Friday, June 19, 2015



It is indeed rare that within the space of 357 days that three athletes from three adjoining rural counties are selected in the first round of major sports drafts. Such was the case between May 8,2014 and April 30, 2015 during two NFL drafts and one NBA draft. As for now, I will say that this triple  take has never happened before.  I will wait until one of you sports trivia experts quickly prove me wrong. 

It all began on May 8,  2014 when the Cincinnati Bengals chose Darqueze Dennard of Twiggs County, Georgia  in the NFL’s annual draft.  Six weeks later on June 26, the San Diego Clippers picked Brian Craig, aka “C.J.”, Wilcox, a native of Dublin, Georgia, as their first pick in the 2014 NBA draft.  To complete the triad, the Pittsburgh Steelers, tabbed  Alvin “Bud” Dupree from neighboring Wilkinson County as their first round pick in this year’s NFL draft.

Darqueze Dennard hails from the tiny Twiggs County town of Dry Branch, Georgia. This rather light defensive back was the 24th choice of the Cincinnati Bengals in last year’s NFL Draft.  Dennard was a member of the 2013 Big Ten champion and 2014 Rose Bowl champion Michigan State Spartans.  A unanimous All-American choice in 2013, Dennard was selected by the Jim Thorpe Association  as the winner of the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best collegiate defensive back. Dennard was among the top five finalists for the Football Writers Association of America’s Bronco Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defensive college player.

A three-sport star for the Twiggs County Cobras, Dennard played both defensive back and wide receiver.  Although his stats as an offensive player were good, a few college scouts saw more promise in his defensive ability to read the quarterback and his speed in moving toward the football.  In his senior year, Dennard finished second in the Class A 100-meter dash.

Considered only as a two-star recruit, Michigan State took a chance on Dennard, who missed nearly half of his freshman season due to an injury.  As a sophomore, Dennard began to show the skills his recruiters had seen in him.  Two of his 42 tackles came against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2012 Outback Bowl.  Dennard  continued to improve during his junior season and finished his final season with 62 tackles.

Brian Craig "C. J." Wilcox was born in Dublin, Georgia on December 30, 1990.  Raised by his grandmother down the road in Eastman, Wilcox moved to Utah with his father Craig Wilcox, a Dodge County basketball star and former BYU basketball player.   The 6'6" shooting guard was the 28th pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft.  

Young Wilcox didn’t take long to prove that he was a “chip of the old block.  In his preteens, Wilcox began to stand out in AAU games.  He played high school ball at Pleasant Grove High Vikings, where he averaged 22.2 points per game. 

Utah colleges began to take notice, most notably. Utah, Utah State and Brigham Young.  Wilcox decided to leave home and sign with the University of Washington Huskies.  

After being redshirted in his first season in 2009-10, Wilcox was named to the Pac-10 All Freshman Team. As a sophomore, Wilcox was tabbed as an Honorable Mention to the All Pac-10 team for his deadly three-point shooting. Wilcox moved up to the Second Team All Pac-12 during his junior season after finishing with the 11th highest single season point total in Huskie history.

For the second time, Wilcox was selected to the Second Team All Pac-12 despite the fact that he finished his career as the second highest scorer, fifth in blocked shots, first in three-pointers (6th in Pac-12 history,) and ranks as one of only three players in conference history to score 1700 points.  

Alvin Dupree - his friends call him “Bud” - was born in Macon, Georgia and grew up in Wilkinson County, Georgia.   Dupree was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 22nd pick in the first round of last month’s NFL draft. 

  Dupree attended Wilkinson County High School in Irwinton, Georgia. During his senior season for the Warriors, Dupree played both ways, scored 10  touchdowns and garnered more than more than 1000 yards in receiving yards.  Only a three-star recruit, the six-foot, four-inch Dupree, a first team all state player,  tackled 62 runners and sacked the opposing quarterbacks, 10 times.

Dupree signed with the University of Kentucky Wildcats.  In his freshman year, the 269-pound defensive end, played in twelve games. In the same number of games in his sophomore season, the big lineman jumped from 21 tackles to 91 tackles for a career season high. 

A steady performer on defense, Dupree was named to the first team of the All Southeastern Conference in his senior season in 2014 finishing his career with 247 tackles and 23.5 sacks.

The book has yet to be written on Darqueze Dennard, “C.J.” Wilcox and “Bud” Dupree.  Dennard, hampered by the lack of playing time in his rookie season, tackled opposing players seventeen times in four games.  Dupree, plagued by injuries which forced him to start the 2014-15 season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, managed only to appear in only 21 games this season and scored two points as he looks forward to the fall and a chance to play full time. And, of course, the recently drafted “Bud” Dupree has yet to don a Steeler uniform.

It is well worth remembering that Wilcox and Dupree were only three star recruits out of high school while Dennard was only rated as a two-star player.  Only one of the three, Dennard, were chosen as an All-American and Wilcox didn’t make the first all conference team.

It shall also be noted that Demaryius “Bay Bay” Thomas (left)  was the first person from this area to be drafted in the first round of a major professional league draft when he became the 22nd pick of the Denver Broncos of the first round of the 2010 NFL draft.   Of the four area players in five years, Thomas was the most highly heralded both coming out of high school and college.

The record of being the highest pick from this area goes to McIntyre’s Georgia’s Kevin Brown, (left)  who was selected by the Texas Rangers as the 4th overall pick in the 1986 MLB draft.

But I must say that coming in second in the ranks of highest selected local player in a professional draft goes to my classmate Tina Price Cochran, who was selected as the 15th overall pick in the 1978 Women’s Professional Basketball League.  The former Dublin and University of Georgia basketball and tennis star was chosen by the team from Washington, D.C, which was relocated and renamed the Dayton Rockettes.    Tina (below) gave up basketball and tennis to return home to Dublin to raise a fine family and share her blessings with her students in Dublin city schools. 

