Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Moment to Remember

Life is not measured by the amount of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away (Micalea Smeltzer, Finding Olivia).

Such was the moment that day as I walked across the parking lot of the grocery store when - above the hustle and bustle of the busy street that lay behind me, above the noise of the shoppers walking to and fro from the store in front of me - suddenly, I heard the voice of a child calling out my name over and over again.

I looked toward the store in front of me and saw nothing. I looked toward the street behind me and saw nothing, I looked to my left and still nothing. I thought that perhaps the voice I had heard was only my imagination. That is until I looked to my right.

Across the street in the school yard there had to be at least a hundred kids enjoying recess and, right in the midst of all those children, I saw one solitary outstretched arm reaching up toward the sky and the hand that was attached to it was waving frantically at me! It was then that I realized the voice calling out my name belonged to my niece, Chrissy.

My first thought was, "My, what great eye sight you have!" My second thought was, "My, what a great set of lungs you have!" Better to love me with, I decided, as I held up both my arms and frantically waved back to her.

I smiled as I turned to walk toward the store, wiping away a couple of tears as I went inside.

Later, as I recalled that wonderful event, I remembered something I once read by the Italian poet, Cesare Pavese: "We do not remember days, we remember moments."

What happened that day with Chrissy was one of those moments. Unexpected, but pleasurable.


Running the Race

Remember the football gag where Lucy tells Charlie Brown that she will hold a football while he kicks it?


At first, he refuses because he doesn't trust her. Eventually, she talks him into it and, just as he is about to kick the ball, Lucy picks it up. "AAUGH," yelled Charlie Brown as he went flying through the air, followed by, "WHAM," as he hit the ground. Over the years, the message from that gag became clear to me..."Don't Give Up!" While Charlie Brown may not have ever kicked the football held by Lucy, he never stopped trying. So it is with life, where the impossible can become possible if we are determined enough to not quit. Hebrews 12:1-2 says "let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." Don't Give Up! A quitter never wins, but a winner never quits. Be the winner! (Philippians 4:13)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Milestone...

The country classic, "I Love Country Music (And I'd Rather Fight Than Switch)" by Jack Barlow, made it to #21 on Cash Box 50 years ago this week (September 28, 1965). The song, co-written by my dad and released on Dial Records, was produced by legendary producer Buddy Killen, who owned the label. Killen also owned Tree Publishing, which published this song and two other songs co-written by dad, "I Love Her Still" and "Number One In The Nation," which were also recorded by Barlow on Dial Records. The records were distributed by Atlantic Records of New York. Barlow first sang "I Love Country Music (And I'd Rather Fight Than Switch)" on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry on November 8, 1965.

Killen shut down the Dial Records label in 1979 to concentrate on other music interests. Today, the Dial Records catalog is owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the largest music publishing company in the world with over 2 million songs under management. Sony/ATV Music Publishing is co-owned by The Estate of Michael Jackson.

In June of 1965, about the same time that Barlow was recording "I Love Country Music (And I'd Rather Fight Than Switch)" in New York, rockabilly legend Hayden Thompson walked into WJJD-AM in Chicago and recorded his version of the song, released as side A on a 45 r.p.m. record, with "Funny How Time Slips Away," written by Willie Nelson, which went on to become one of the all time great country classics, on side B. In 1986 both songs were included on an album Thompson released on SunJay Records, entitled 'Early Days.' The liner notes states the Willie Nelson classic" could almost have been a Sun Records' cut, as could the hot side, "I Love Country Music (And I'd Rather Fight Than Switch)," where Johnny Cash would have been proud of the sound." Hayden's versions of both songs had been long forgotten about until he included them on the Early Days album.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sports Announcers I Grew Up With: Brent Musburger

There is a special place in my heart for the radio and TV sports announcers I grew up with. From ABC's Wide World of Sports to roller derby and wrestling, and everything in between, sports was a big part of my life growing up. At my house, we watched on TV whatever sport was 'in season,' especially on Saturday's. If there was a sports event on radio, we listened to it. I was very blessed to grow up with many now-legendary voices and characters.

