Saturday, November 2, 2013


Dublin High's 1963 State Football Championship

They called them the Banshees.  They were small. They were fast. They were stingy on defense.  The Dublin Irish football team had won Class A championships and 1959 and 1960, but had succumbed to the more powerful Sylvania Gamecocks in the following two seasons. The 1963 edition of the Dublin Irish sported a new look and a new enthusiasm.  It was the last time Dublin would win a state football championship.  There were other times when we came close. There was a loss to Carver High School in a mud bowl in 1967.  The 1994 team was defeated by Thomasville, one of the top-ranked teams in the country.  Most recently, there was the hard-fought heart-breaking loss to Screven County, which ended the Cinderella season of one of Dublin High's greatest all time teams.  This is the story of a group of small boys, who played hurt, fought hard, and climbed their way back  to the pinnacle of Class A Georgia football, a half century ago.

        The new look Irish with seventeen seniors sported a new look, dark green uniforms with white numbers. They were considerably smaller than past Irish teams. The offensive line averaged 169 pounds. Marion Mallette was the biggest offensive lineman tipping the scales at 205 pounds, while Chub Forth was a speedy 145-pound guard. Tom Perry, the quarterback, was the largest back at 170 pounds. The defensive line weighed in at 175 pounds, with Derious Williams the big man at 215 and the nose guard Bob Mathis anchoring the line at an unheard of weight of 140 pounds.  

The Irish opened the 1963 season in the Shamrock Bowl in front of a crowd of 4000, the largest in the stadium's young history.  Steve Walker and Ronnie Williams led the award winning Dixie Irish Band.  Sharon Lamb captained the cheerleading squad.  The Irish, running a new pro-style offense, were led by Quarterback Tom Perry, who passed for two touchdowns and ran for one more. Vic Belote was cited for his great play on both sides of the line of scrimmage in a 20-6 victory over the Dodge County Indians.  The vaunted Banshee defense, led by an interception by Joel Smith and a fumble recovery by Charles Faulk,  kept the red men in check by holding them to 126 yards of total offense. The boys from Dodge County managed their lone score late in the game.

The Irish traveled to Fort Valley the following week to face the Green Wave. Sophomore running back Vic Belote, (Left)  subbing for the injured Danny Stanley, ran for 80 yards.  The Galloping Green offense scored on three long drives culminating in a run by Belote, and receptions by Frost and Hahn.  Robbie Hahn began the season as the place kicker and punter.  The Irish defense shut out the Green Wave 20 to 0, allowing 134 yards of offense.

               The Green and White returned to the Shamrock Bowl for the third game of the season against the previously undefeated Swainsboro Tigers, who outweighed the Greenies by thirty pounds per man.  Nearly six thousand screaming fans showed up to see if the Irish could remain unbeaten. The Irish scored on their first drive and not again until their last three drives of the game to defeat the Swainsboro eleven 27 to 0.   Chuck Frost became the first Irish running back to have a 100 yard rushing game, sixty-six of those yards coming on a touchdown run.  The game was close until the Irish broke it open in the final stanza with three touchdowns by Danny Stanley (Left) , Robbie Hahn, and Chuck Frost.  For the third straight game, the Irish held their opponents to less than 200 yards in total offense.

The Irish traveled to Cordele to defeat the Crisp County Rebels 34-0 to extend their winning streak to four games.  The Irish scored on their opening drive with a 61-yard pass from Perry (Left) to Frost. The first half ended with  Perry's 39-yard screen pass to Danny Stanley for a touchdown.   Robbie Hahn, who went on to become a record breaking All American receiver for the Furman Palladins, scored on a long pass play. The star of the night was the fourteen-year-old sophomore Vic Belote, who scored on runs of 70 and 90 yards on his only carries of the night.  The Banshees stymied the Rebels, holding them to only 97 yards of offense.

The Washington County Golden Hawks were the opponents to end the first half of the regular season.  The Galloping Green put up 387 yards of offense with scores by Stanley, Hahn, Frost, Blue,  and Powell.   (Left) The Irish got off to a slow start, but won the game 38-6.  Joel Smith snatched his second errant Golden Hawk pass of the game and raced 25 yards into the end zone for a rare defensive touchdown.  The boys from Sandersville were held to 111 yards of offense.