Monday, May 11, 2015



It was unanimous.  The Lions Club voted to sponsor a return visit to the Dublin Homecoming Day.  The 1935, held eighty years ago this month, would feature as the  opponent, the University of Georgia.  Dubliners were thrilled when it was announced that Dean would pitch in Dublin.  Dizzy Dean had become one of the most popular players in baseball.   The tall, amiable, and talented righthander drew a crowd everywhere he went.  During this period, his popularity was only equaled by Babe Ruth, although he was not very popular with opposing players because of his taunting and high self esteem.    His career  spanned 12 years from 1930 to 1941.  He had to retire because of arm problems.  He pitched only four innings during a comeback attempt in 1947.  In 1934 and 1935, he won 58 games and lost only 19. Despite his short career, he had 150 wins and a .644 winning percentage, one of the highest in history.   "Ole Diz" regained his popularity in the 1960's when he was the color man on the Yankees and Braves games.  Diz always had a funny story to tell.  He coined expressions such has "He slud into second" and "Powder River".  Dizzy's trademark was his bellowing rendition of "The Wabash Cannonball" in the late innings of the game. Dizzy was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953.  From 1932 to 1937, Diz was as good as anypitcher in baseball history. 

The Cardinals  fielded a team with Hall of Famers; Joe Medwick, Frankie Frisch, Leo Durocher, and Jesse Haines. Joe Medwick,  .324 lifetime batting average (34th all time) and 540 doubles (12th all time), was one of the best outfielders of 1930s.  He was the NL MVP in 1937 and the last National Leaguer to win the Triple Crown.  Frankie Frisch was one of the better all around players in the 20s and 30s.  He was a member of eight NL World Series teams - more than any other player, a .300 hitter thirteen times, a scorer of 100 runs seven times, 1931 NL MVP, a lifetime .316 hitter, and 25th on the all time hiT list with 2880. Jesse "Pop" Haines, the elder member of the team at 42,  threw his knuckleball for 210 wins and 209 complete games.  In the days before the Cy Young Award, he might have won the Best Pitcher Award in 1927, leading the league in complete games and shutouts and second in wins and winning percentage.   Leo Durocher (LEFT) was one of the most famous and colorful managers in baseball history.  Pepper Martin was one of the most speedy, colorful and hustling players in the thirties.  They joined Jimmy "Ripper" Collins, a .300+ hitter four times and NL Homerun Champ in 1934, Paul "Daffy" Dean, 1934 Rookie of the Year,  and Spud Davis, a steady .308 hitter who has the 3rd highest lifetime batting average for a catcher, to round out the team. 

   The Cardinals arrived in town on April 2, 1935, at 9:00 a.m. in three Pullman cars from Bradenton, Florida.  Paul Dean had lost a close game to Yankee great, Lefty Gomez, the day before.  They went to the Fred Roberts Hotel on Academy Avenue to check into their rooms. Dizzy (LEFT), Paul, and Player/Mgr. Frisch were whisked off to the school auditorium up on the hill where the City Hall now stands. Dizzy, speaking first, told the house  packed with youngsters and fans, "If you want to be a baseball star like some of the Cardinals, don't smoke or drink."   Daffy shyly rose to speak.  He grabbed the attention of the admiring kids when he told them, " I want to say that you should get all the education you can.  I never had the chance to get an education myself, but if you ever want to become anything, to get somewhere, you better get all the education you can." Paul had said this many times before.  As Paul returned to his seat, he looked to Dizzy for approval.  The crowd signaled its approval with a tremendous roar. 

     As the Deans were walking back to the hotel they were followed by hundreds of kids, Frankie Frisch (LEFT), and Bobby Norris of the Macon Telegraph.  Paul said, "You know, I've had to do that fifty times I guess.  Sometimes I think it gets monotonous, but every time I get up before a bunch of kids like that, and they applaud, it gives me goose pimples."  Dizzy nodded in approval.  Dizzy and Paul signed well over a thousand autographs that day.  The popular Frankie Frisch only signed a few dozen, mostly when the Deans weren't around. 

     Dizzy and Paul (LEFT) slipped off into the lounge to get a rest before lunch.  They sat down with Jesse Haines and Burgess Whitehead for a game of Bridge.  The upcoming year was the topic of conversation.  Dizzy was worried about the Giants while shuffling the cards.  The old veteran Haines asked Dizzy, "Diz, are you going to rub the spots off those cards?"  Diz stared at Haines and dealt the next hand.   After a few hands, Dizzy walked around town and finally admitted he would be happy to win 23 games this year. 

   The weather was perfect!  By noon, the 3000 seats were crammed. Another 3000 fans walled the outfield fences.  The Cardinals took the field with Dizzy Dean on the mound.  The Bulldogs were coached by former Lanier High School and University of Georgia Football Star, Vernon "Catfish" Smith.   His assistant actually coached the team that day.  Dean struck out Jimmy Moore. Ennis singled through Pepper Martin's legs.  E.J. Moore flied out to center and Andy Anderson struck out to end the inning.  Pepper Martin (LEFT) led off with a 373 foot double off the left field fence.  Frankie Frisch singled, scoring Martin.  Rip Collins then followed with a ground rule double into the crowd, scoring Frisch.  Martin doubled off the wall again but failed to score in the 2nd inning.  Five singles by Frisch, Medwick (BELOW), Collins, Durocher, and Dean led to three runs in the third inning. Three successive doubles by Frisch, Medwick, and Collins accounted for four more runs in the 4th inning.

