most impressive thing about June and T-Willie, the couple still mentor kids in math once a week at their church. Awesome. It can be done.

  12. From Don Birkelbach: Great umpire and an even greater person.

  13. From Tommy Canterbury: Had a great talk with him at the Greenwood post office about three years ago. Great guy. .
    Played against him in high school and especially when I was with the T.L. James Contractors in Legion ball.
    A character for sure.

  14. From Billy Don Maples: Great piece on T-Willie. Had flashbacks when we were teammates at Tech. Remember not a whole lot of velocity, but super control. I see him often at Querbes Golf Course. Not a finer person around. Loves people. Loves life. Got a servant's heart. Every time I see him on the golf course we hug.

  15. From John English: Great article about great people. I knew T-Willie and Glenn Theis at Tech. They were both fine people then; glad to see that they’ve only gotten better.

  16. From Judy Nichols Brainis: Mr. Moore was Eleanor's Algebra teacher at CMM and all the kids just loved him -- maybe because he loved them. So fortunate to have had such a marvelous man of God teaching/leading our babies there every day.

  17. From Rick Fayard: When I was coaching American Legion baseball, we started a July 4th Tournament. The finals of the tournament ended at about 2 a.m. I talked to the plate umpire after the game and asked him why so many walks by college pitchers on both sides. After that, I would hire independent umpires for our Bossier games, rather than the local umpire association. T-Willie came to talk to me. I told him the plate umpire that night told me that he had a "tea cup" strike zone. I told him I couldn't afford his tea. T-Willie asked, "He actually said that?" Yep, I said. "Then I don't blame you." As usual, we worked it out, but a certain unnamed umpire never called strikes again in a Bossier Phillies game.

  18. From Aimee Sapp: Love Mr. Moore. He was my math teacher at Caddo Middle Magnet many years ago. Wonderful teacher, great man, so kind and encouraging and joyful.

  19. From Karen Ann Bryant Dye: What a great story. I didn't know about T-Willie's adult years, but I do remember when Trey Prather was playing American Legion baseball, and I would go to the games with Pou [Prather]. One of their big rivals was the team from the Broadmoor area consisting of, among others, Rodney McGuire, Ralph Montgomery and T-Willie Moore. Thanks for the memories.

  20. From Susan Maloney McGowan: Loved your story. I was at a CMM football game that couldn't start because of the absence of one of the officials. T didn't hesitate to leave the stands as a spectator and join the officiating team. Anyone who knew him also knew there was no doubt he would officiate fairly, even though he might have to make calls against his own school. That's just the kind of guy he is. It was all about filling a need for the kids.

  21. From Bob Molcany: Enjoyed the article on T-Willie. My dad use to say how proud he was of him and how much joy it was to train and work with him as an umpire. He always said someday T-Willie would be a "great one."

  22. Mr.Moore was probably my most favorite teacher ever. He taught me math at Middle Magnet in 1982 and 1983. Wonderful person. This was a great article. Looks like he and Mrs.Moore are super happy with all those grandbabies.
    Amy Hester Muiznieks