           Camera and smiles flashed as the Panthers of Perry came to the Shamrock Bowl for the Homecoming Game.  Linda Hobbs was crowned the Queen of Homecoming.   Despite having an off night in losing four fumbles, the Irish pommeled the Panthers 41 -19.  The Panthers managed to score 13 of their points in one 47 second span in the 4th quarter, an electrifying period in which the Irish scored their final 8 points in between.  The Irish offense was led by Tom Perry's three touchdown passes to Chuck Frost (Left) , one long TD pass to Hahn, and two runs of 6 and 54 yards by Belote.  Belote ran for 139 yards to led the Irish running backs. The Banshees held the Perry team to 143 yards of offense, and keeping them from passing the line of scrimmage on thirteen running plays.

In the closest game of the regular season, the Dublin boys defeated the Braves of Baldwin County 21 to 14 in Milledgeville.  It was Danny Stanley's greatest game of his career in a Dublin uniform.  Stanley carried the ball 27 times for 141 yards, out rushing the entire Baldwin County running back corps.  The Irish came from behind for the first time with two touchdown runs by Stanley and a pass from Perry to Hahn. (Left)  The Irish were plagued with a series of mental lapses and miscues, which nearly ended their six game winning streak.  The Irish ground game was stymied when Vic Belote left the game with a badly bruised hand.    For the seventh straight game, the Irish defense held their opponents to less than 200 yards of total offense.

A win over Statesboro in the Shamrock Bowl would clinch the 2A Title for the Irish.  A cold rain kept the crowd down to the smallest it had been since the bowl opened for play in 1962.  Louie Blue scored his first touchdown of the season, while regular scorers Belote and Hahn picked up one score apiece.  Two Irish touchdowns were called back, holding the score to a 19-0 Dublin victory.  Robbie Hahn boomed a 63-yard punt to end the first half.  The Irish defense aided by wet pigskins held the Blue Devils to 66 yards of total offense, all on the ground.

The 9th game of the season came in Americus. It wasn't  pretty. The Irish played horribly. The Americus Panthers, well, they were just too much for the boys in green.   Chuck Frost and Tom Perry were knocked out of the game on the same play when they tackled an Americus runner.  The score, an old fashioned butt whooping 35-7 loss to the defending state champions. 

Dublin faced their region nemesis Screven County in the final game of the regular season. The Irish managed a 26-6 victory over the Gamecocks, who had dominated the region for the past two seasons, but failed to gain a single passing yard.  A encouraging highlight of the future of Irish football came when Stanley Johnson, an eighth grade runner with electrifying speed, dashed 14 yards into the end zone.  By the end of the season, the Irish were playing hurt. Chuck Frost substituted at quarterback for Perry, who had broken his thumb in practice and bruised his ribs in the loss to Americus.  Center Bernard Snellgrove  (Left) stood on the side lines on a bum leg.  Vic Belote sucked it up and played the entire game both ways while suffering from a broken thumb.

After an intensive 11-week season fifty years ago in 1963, the Dublin Irish took time to pause for the state playoffs. In those days, there were only four regions in Class A and only four participants in the state tournament, unlike the 32-team tournament format of today. The Irish had the first week off while the three top teams in Region 1 fought it out to determine who would meet the Banshees in the South Georgia Championship game. Thomasville trounced Americus, a team which dominated Dublin in their only loss, by the score of 26-0. Then the Bulldogs defeated region rival Cook County by practically the same score. 

      Almost a week before the first game, the players and the nation were stunned by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. The players and coaches attended a memorial service at First Methodist Church before resuming their practice schedule. 

     From the beginning, controversy engulfed the game. Thomasville officials refused to allow a Dublin radio station to broadcast the game by telephone back home to Dublin. Dublin boosters were only allotted 192 reserved seats along the fifty yard line. The seats that were there were only on one side of the field, so Dublin and Thomasville fans shared the same side of the field. Those who couldn't find a seat, stood on the opposite side of the field while the cold winds of November howled through the stadium in Thomasville. 