   Dizzy lasted until the 5th inning when he gave up three runs and ran his hit total to seven.  Dizzy was probably drained from all the pre-game excitement.  Ed Heusser came in and finished the game.  Bishop relieved the Bulldog pitcher, Nichols in the 5th.  The Cardinals picked up two runs in the 8th when Wilson and Worthington doubled and scored. The Bulldogs picked up one run in the 8th and 9th innings.  The final score was Cardinals 11, Bulldogs 5.  

     The game also had its humorous moments.  The base umpire Bill Delancey, a Cardinal back up catcher,  swung at Dizzy.  A couple of the Cardinals ran to his defense pretending to knock the umpire flat on his back.  One of Dizzy's teammates threw a cup of water on him after he got "dizzy" over a bad play. One fan, dressed in a hunter's green suit, hat, and suede shoes stood out even more with his lavender shirt.  Some men could hardly keep their eyes on the game for the hundreds of pretty girls.  Former Dublin dignitaries such as Tom Linder, Agricultural Commissioner; Hal Stanley, Prison Commissioner; Vivian Stanley, Secretary of Commerce; and Peter Twitty, Game and Fish Commissioner were in attendance. 

     The excitement didn't end after the game.  Kids by the hundreds followed the teams back to the Fred Roberts Hotel  to wait on the Cardinals to come down and autograph balls, cards, and other items.  A local man, Tom Pritchett, was asked if he was a ball player.  He nodded yes and signed over a dozen times in the presence of an amused Clarence Carroll and Cicero Walker.  The Boy Scouts served as "Gophers" for the players.  Jule Greene ran errands for Dizzy Dean.  One little boy asked a man, "Are you Dizzy or Daffy?"  The man sent the boy away by saying, "I may be a little dizzy and daffy, but I'm not of the Dean variety." 

     The teams were entertained that night with an informal dance at the Country Club.  After a good night's rest, the Bulldogs returned to Athens and the Cardinals headed west for another season.  Well, most of the Cardinals had a good night's rest.  Ole Diz really enjoyed himself at the dance.  Diz slipped off with some locals to Frank's Place, which was located on the site of the Oaks Shopping center, for some stronger refreshments.   According to "Time" Magazine, Dizzy missed the train the next morning drawing a $100.00 fine.  Not to be outdone, Dizzy announced his retirement after the season.  The Cardinals finished second that year, four games  behind the Chicago Cubs.  Dizzy won 28 games and led the league in strikeouts while Daffy gathered 19 wins.  Joe Medwick finished near the top of the league with a batting average of .353.   Ripper Collins had one of his best seasons, batting .313, with 23 homeruns, and 122 runs batted in.

1934 St. Louis Cardinals vs. Detroit Tigers
World Series

Dizzy Dean

The Gas House Gang

Sunday, April 12, 2015


We Are The Champions!

The 1929 edition of the Dublin Boosters had no choice but to fight. From the first to the last game of the season, this ragtag congregation of old professionals, former minor leaguers and good ol' country ball players had to scrap, claw and struggle their way out of the abyss of last place from day one. In point of fact, when the first games of the South East Georgia League were played on June 4, 1929, the team from Dublin had not even entered the league.

In the early decades of the 20th Century, baseball was king. Almost every Georgia town had a team. Some were strictly amateurs. Others were semi pros, who played for little or nothing but the sheer love of the game. A few Georgia cities like Atlanta, Macon, Savannah, Augusta and Columbus boasted minor league professional teams.

(Tiny Osborne - above) 

Dublin was no exception. In years past, local men formed a team formed of primarily truly local players. Every once in a while, a former professional or collegiate player might by charmed or lured by the payment of folding money to join the local aggregation for the summer. Among some of the more popular of the former collegiate athletes were Wally Butts, a teacher at GMC and Joshua Cody, the basketball and football coach at Mercer. Butts went on to become a legend as the iconic football coach of the University of Georgia over four decades. Cody, an All American lineman at Vanderbilt, went on to coach football at Vanderbilt, Florida and Temple.

The Southeast Georgia League, in the first season of its two-year existence, was composed of teams from Fitzgerald, Douglas, Eastman, Vidalia, Helena and Cochran. Representatives from each team met in Dublin with Dr. C.J. Bedingfield, who called a meeting of twenty or so of the Dubln's most rapid and wealthy baseball fans. The group unanimously agreed to replace the team from Cochran, which never really got off the ground and folded within its first ten days in the league. To manage the team, the team's owners hired R.T. Peacock, Sr., a local Chevrolet dealer.

It was to say the least an inauspicious and horrible start for the Dublin Boosters, who lost their first three games and put themselves in the cellar right from the beginning. By the end of June, the Irishmen won three in a row, played .500 ball, and managed to crawl out of the cellar to a respectable 7 and 7 record, placing fourth during the first half of the season.

The second half of the season was a different story. Under the new management of T.A. Curry, Sr. and Izzie Bashinski, Dublin won the first game against Helena and never looked back. The Dublin nine captured five straight wins before losing a close game to Fitzgerald. The Irishmen slumped into second place after playing .500 ball during the next ten games.

It was on the 1st day of August when the Boosters turned it up a notch or two. With a 15-8 thrashing of first place Fitzgerald and a 2-1 slim victory again the next day, the Boosters moved into first place and won five games in a row for the second time that season.

The boys from Fitzgerald keep fighting as well going toe to toe with Dublin and wound up in a tie for the second half of the season. A best two of three series was set for August 13 and 14 with the first game in Dublin and the second in Fitzgerald.

After Fitzgerald jumped on Boosters starter Earnest Osborne for two runs in the first inning, the Irish pitcher settled down and held the Fitzgerald nine scoreless for the rest of the game. With singles and walks, the Boosters whittled the lead and took the first game 7-2. The Dublin boys made sure that there was no coin toss for the location of the third game when they eked out a 7-6 victory to clinch a trip to the championship series against the first half champs from Douglas.

Charlie Morgan, a Macon prep and college star who spent a year as the catcher of the Toledo Mudhens, was chosen to umpire the league championship series along with George Sears of Alamo.

Dublin, behind the pitching of Clark and the catching of M.C. Dowda, defeated Douglas 4-2 in Douglas to take the first game of the seven game series. The teams returned to Dublin the following day in front of a very large crowd at the 12th District Fairgrounds. Despite Osborne giving up a few early runs, the Boosters pounded the Douglas pitchers Tully and Baker to take a 12-5 win.

The teams moved to a neutral location in Fitzgerald for the third game, which saw Fitzgerald slaughter the Boosters 12-0. In the fourth game, Dublin pitcher Carter silenced the home team Douglas batters, while Patterson drove in both Dublin runs. Defensively Dublin's Lynwood Mallard, a former Mercer University star athlete, gunned down a Douglas runner at the plate to preserve the 2-1 victory and a 3-1 lead in the series.

Mallard, a member of the Mercer and Georgia Sports Halls of Fame, was the top athlete at Macon's Lanier High School in  1926 and helped lead Lanier High to the GIAA state championship in basketball while averaging 17 points per game. He lettered in four sports at Lanier and at Mercer University and was named to Mercer's all‐time football team and was Mercer's leading scorer during his three years of basketball.  "Baggy" Mallard was a fine baseball player averaging .347 at the plate...Later played for the Johnstown, Tennessee squad in the Middle Atlantic League.

The 5th game was played in Dublin on August 21. The game was close through the first eight innings. In the bottom of the 9th with Dublin trailing 3-2, Eldon Carlyle, who batted .442 in the season and signed to play with the Atlanta Crackers, walked. It shall be noted that Carlyle, who made it to New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association, was the brother of major leaguers, Cleo and Roy, the latter of who is given credit for the longest (618 feet) home run in major league history.

Osborne, running for Carlyle, made it to third when the Douglas second sacker fumbled Walker's hot grounder and threw wild to first. Parks sent a single with eyes which eluded an errant Douglas outfielder allowing Osborne and Walker to score, setting off a near riot in the Dublin stands. The boys from Dublin had done it! They were league champs!

Without a doubt, the most valuable player for Dublin was one Earnest Osborne.(Above)   Facetiously dubbed "Tiny" by his teammates and fans, this six-foot, four-inch, two hundred and fifteen-pound pitcher led his team to victory. "Tiny," a 36-year old native of Porterdale, Georgia, began playing in the minor leagues in Augusta, Georgia in 1919. Osborne joined the Chicago Cubs in 1922. In his rookie season, he posted a 9-5 record pitching to Hall of Fame catcher Gabby Hartnett. Osborne, who pitched along the side of Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander, finished with the 2nd best record of hits per nine innings, 3rd best record of strikeouts per inning and 4th most games saved and played in the National League. In a dubious category, "Tiny" led the NL in the most batters hit by a pitch (12), a feat which did not subject him to being charged on the mound because of his tremendous size.

Osborne slipped to 5-15 in his second season before he was traded during the 1924 season to the Brooklyn "Robins" Dodgers. After going 14 and 20 in a rotation which included Hall of Famers Burleigh Grimes and Dazzy Vance, "Tiny" left major league baseball. In his early thirties, Osborne pitched in the Southern Association with the Nashville Volunteers and New Orleans Pelicans and the Three I League and the Macon Peaches of the South Atlantic League in 1928 before coming to Dublin in the summer of 1929.

Osborne's career highlights included earning a save in the August 25, 1922 game between the Cubs and the Phillies which ended with a 26 to 23 victory for the Cubs and the highest scoring game in major league baseball history. Known for having a large pair of hands, Osborne was once photographed by the Sporting News holding five baseballs in his pitching hand. Osborne won his very last game for the Jackson Mississipians of the East Dixie League in 1935 at the age of 42. His son, Ernest Jr. played in the minor leagues and his grandson Bobo played seven seasons in the majors. "Tiny" died in 1969 in Atlanta.

In a time when Dubliners were looking for looking for something good in the dark years of the Depression, the Dublin Boosters had gone from worst to first in their first year of existence. They were the champions! The next year, Dublin lost in the league championship to Fitzgerald in the league's final game.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


You may have never heard of Richard Von Gammon.  But, when he died one hundred and ten years ago today, football in Georgia was nearly forced out of existence by the bereaved legislature of this state.  Throughout Georgia and across the nation, a congregation of ministers cried out for the abolition of this most violent and vicious  game.  Without the aid of Von Gammon's mother and Bulldog captain William B. Kent, football in Georgia may have ended, if only for a little while.

It was a typical fall day on the 30th day of October 1897.  The bleachers and sidelines of Atlanta's Brisbine Park were crammed with spectators to see if the undefeated Georgia Bulldogs, inspired by a trouncing of Georgia Tech the week before, could defeat the powerful Cavaliers of Virginia in a contest for superiority of southern football.  Georgia  had just completed  the team's first perfect season, albeit they only played four games and won them all.  

Richard Van Gammon, a well-liked fraternity fellow and outstanding quarterback from Rome, Georgia, kicked off to Virginia to open the contest.  In the second half with Virginia in command of the game, Van Gammon, playing  defensive back, sprinted toward a Virginia runner.  Before he could make the tackle, the helmetless Bulldog was overrun by a wall of blockers, said to have been joined in a flying wedge formation with arms locked and bearing down upon him with all the force of an equine stampede.