    The ball game was a close as the Thomasville and Dublin fans were crammed into the seats. Neither team penetrated the other's goal line during the first half. In the third quarter, the Irish mounted their only scoring drive of the game. Stanley ran the ball for two. Belote fumbled and Perry recovered for a 4-yard loss. Perry then tossed a 23 yard pass to Hahn. Stanley was held to 1 yard gain on first down. Perry turned back to the speedy Hahn for 16. The Bulldogs caught Stanley in the backfield for a 2-yard loss and a 1-yard gain. On third and long, Perry hooked up with Hahn for his third catch of the drive on a 14-yard pass. Stanley then took matters into his own hands. He wouldn't be denied. He gathered in a screen pass and blasted his way for 12 yards. He took the next handoff at the 13-yard line and ran it to the 4. Running behind Marion Mallette and Charles Faulk,  (Left)  Stanley drove it down to the two. Quarterback Perry huddled the team and called "same play." Stanley squeezed the ball and dove into the Thomasville end zone to consummate a twelve-play eighty-yard drive to put the Irish ahead. Tom Perry's kick after touchdown struck the right goal post and bounced haplessly away.

     It was then up to the vaunted Banshee defense to hold the heavily favored Bulldog offense. The Thomasville boys struck back with a one-play forty-five yard drive on run by all-state running back Dickie Thompson to tie the score at 6-6. The snapper snapped. The holder tried to upright the pigskin for the kick. It was all to no avail. As the kicker kicked the horizontal ball, the Banshees swarmed all over it like ducks on a June bug. The clock ran out with the score standing at a "sister-kissing" tie, 6-6. In 1963, there was no overtime. The winner of the game would be determined by giving one point to the team leading in three categories: most offensive yards, most first downs, and most penetration inside the opponent's 20 yard line. By virtue of their lead in all three categories, the Irish were awarded three points and won the game 9-6. 

    Coach Minton Williams cited the great job of blocking and defense as the reason for the Dublin win. Larry Jones (Left) stopped a critical Bulldog drive with a fumble recovery. Another defensive star was Chuck Frost, who had to leave the game early when he broke his finger in stopping a sure Thomasville touchdown. Johnny Malone saved his best game of the season for South Georgia championship. 


     The championship game was set at the 8000 seat North Dekalb Stadium. Again all the seats were on the same side of the field. This time however, the Irish were on the opposite sidelines, all by themselves. The opposition was Tucker High School, who were playing in their own territory. Coach Williams expected that the boys from Tucker would concentrate on pass defense, so he ran the ball and he ran the ball. With Senior Danny Stanley and Sophomore Vic Belote running the ball behind the powerful offensive line, the Galloping Green dominated the line of scrimmage. Three long Dublin drives ended with two fumbles inside the Tucker 10-yard line and an interception at the opposition's 3-yard line. 

      The Irish began their first scoring drive at their own 23. Perry tossed a 22 yard pass to Hahn. He came back with another pass, this one a 29-yard spectacular catch by Hahn with 27 seconds left in the first half. From nearly the same position on the field that Irish had against Thomasville the week before, Coach Williams, with 14 seconds left called for a screen pass, which Stanley again grabbed and jaunted down to the Tucker 1 yard line. With the clock standing at four seconds, Stanley ran behind a powerful block of Jack Stafford (Left)  for a 1-yard dive play. Hahn kicked the extra point to give the Irish the lead with no time left to play. Following a quick score by Tucker, the Irish exhibited a strong ground game to grind out the clock. 

    Taking the ball at their own 3-yard line following a Thomasville punt, the Irish moved 89 yards on runs totaling 50 yards by Stanley, 25 yards by Belote, and 14 by Chuck Frost. With the Irish leading 7-6 and the ball at the Tucker 5-yard line, Stanley took the ball on a 4th down and 1 yard play into the end zone to give Dublin a 13-6 lead after the extra point attempt sailed wide to the left. Tucker roared back with a touchdown which brought the score perilously close at 13-12. Tucker lined up for a two-point conversion and the lead. 