Van Gammon dove to tackle the Cavalier runner and struck the ground headfirst.  The Virginians trampled over his motionless body.  For several excruciating minutes, players and coaches vainly attempted to revive the fallen star.  At first it appeared as if Von Gammon was completely paralyzed, his eyes gazing blindly into the autumn sky.  Eventually he was revived and helped to the sidelines, where he was examined by physicians who were attending the game.  The doctors decided to transport Von Gammon to Grady Hospital for further examination and diagnosis.  After he arrived at the hospital, Richard's temperature  soared up toward 109 degrees.  With his brain swollen to intolerable limits, Von Gammon never regained consciousness and died.

Just days after the fallen footballer's funeral, mass hysteria swept throughout the Georgia legislature.  Fueled by intense lobbying by a host of ministers and a nationwide cry against the barbaric deaths that football had caused across the country, the lawmakers adopted a near unanimous ban on football in the state.  The bill was sent to Georgia governor W.Y. Atkinson for his signature.

It was then when Van Gammon's mother and Bulldog captain William Kent issued an appeal for the governor not to sign the ban.  The people of Athens, most of the university's faculty and even some Georgia players thought it was best to put an end to football at Georgia forever.  Mrs. Von Gammon wrote a letter to Governor Atkinson pleading to him not to allow her son's death to end the game he so dearly loved.  Aided by a poignant and stern letter from renowned Georgia professor and the team's first coach, Dr. Charles Herty, who advocated the necessity of sports to promote physical health, and the persistence of Captain Kent, the governor never signed the bill.  Though football ended for the 1897 season after three games - they only played four or five games anyway - the games would resume the following year.

William B. Kent was born in Montgomery County, Georgia on January 30, 1870.  This son of William Kent and Martha Beckwith Kent entered Mercer University as a freshman at the ripe old age of twenty-three in 1893.  After playing football at the Baptist college for a single season, Kent transferred to Athens for the 1894 season, where he played guard.  In 1896, William was moved to right tackle by Georgia coach Pop Warner, who went on to iconic status as the coach of Jim Thorpe of the Carlisle Indians, as well as successful stints at Pittsburgh and Stanford.  Kent, at five feet eleven inches in height and weighing in at 185 pounds, was one of the strongest men at the college.  In his junior season at Georgia in 1896, Kent was named president of the Athletic Association and captain of the football team for his senior  year.     As president of the Athletic Association, Kent led the organization out of its bankrupt position onto solid financial ground. 

Off the field Kent excelled as an editor of the Pandora, the university's yearbook, as well as serving with highest honor of the Demosthenian Literary Society and as a commissioned officer in the military department.  Considered one of the most popular men on campus - there were very few, if any, women enrolled as students in those days - William was known to have been a man of high moral character and a leader in the Young Men's Christian Association and his Sunday school class at the Baptist Church in Athens.   During his semesters at Georgia, Kent served as president of eight organizations.

Kent, a self-made man, studied law, literature and bookkeeping.  To pay for his studies, he taught  school and even sold lightning rods one summer.  

While he was in Athens, William met and married Miss Senie Griffith, daughter of Clarke County state representative F.P. Griffeth.  Following her death, Kent married Lallie Calhoun, a member of one of Montgomery County's oldest and most prominent families.

After his graduation from Georgia, Kent was admitted to the bar, beginning his practice in that portion of Montgomery County, which would later become Wheeler County in 1912.  In addition to his duties as an attorney, Kent served as both solicitor and judge of the City Court of Mt. Vernon, a state court assigned to handle misdemeanor offenses and minor civil claims.

In 1910, Kent, the former football hero, was elected to represent Montgomery County in the Georgia legislature.  While in the House of Representatives, Kent introduced a bill to carve out that portion of his county lying on the western side of the Oconee to form a new county, purportedly to be named Kent County, not in his own honor, but in honor of his father, an early settler of the area.  The name of the new county was Wheeler instead, named in honor of Confederate cavalry general Joseph Wheeler.    Kent was chosen to serve as the first judge of the Wheeler County Court of Ordinary, or as it is today known, the Probate Court. 

William B. Kent died on November 21, 1949.  He is buried in Oconee Cemetery in Athens, Georgia in a town where football is king on autumn Saturdays.  Perhaps the epitaph on his tombstone should read, "here lies William B. Kent,  the Savior of Georgia football."  

Thursday, January 8, 2015


A Legend That Never Ends

In a world where cliches are never cliche, Hubert Mizell has seen it all.  For the last fifty years, he has written about courage, loyalty and self-sacrifice.  Hubert has told stories of leadership, teamwork and the triumph of the human spirit.  He loves sports and loves to write about the events which keep on taking us out to the old ball game.  For this Dublin native, his dream to become a sportswriter has come true, more than he could ever imagine.

Hubert Coleman Mizell was born in Dublin, Georgia in 1939.  His parents, Leon Mozart Mizell and Annie Mae Williams Mizell, named him for Dr. Alfred Coleman, the doctor who delivered him.  Hubert grew up in the days of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Joe Louis.  As a child of a poor family, Hubert lived in eleven towns and in twenty-seven buildings.  His father left school after the end of the 5th grade.  A saw mill accident left the elder Mizell with a severely mangled arm, relegating him work at strenuous jobs, often enduring eighty-four-hour work weeks.  Hubert's mother worked whenever and wherever she could to help make ends meet to support the family, which included Hubert's baby sister Linda.

When Hubert was seven, the Mizells moved to Jacksonville, Florida.  A trip to the Georgia-Florida game, long before it became the wild spectacle  it is today, sparked young country boy's love of sports.  At the age of fourteen, Hubert took a job as an usher and later as a scorekeeper at Wolfson Park, home of the Jacksonville Tars.  Playing for the Tars that year was a young kid by the name of Henry Louis.  You know him better has Henry "Hank" Aaron.

Before he completed high school, Mizell developed a relationship with the Times-Union, Jacksonville's leading newspaper.    At first he worked as a sport's copy editor.  During his spare time, Hubert studied and carefully analyzed the writings of the nation's greatest sportswriters.  After his college days at the University of Florida were over, Hubert returned to the Times-Union as the High School Sports Editor.  In 1964, he took a job in the public relations department of the Gator Bowl.

In 1967, Hubert came of retirement as a sportswriter for the first time.  He returned to the Times-Union as its Florida Sports Editor.  In addition to his duties in the sports department, Mizell covered hurricanes and even the 1972 Republican National Convention.  Later in the 1970s, Hubert became the state sports editor of the Times-Union.

Hubert Mizell's first major sports assignment came in the late summer of 1972.  Hubert witnessed swimmer Mark Spitz's world record seven gold medal performance and the emergence of one of the world's greatest gymnasts, Olga Korbut.  He was there when the zebras gave the Russian team three unwarranted chances to defeat the US basketball team in one of the most controversial games in Olympic history.  Hubert was an eye witness to one of the darkest moments, not only in Olympic history, but in the history of sports.   Working closely with a young Peter Jenkins of ABC News, Hubert saw the hooded gunmen who killed eleven Israeli athletes.   He was stationed at the airport when their corpses were sent back home.  "It was like a punch in the stomach," Mizell remembered. Hubert still lists the '72 Olympics as the highlight of his career.

Being based in the subtropical climate of Florida, Hubert normally didn't cover hockey games.  But in the winter of 1980, Hubert was in Lake Placid, New York, covering the first of his four Winter Olympic games.  Mizell and the corps of sportswriters, normally trained to be neutral in their coverage of sports, shivered in emotion as they witnessed, in Mizell's words, "the most colossal upset in the history of sports."  Mizell still rates the game in which the upstart US team defeated the heavily favored Russians  as the No. 1 game he has ever covered.  In 1986, he moved to Atlanta and took a job as a feature writer and television critic for the Atlanta Constitution.  It wasn't long before Hubert decided to return to Florida and the love of his life.

Mizell was present at one of baseball's most memorable games, not because of the score or the events which transpired on the field.  It was late in the afternoon on October 17, 1989.  The Giants and Athletics were preparing to play their 3rd World Series game when the stadium began to shake violently.   Hubert hit the floor and then the lights went out.  He managed to make it out of the stadium safely, writing his column on the hood of an ABC -TV truck.  The calamitous earthquake was the most frightening thing Hubert ever witnessed in sports.

During his fifty years in journalism and sports, Hubert has attended nearly fifty college football bowl games, forty Masters golf tournaments and  more than thirty college basketball final fours and Super Bowls.  He has been in attendance at more than a dozen U.S. Golf Opens and Kentucky Derbies.  Hubert has crossed the Atlantic to witness a half dozen or more British Open golf tournaments and even more Wimbledon tennis tournaments.  Mizell has covered six summer Olympic games and four of the winter games.  The number of the other sports events he has seen is virtually incalculable.

College football and golf are Hubert's favorite sports.  He loves going to Notre Dame to watch a football game the best, though he does rank Grant Field as number nine and between the hedges at Sanford Stadium as his sixth most favorite college football venue.  He lists Arnold Palmer, Steve Young, Pete Maravich, Jack Nicklaus, Magic Johnson and Richard Petty as his favorite athletes.  Interestingly, he list former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Lee Roy Selmon as the most honorable athlete he has known.  Nancy Lopez is a close second in his mind.  Among the most mesmerizing interviewees, Mizell lists Muhammad Ali, Bobby Jones, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Red Grange, Charles Atlas and Jesse Owens.  His favorite sportscasters include Pat Summerall, Jim McKay, Bob Costas, Jack Whitaker and Howard Cossell.

Frequently honored by his colleagues, Hubert  has served on the ESPY committee of ESPN Sports, which annually honors the best of the best in sports. Mizell was a charter inductee into the United States Basketball Writers Hall of Fame.  In 1980, his fellow sportswriters elected him as president of the Associated Press Sports Writers Association.  Chris Berman of ESPN remembered Hubert for being kind in helping him out when he first got into broadcasting.  Veteran St.  Louis announcer Jack Buck said, "Everybody loves Hubert, especially the athletes - they trusted him."  Jack Nicklaus said "Hubert tried to do the right thing and be in the right place at the right time."  Fellow golfer Gary Player echoed Nicklaus, "He's been a tremendous contributor to golf, but he's been a great gentleman.  Really a nice man and you can't say much more about a person than that."

Hubert retired from sports writing, at least partially, in 2001. He and his wife moved to Virginia and the promise of peace and quiet. Hubert did continue to write a weekly column for the St. Petersburg Times until the end of 2004.  He planned to retire, but Hubert couldn't leave sports.  He returned to the sports room last year and writes today for the Gainesville Sun.    This past April Hubert Mizell was honored by the Augusta National Golf Club, which awarded him and thirteen other writers and broadcasters with the first "Masters Major Achievement Award." According to the editors of Sports Cliches dot com., a sportswriter must be around for at least thirty years to qualify as a legend.  Hubert Mizell is twenty years beyond that level and still going strong, watching and writing about the greatest legends in the games we play.