      That is when the controversy, at least on the part of the Tucker fans and the Atlanta newspaper reporter began. The quarterback faked a dive play into the line. Defensive lineman Larry Jones, well coached on the art of goal line defense, dove at the offensive end's feet just as he was supposed to do and took him out. It just happened that the end was the one the quarterback had called to catch the pass. The front seven Banshees focused in on getting to the ball. The Tucker quarterback, with his primary receiver lying on the cold tundra, heaved the ball into the end zone praying for a miracle. The miracle never came. The ball landed beyond the grasps of any player. 

     Charles Roberts of the Atlanta Constitution accused the referees of ignoring a flagrant hold by Jones on the play. The Irish coaches responded to the baseless charges by stating that "our player was doing what he supposed to do." The Irish tried to put an insurance touchdown on the board but were stopped at the Tucker 22-yard line with a long penalty. Then the Banshee defense made one last stand and stopped a Tucker drive, much to the sheer delight of the 2500 Dublin fans who had traveled to the game. The game ended with the score, Dublin 13, Tucker 12. 

  The game was a close as you could get. The Dublin one point victory was matched by a 2-yard edge in rushing (263-261), a 1-yard margin in passing (54-53), and a 1-first down deficit (12-13). Each team completed only three passes. The crowd swarmed the field as the Irish had captured their 3rd State Championship in five years, ending their tenure in Class A as Kings of Georgia football. 

    The Dublin Irish ended the season with a record of 11 and 1. They outscored their opponents by an average of 23 to 8 during the season. The stingy Irish defense held their opponents to an average of less than 50 yards a game in passing defense. The Banshees shut out their opponents four times and held them to six points in three games. 

    While the Atlanta Constitution ignored Minton Williams as its coach of the year in favor of the losing coach from Tucker, the Irish placed four members on the all state team. Quarterback Tom Perry, half back Danny Stanley, and end Robbie Hahn joined Charles Faulk, a repeater from the 1962 team at tackle. So ended the last championship season for forty three years. 

      The primary members of the 1963 Class A State Football Champions were: Vic Belote, Louie Blue, Don Bracewell, Ronald Cook, Otha Dixon, Ben Eubanks, Charles Faulk, Jimmy Fort, Chub Forth, Chuck Frost, Robbie Hahn, Charlie Harpe, Stanley Johnson, Larry Jones, Marion Mallette, Johnny Malone, Danny Misseri, Tom Perry, Johnny Phelps, Alan Powell, Dwyane Rowland, Joel Smith, Bernard Snellgrove, Earl Snipes, Jack Stafford, Danny Stanley, Ben Stephens, Edwin Wheeler, Derious Williams, Brooks Wright, and Freeman Young. Coaches: Minton Williams, Travis Davis, Bob Morrow and George Sapp. Trainer/Sr. Manager: Johnny Warren, Managers: Mike Daily and Jerry Spivey.

Friday, April 26, 2013


The Killing Game 

On almost any day of any baseball season, a team gets killed.  No, not literally, but figuratively.  And, over the last century and a half in the history of baseball in America, many people have been killed by pitched, batted and thrown balls, as well as by player collisions and flying bats.   Some are even killed by Mother Nature and bad boys up to no good.

My interest in players getting killed in a game came when I read a 1920 issue of the Macon Telegraph. My grandfather, Irving Scott of Macon, was sitting among 21,000 fans  in the grandstands at the Polo Grounds in New York watching the August 16, 1920  game between the New York Yankees and the visiting Cleveland Indians.  There were no lights in those days. It was late in the afternoon. when Cleveland's Ray Chapman walked up to the plate to lead off the top of the 5th inning.  Babe Ruth, on his way to his first 50 plus home run season,  was settling down to his usual spot in right field.

Yankee submarine-style pitcher, Carl Mays,  (LEFT) threw his third pitch of the inning.   The ball hit Chapman, the Indian shortstop,  squarely in the skull.  The ball bounced quickly back to the pitcher. Thinking that the loud pop was the sound of Chapman's bat striking the ball, Mays threw the once white, but then slightly brown, ball  to first base. As the Yankee infield was throwing the ball around the diamond celebrating an easy out, first baseman Wally Pipp noticed that something wasn't just right.  In his score book, the official scorer would simply note that Mays hit Chapman with a pitch on that fateful day.

The prevailing thought today is that Chapman never saw the tobacco-stained, dirt-rubbed ball in the oncoming twilight.  Scott, known as "Great Scott" on Lanier High's 1919 Southern High School Basketball Championship team, saw it differently.

"From where I was sitting, I could not say whether Chapman crowded the plate or not," Scott recalled.  The ball that Mays delivered was not a "bean ball, but not more than waist high, said Scott, who postulated, "If Chapman had  stood up or not moved at all, the ball would have not hit him any higher than the waist line.  As it was, he was fooled by the break the ball took, and instead of getting out the way, dodged right into it." A United Press reporter, who somewhat corroborated Scott's account, wrote, "Chapman  was crouching down and crowding the plate and moved into the sharply breaking curve ball."

Chapman (LEFT) stumbled a few steps and fell to the ground.  After medical help arrived, Chapman was able to stand and walk, if only briefly, before once again collapsing before he made it to the dugout.  Ray Chapman, to this day, remains the only player ever killed by a pitch in a major league game. Cleveland scored a fourth run that inning and held off a last at bat comeback by the Yankees, 4-3. Mays, understandably devastated, never fully recovered from that horrible day.

Now run the clock forward 45 years.  That's the day when I saw a pitcher get hit square in the middle of the chest with a batted ball.  It was my chest.  In fact, it was in that same grandfather's front yard when I threw my best fastball to my father, a pretty fair country boy, baseball player.  As he always taught me, Daddy met the ball as it crossed the plate. He blasted the ball right at me, some forty or fifty feet away.  I still remember the  ball coming at me some forty-eight years ago.  A few moments later I woke up.  My father was standing over me.

I only ever saw my Daddy cry twice.  Once, when his 16-year-old great-nephew drowned and on that day when thought he had killed me.  You see, Daddy knew that hitting someone in the heart between beats can often be fatal.  Most of the deaths which take place on the baseball diamond come from players being hit by batted or thrown baseballs in the chest or in the head.

Catchers have been killed by pitchers too.  W.H. Williams, brother of Dublin attorney G.H. Williams, was catching for the Soperton team on the afternoon of July 25, 1906.  He wasn't wearing a chest protector that day.  A fast ball struck Williams above the heart.  The catcher collapsed, dead before he hit the sandlot. No one remembered what the score was that, nor was it noted who threw the pitch  or if the teams even finished the game. The score wasn't important that day.  Williams, a popular young man, was dead on the diamond.

Ephraim Jones was struck and killed too.  In southwestern Cordele on July 3, 1912  the outfielder was practicing baseball when a fly ball slipped through his hands, struck him just over the heart and killed him dead.

A Negro convict was not watching when another convict threw a ball in anger at another convict.  The errant ball missed its target, striking the bystander and causing a fatal injury at McRee's Convict Camp near Valdosta in the summer of 1899.

Flying bats are often dangerous and can be extremely fatal.  Sometimes they inexplicably fly out of the batters hands in the direction of a player or sail randomly into the stands.  In 1908,  Little Willie Watson, of LaFayette,  was playing with his friends, when a bat slipped and struck the ten-year-old over the heart, killing him on the spot.  And, sometimes, players get so angry that they pick them up and whop another player up said their head.  This was the case in Fitzgerald, when in a late spring game at Pearson's Mill, Cato Mack walloped Melvin Wilson in his head with a bat and immediately left the diamond for parts unknown.

Teams from Evans and Sandtown were playing a game when Fred Dozier and Russell Morton converged toward a line drive in right center field.  So intent on stopping the bounding ball, Morton, quite smaller than his teammate, never saw the sprinting Dozier. Morton's head struck Dozier's upper abdomen.  No serious after effects were noticed until later that night when Dozier, 17, began to have violent attacks of pain. He died within two hours.

Fans are not immune from being killed as well. Four-year-old William Evans, of Sandersville,  was standing close to a batter when a pitched ball hit him in the head, paralyzing and killing him instantly.   Ironically, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. George C. Evans, were attending a funeral at the time of the incident.