A Baseball Survivor

Bill Robinson died on the last Sunday in July.  Unless you are an "old school" baseball fan, you probably wouldn't even know his name.  Robinson, the biggest star of the 1962 Dublin Braves team, was revered by those who knew him as a decent man, one who was a well-respected hitting instructor and coach.  His pupils won two world championships.  A sixteen-year veteran of the big leagues, Robinson won a World Series ring of his own with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979.  This is the story of a man who was once billed as "the black Mickey Mantle" and survived the intense pressures of major league baseball for a successful 47-year career in "America's pastime." 

William Henry "Bill" Robinson was born on June 26, 1943 in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.    After high school, Bill was signed by the Milwaukee Braves and assigned to their farm team in Wellsville. At the age of 18, Bill Robinson was ranked by scouts as one of the best rookie outfielders ever, better than Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson.   At first, his future in baseball seemed dim.  After a poor season in Eau Claire, Robinson was assigned to the Dublin Braves in the Georgia Florida League.  In his first game with Dublin, Robinson impressed the fans with a single and a double to drive in four runs.   Under the tutelage of the wily veteran manager Bill Steinecke, Robinson reversed his downward spiral  and posted a highly respectable .304 average with 21 extra-base hits in 207 at bats. 

Following a system wide reorganization of the minor league farm systems, Robinson was assigned to the Waycross Braves in 1963.   Bill's star continued to rise with a .316 average at Waycross and a .348 average with Yakima in 1964.    Facing stiffer competition, Robinson's stats tailed off with the Atlanta Crackers the following year.  An International League all-star with the Richmond Braves in '66, Robinson excited the big league team in Atlanta and scouts around the country with an outstanding .312 average, 20 home runs and 79 runs batted in.  After five years of bus riding and hectic living, Robinson finally made it to the majors during a late season call up in the Braves' first season in Atlanta on September 20, 1966. In 11 at bats, he garnered three hits.

With Roger Maris being traded to the Cardinals and the future of an aging and aching Mickey Mantle in doubt, New York Yankee manager Ralph Houk salivated at the thought of Robinson in his outfield.   "He has the best arm I have ever seen," Houk told a reporter for the Washington Post.     On November 29, 1966, the Yankees traded the veteran third sacker Clete Boyer to the Braves for the young Robinson, who carried with him a .298 average, a rocket arm and the possessed the power to become what the Yankees hoped would be "the black Mickey Mantle."

An early indicator of Robinson's throwing ability was his skill in throwing rocks at his antagonists.  Somewhat of a runt in comparison to the bullies of Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, Robinson compensated for his scrawniness.  "When I was about 10 years old, there was one boy who used to beat me up all the time.  One day I waited at the top of a hill and split his head open with a rock from 20 yards.  I guess I could hit a guy with a rock at a hundred yards.  I was pretty accurate," Robinson chuckled.  

After developing a soreness in his right throwing arm in the Venezuelan winter ball league, Robinson underwent elbow surgery in the winter of 1967.  Robinson struggled in his rookie season.  With manager Houk's unfaltering patience and encouragement, Bill Robinson once again reversed his slump and surged to bat .260 in the second half of the 1967 campaign.  

Robinson's sophomore season with the Yankees mirrored his rookie season.  Mired in a horrific slump at the all-star break, Bill silenced his doubters with a .282 second half, and solidified a starting position for the 1969 season.     Robinson returned his blessings to the community by actively participating in youth programs in New York.   After a dismal season in '69, Robinson feared his baseball career was over.  At the age of twenty-six, Bill appeared to be headed for the verge of  obscurity.  Yankee fans,  instinctively and unmercifully, booed Bill.   The pressure to replace "the Mick" was unbearable.   After three average seasons in the minors with Syracuse, Tuscon and Eugene, Robinson finally returned to the major leagues toward the end of the 1972 season with the Philadelphia Phillies, who hoped to capitalize on his resurgent power hitting.

Robinson, who could play all three outfield positions, led the Pacific Coast League in   rbi at the time of his call up to the Phillies.  With the pressure of being expected to perform with the legendary Yankees gone, Robinson returned to his youthful form.    He hated to go to the ball park (in New York) where he tried too hard to perform up to the impossible standards set for him by management and fans alike. Frustration led to more frustration.  The White Sox had assigned Bill to their Tuscon team in 1971.  Robinson felt he was lied to by the Chicago team and actually quit baseball, only to be traded to the Phillies, a move which rejuvenated his career.

Robinson shed his demons and began to enjoy baseball again. Wally Moses, a native of Montgomery County, Georgia and the Phil's hitting instructor, resurrected Robinson's natural hitting style.  Bill entered the 1973 season,  hoping just to  remain on the team for 52  days to qualify for a pension.  Little did "Robby" know he would still be around a decade later.  1973 was Bill's best season so far.  He batted .288 and hit 25 home runs. Seventh in at bats per home run, ninth in slugging percentage and tenth in extra base hits in the National League, Robinson appeared headed for stardom at the age of thirty.    But Robinson's roller coaster career took another dip in 1974 and he was traded to the cross state rival Pittsburgh Pirates in the off season.

A valuable substitute outfielder, Robinson played well for the Pirates and played for the Bucs in the 1975 post season playoffs against the Cincinnati Reds.  Though Bill accepted his job as utility outfielder, he wanted to play full time. When Pirate outfielder Dave Parker went down in May 1975, Robinson got his shot at starting in Pirate outfield.   Robby  was asked to play third base when Richie Hebner went on the disabled list.  Bill enjoyed playing on the hot corner as it kept him more involved in the game.  Bill Robinson responded to the challenge both eagerly and favorably, since the Pirates had a trio of outfield stars.  Though he ended the 1976 season with a .303 batting average, Robinson went into August batting at an amazing clip of.340.  With 64 rbi and 21 home runs, Bill Robinson was chosen as the team's most valuable player and finished 21st in the balloting for the National League's Most Valuable Player.    Robinson had reached the prime of his career.  Suddenly, at the age of 33, he was on the verge of becoming a superstar.