With today's technology and more stringent rules, umpires and game managers suspend ball games when there is any hint of lightning in the area.  Such was not the case in the early 1900s when  a bolt of lightning would strike with no warning and kill anything within its path.  Dan Harrell and a Negro man were victims of a savage strike in lightning  a 1908 game at Bullards, in northwestern Twiggs County.

Five people were killed in New York City alone in 1910.  In 1914, there were an estimated 35 deaths in baseball, 20 from pitched balls, 5 by flying bats, 4  from collisions, 4 from heart attacks and 1 from fighting.  Three hundred and fourteen  limbs were broken, 13  skulls were fractured, and 317 lower extremities were sprained. And,  that was only what was reported.

So as you see, America's pastime can be and has been somewhat deadly. Most of us rightly think that the most deadly major sport is football, but now you know baseball can be deadly too.   So as you watch your favorite team this season, keep your eyes on the ball and the bat all the time.  And, by the way, watch the skies too and don't' get into any brawls.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


"Sugar Ray" Robinson, a world champion boxer whose real name was Walker Smith, Jr., called many places home. Montgomery County, Wheeler County and Laurens County along with New York and California were all home to Ray at different times during his lifetime. Many people don't realize that he was a native of Georgia. As a result, Robinson is not a member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Ray's parents, Walker Smith and Lula Hurst, lived in Laurens County and were married here on February 20, 1916. His father was born near Rentz and grew up on the Peterson place south of Ailey. His mother's family roots were on the Hurst plantation in Washington County.

Ray Robinson recounted in his biography that his father, Walker Smith, farmed a small plot of ground, earning about forty dollars a month raising cotton, corn, and peas. In 1920 his brother in law, Herman Hayes, invited the elder Smith to come to Detroit, Michigan to seek a better living. Walker Smith received his first weekly paycheck in the amount of sixty dollars. It did not take long for Mr. Smith to figure out where he needed to work. The family stayed behind until Mr. Smith could establish a home. "Sugar Ray" recounts the trip that his mother, his sisters, and he took from Dublin to Detroit. Sugar Ray didn't seem to remember that he was born in Ailey, Montgomery County, Georgia. When he was seeking his birth certificate for medicare coverage, he found it in the Probate Court of Montgomery County. The house where he was born still stands across the railroad from the Thompson Lumber Company sawmill.

Sugar Ray's parents had their share of marital problems. At the age of six Ray was sent back south after living all but the first of his pre-school years in Detroit. He lived with his maternal grandparents near Glenwood in Wheeler County, just below the Laurens County line. He attended school there. He stayed in Dublin at times with his mother and grandmother before going north in the early 1930s.

Robinson's maternal grandmother, Anna Hurst, lived in a house at 518 South Jefferson Street in Dublin. Laurens County sold the house for taxes in 1935. Robinson's aunt, Maud Ree Hurst, purchased the house in 1938. Robinson fondly remembered the times he spent with his uncle Herschel "J.B." Hurst at the cotton market in Dublin. Uncle J.B. spent a lot of time with Junior buying him a boxes of Cracker Jacks on their trips in to town on Saturdays. The family operated a store next to their home on South Jefferson Street. J.B. and his brother Gus were mechanics in Dublin. Willie Lee Wells, another aunt, was slain by her husband Felix Wells in 1941.

As a boy, Ray was always looking for a fight. His aunt Maud Ree Hurst Foster remembered him saying "I want to find me some body to beat up!" Ray idolized his Aunt Maud Ree and tried his best to be like her. The Hursts have a strong sense of family. Many members of the Hurst family and related families still live in Laurens County. Maud Ree Hurst Foster, a delightful lady, has returned home to Dublin. Anna Hurst loved to watch Ray dance. She often asked Ray "come on 'Sugar', dance for me." The pet name stuck with the young man for the rest of his life. One day Sugar Ray brought one of his friends with him when he stopped in Dublin to see his grandmamma. That friend was a pretty fair boxer himself. Imagine the sight. There was Anna Hurst standing on her front porch asking Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis, two of the greatest boxers ever, to dance for her. Early in his boxing career Robinson, was known as "Harlem's Dancing Dynamite and the Pride of Harlem."

Walker Smith, Jr. took the name "Sugar Ray" Robinson as an amateur boxer. As an amateur Ray won New York City titles in 1939 and 1940 with a career record of 69 knockouts, 40 of which were in the first round, in a total of 85 matches. Robinson's first professional fight was a 2nd round knockout of Joe Echeverria on October 4, 1940. He won his first 40 fights before losing to the legendary Jake LaMotta in February 1943. From then on Robinson was undefeated for over eight years. On December 20, 1946, Robinson won the World Welterweight Championship over Tommy Bell. Sugar Ray successfully defended his title five times. Sugar Ray defeated Jake LaMotta for the World Middleweight championship. That summer he lost the title to Randy Turpin in only his second professional loss in the ring. Ray took the title back in a rematch. Ray defeated Carl Olson and knocked out the great Rocky Graziano in his title defenses. He was knocked out for the first time in his career by Joey Maxim on June 25, 1952.

Sugar Ray retired after the Maxim fight, but returned to the ring on November 29, 1954. On December 9, 1955 he defeated Bobo Olson to regain the Middleweight title. After defeating Olson in a rematch in 1956, Robinson lost the title once again, this time to Gene Fullmer on January 2, 1957. Five months later, Robinson won the Middleweight title for the fourth time in a rematch with Fullmer. He lost the world title again in September of 1957, this time to Carmen Basillio, Ray regained the title in a rematch with Basillio on March 25, 1958. Sugar Ray surrendered his title for the last time against Paul Pender on January 22, 1960. The last five years of his career were spent fighting younger fighters with only moderate success. Sugar Ray Robinson, then 45 years old, lost his last fight on November 10, 1965 to Joey Archer in a 10 round fight.

Over his 202 fight - 30 year career, Robinson only lost 18 fights, most of those being the twilight of his career. After his career in the ring, Sugar Ray appeared in several television dramas. Sugar Ray Robinson, who once showed his athletic prowess on the streets of Dublin, was regarded by many as the greatest boxer of all time. He was a five time Middleweight Champion, a one time Welterweight Champion, and was revered by Muhammad Ali as "the King, the Master and my idol."

Saturday, January 26, 2013



James Bailey is tall. He may be the tallest person ever born in Laurens County. His height - six feet nine inches in his stocking feet - came in handy for slam-dunking basketballs, blocking jump shots, and getting stuff off the top shelf at Wal-Mart without tip-toeing.

Bailey was born in Dublin on May 21, 1957. His family moved away a short time later. James began to grow taller and taller. His height and superior athletic ability made him an outstanding high school basketball star of the Xaverian Brothers High School team of Westwood, Massachusetts. For his outstanding ability and play, James was awarded a scholarship to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

James began his career with the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers in the fall of 1975. By the fifth game, James was named as the starting center. His coach, Tom Young, noticed something special in the freshman. The Knights won their first game, and then another. When Rutgers eased past Boston College by twenty three points, sportswriters began to take notice. The Knights defeated Georgia Tech to win the school’s first Christmas holiday tournament. In each of the three games heading into the Poinsettia Classic, Rutgers scored more than 95 points in each game. By New Year’s Day, Rutgers was eleven and zero. Four opponents gave up one hundred points to Bailey’s team. In the biggest game of the year against arch rival Princeton, the Knights scored seventy five points against one of the nation’s best defensive teams. The Knights scored more than one hundred points in their last two regular season games. This was in the days when there were no three-point shots. In the post season tournament, Rutgers breezed to its second straight ECAC title and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament. With wins over Princeton, Uconn, De Paul, and VMI, the Knights made it into the final four. The Knights perfect 31 and 0 season came to end with an 86 - 70 loss to Michigan. Bailey vaulted to national prominence in his freshman season.