Bill Robinson entered the 1977 season, his 10th full year in the majors, with high expectations.  A series of ham string injuries, a bad shoulder and an aching leg couldn't hinder his determination to show his 1976 season was no fluke.  Though he wasn't considered for the 1976 all star team with a .335 average, Robinson thought he might have a chance in 1977.  Robinson was devastated when his name didn't appear on the 1977 ballot.  Thoroughly disgusted at what he termed as a farce of a voting system, Robinson vowed not to play, even if was selected as a substitute.

Robinson continued to excel.  He got his first ever on screen interview with the venerable Howard Cosell on Monday Night Baseball.   Bill told the bumptious Cosell that he had alleviated the pressure and went up to the plate without any worries.    When called upon after first baseman Willie Stargell was scratched from the lineup due to an injury, Robinson moved across the diamond for the good of the team.  

1977 was Robinson's career year.  Eleventh in the balloting for the NL Most Valuable Player, Robinson finished eighth in the league in slugging percentage and runs batted in,  and sixth in doubles posted career highs in home runs (26), runs batted in (104) and batting average (.304.)    

Bill Robinson returned to the outfield in 1978, replacing Al Oliver, who had been traded to Texas.   With a contract extension in hand removing him from the bottom of the pay list for regular players, Robinson looked to improve on his totals of the '77 season.  After getting off to a hot start, a nagging thumb injury altered his outstanding swing.  After six seasons of virtual serenity, the pressure began to nag at Bill once again.    His hitting had gone from consistently torrid to woefully inconsistent.

The Pirates began acquiring new players to step in, just in case Robinson faltered in 1979.   His average dropped to .246, the third worst of his career.  Just when it looked like he would once again fail, Robinson turned it up and moved to the top of the team's offensive statistical categories. Robinson's return to brilliance helped the Pirates to win the National League's Eastern Division pennant.

The Pirates adopted the song We Are Family as their theme song for 1979.  The Pirates easily swept the powerful Reds to face the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.  In a rematch of the '71 series, the Pirates won in the seventh  and deciding game.   Hitless in three at bats  in the league championship series, Robinson got five hits in the series to win his first World Series championship ring.

Still considered a good utility player, the Pirates held onto the aging Robinson after his home run total fell to 12 in the 1980 season, though he did hit .287.    Nagging injuries to Willie  Stargell and Dave Parker kept Robinson in the lineup despite the fact that he was 37 and was beginning to slow down.  Robinson didn't disappoint Pirate manger Chuck Tanner and played another solid season for the Pirates.

The end of Robinson's career began in the spring of 1981 when he underwent surgery for the repair of his right Achilles tendon.  Bill never regained his quick bat and posted the lowest average of his National League career.  After 31 games with the Pirates, Robinson returned to Philadelphia for the remainder of the 1982 season.  At the end of the season, Robinson, approaching his 40th birthday, filed for free agency.  He was resigned by the Phillies and played only in ten games before being released on June 9, 1983,   seventeen days after his final game on May 23, 1983.   The Phillies respected Robinson's knowledge of him and retained him as a minor league hitting instructor. 
In his sixteen seasons in the major leagues, Robinson had 1127 hits,  166 home runs and drove in 641 runs.  He hit 104 round trippers in the minors along with 514 runs batted in.  His career batting average of .258 in 1472 games was not a true reflection of his outstanding career in the 1970s when he was a better than average hitter.

At the end of the '83 season, Robinson was wooed by the Mets as their new batting coach.  With the likes of Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez and George Foster in the Met's lineup, Robinson wasn't about to begin making changes in his slugger's swings.  "I don't have any complicated ideas about hitting,"Robinson said.  "Mine is a very simple approach, mostly mental," said Robinson, who was manager Dave Johnson's first choice because of his ability as a teacher of hitting.

Facing the brink of elimination in the 6th game of the 1986 World Series, the Mets rallied and took advantage of one of the greatest blunders in World Series history to send the series into the seventh and deciding game, which the Mets won.  Robinson had once again returned to the top of his form, this time as the man who taught the world champions the art of hitting.  Robinson remained with the Mets until the end of the 1989 season when the team made wholesale changes in their coaching staff.
In 1990,  the producers of Baseball Tonight hired Robinson for his insightful commentary on major league baseball.  After a two-year stint with ESPN, Robinson returned full time to baseball.   Robinson worked for the Phillies minor league organization as a manager and coach from 1994 though 1999.  Bill returned to the Yankees organization  as a minor league hitting instructor for its Columbus team from 1999 to 2001.  He accepted the offer of the Florida Marlins to serve as their hitting coach for the 2002 season. 

Once again in 2003, Robinson's pupils, the surprising Florida Marlins, shocked the baseball world by capturing the World Series title, earning Robinson his third and final World Series ring. After four seasons with the Marlins, Robinson was hired as the hitting instructor for the Dodger's minor league system.    

On July 29, 2007, Robinson failed to show up for an appointment in Las Vegas to discuss hitting.  He had complained about his heart after throwing batting practice and went back to his hotel room to rest.  A friend found him dead. Apparently his heart simply gave out.  His Bible was lying open in front of him.

Jeff Wilpon, the CEO of the Mets described Robinson as "a devoted family man, a consummate professional and one of the classiest men in our sport."  "Bill was a wonderful family man and a great player, manager and coach.  He was a friend to everyone he met,"  said Dodger general manager Ned Colletti.