Bailey led his team to the NIT in the next two years and one final trip to the NCAA tournament in his senior year. During his four years at Rutgers, Bailey averaged 16.7 points and 8.7 rebounds a game. He still holds the Rutgers record for field goals in a season (312 in 1978.) Amazingly, the big man had 1755 steals (second most in school history.) Bailey blocked 330 shots and was feared by all those who dared to try him under the basket. James Bailey was one of the first college centers to perfect the "lob dunk." He had 116 dunks in the 1977-78 season, more than many entire teams. His junior season was his best. Bailey won the Widner Trophy as the best player in the East. He was chosen as a first team All - American and finished the season with a 23.5 points per game scoring average. His career best game came against William and Mary when he scored forty three points and grabbed thirteen rebounds. A local sportscaster described Bailey that night as if he were "a slot machine in front of an addicted gambler - all the numbers were coming up right."

Just days after the end of his junior season, James was selected to play for the United States in the 1978 World Invitational Tournament, a sort of off-year Olympic tournament. He was named the starting center. The team had among its members a forward from Indiana State by the name of Larry Bird and a guard from Michigan state Earvin Johnson, who you know as "Magic." Also playing on the team were future pros, Joe Barry Carroll, Phil Ford, Jack Givens, David Greenwood, Kyle Macy, Rick Robey, and Sidney Moncrief. The USA team defeated Cuba 109-64, Yugoslavia 88 to 83 and the Soviet Union 107 to 82 to win the world crown. Bailey was third on the team in scoring with twelve points per game, more than Bird and "Magic" put together.

Bailey garnered many honors in his four year career at Rutgers. He was first team All Atlantic and a member of the All Atlantic Tournament Team in each of his last three seasons, Tournament MVP in his senior year, Atlantic Player of the Year in his last two seasons, winner of the Donald Courson Trophy as the top male athlete in the Class of 1980, and a first team All American in his last two seasons. His team won ninety five games and lost only twenty eight. The Knights were fifty and three at home.

Bailey was drafted sixth in the first round of the June 1979 N.B.A. draft by the world champion Seattle Supersonics. Chosen ahead of James were Earvin "Magic" Johnson, David Greenwood, Bill Cartwright, Greg Kelser, and Sidney Moncrief.

The defending champion Supersonics finished with the second best record in league in Bailey’s rookie season. They defeated Portland and Milwaukee, but lost to division rival and eventual league champions Los Angeles in the Conference Finals. In his only playoff appearance, Bailey was assigned to guard the legendary Kareem Abul Jabbar. Bailey became a starter after an injury to Lonnie Shelton. He had his best season in 1980-1, despite his team’s tumble to the cellar of the Pacific Division. Playing in all eighty two games, he established career highs in nearly all scoring and defensive categories. It was during that year that he hit his only three point shot (out of thirteen attempts.) During his third season, he was traded to the New Jersey Nets, who finished third in their division.

Bailey was traded in his fourth season to the Houston Rockets, who finished last in the league. During that year Bailey led the team in field goal percentage. Bailey replaced the legendary Elvin Hayes in the lineup. At the time, Hayes was the all-time NBA leader in minutes played and third all-time in points scored. The Rockets were a little better in the 83-84 season, finishing next to last in the league. Bailey was traded a third time in 1984 to the New York Knicks, who finished (you guessed it), next to last. It only got worse the next year when the Knicks were in the basement of the NBA. Bailey was shipped across the river to New Jersey in 1986. Again, Bailey’s team finished next to last. In his last NBA season, 1987-88, he finally got out of the cellar, but barely. The Phoenix Suns won one out of three games and finished as the fifth worst team. In his seven-year career, James Bailey scored 5246 points and amassed 2988 rebounds. After his last season in the NBA, Bailey played in Europe until his knees finally gave out.

On the night of February 8, 1993, thousands of his fans and twelve of his former teammates turned out to honor James Bailey with the retirement of his number 20 jersey. Bailey is only one of three Scarlet Knights to have been accorded such a high honor. That same year, James was one of the initial five inductees into the Rutgers Basketball Hall of Fame. He was joined by the late Jim Valvano, legendary N.C. State basketball coach and colorful sportscaster. Bailey still lives in the area today and keeps himself physically fit by drag racing in Englishtown.

Unfortunately for James Bailey and the game of basketball, James was never surrounded in the NBA with the talent he had playing with him at Rutgers University. Consequently, he never realized his true potential. Whether you call him, "J.B.," "King James," or "Jammin James," James Bailey, during the last half of the 1970s, was one of the most dominating centers in college basketball.