One of my favorite voices, Brent Musburger, went to work for CBS TV in 1973, doing play by play for NFL and NBA games, the US Open, college basketball and football, the Masters and the World Series on radio. In 1990, he went to work for ABC, hosting Monday Night Football, as well as broadcasting college basketball and football. Presently, he does play-by-play for college basketball. His past record includes broadcasting the Little League World Series, Rose Bowl, World Cup, NASCAR, Indianapolis 500. He presently works for the SEC Network.

Standing by the Side of the Road (A Baseball Story)

Former U of L basketball player, Bill Kidd, coached basketball and baseball at Clinton County from 1954 through 1957. He believed in the strictest of discipline and allowed no talking during practice. On away games, he had a "point of no return," which meant players could not talk out loud until the bus was a certain distance from where it had taken off. After passing Waterview enroute to Tompkinsville for a district tournament baseball game in May of 1955, two players in the back of the bus, which happened to be Sid Scott and my dad, Darrell Speck, thought they had gone past that point of no return and broke the silence by singing a song. As it turned out, they were mistaken about where the point of no return was. Coach Kidd stopped the bus and left both of them standing by the side of the road. Lucky for them, J.R. Craig, who was on his way to the game, stopped and picked them up. There is that shortcut to Tompkinsville that most locals know about and J.R. took it. They arrived at the game before the bus, which infuriated the coach even further. Sid and Darrell were ordered to sit in the stands in their street clothes and were not allowed to come onto the field. During the fourth inning, our team found itself trailing by one run with two outs and a runner on first. It was at that moment that Coach Kidd decided it was best to rise above his principles for the good of the team. He called time-out, walked over to the grandstand and motioned for Sid to come down. Sid stood at attention as Coach Kid instructed him to go bat. Still in his street clothes, he hit one into the outfield that earned him a double and the runner on first scored, which tied the game. Well, we ended up winning and two days later we won the first district baseball championship in school history by defeating Glasgow 15-to-12 in eleven innings.
(Sid, left, and Darrell)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Game (Sept. 12, 1931)

EVENT: Baseball game
OPPONENTS: Indian Creek vs Creelsboro
DATE: Saturday, September 12, 1931
LOCATION: Pete Conner farm
Ucum community/Russell Co., Kentucky
(Now under water, Lake Cumberland)
TIME: Afternoon

Some 400 people gathered to watch the baseball game between Indian Creek and Creelsboro. Indian Creek was originally scheduled to play a black team from Burkesville, but that team cancelled. Because it was a last minute notice, Creelsboro could only round up four of its players, however, they managed to find some fill-in players and the game was on.

Here is the play-by-play of the event that transpired that day, as told by three members of the Creelsboro team: Monk Oliver (the batter), Carlos Mann (the third base coach), and Kermit Mann (a runner, who was on third base).

"Oliver fouled the only baseball they had over in an adjoining field. While someone went to get it, George Elmore, who had been standing in a crowd of people along the third base side, near the backstop, came out of the crowd and started walking toward home plate. The day before, someone had sworn out a warrant on him for causing a disturbance. Constable Leo Mann, who had been watching the game from beyond first base, saw Elmore come onto the field and walked out to arrest him. It was reportedly after Elmore said he would only be taken in after the game was over, that Mann drew his gun. The two men began to wrestle over it and as they did, Elmore's buddy, Jasper Hadley, who had also been standing along the third base side, came onto the infield, drew his pistol, and shot Leo Mann. He meant to shoot Mann again, but his second shot accidentally struck Elmore. Leo Mann's nephew, Bill Mann, was standing in the crowd along the first base side. He came running onto the infield yelling at Hadley to stop. He drew his gun and shot at him, but the gun jammed. A second shot struck Hadley, but not before Hadley had fired at him, striking Bill Mann in the neck.

Elmore walked to near home plate before he fell to the ground. Leo Mann fell near where he was shot. Hadley, age 30, walked over to near third base, handed his pistol to Porter Conner, told him he thought he had killed Elmore, then fell to the ground dead. Bill Mann, age 35, walked up on a bank behind first base, where he dropped dead. George Elmore, age 23, was taken to Dr. Ballou's office at Rowena, where he died that evening. Leo Mann, age 35, was taken to Dr. McClendon's office in Russell Springs, where he died the next evening.

The entire episode only lasted one to two minutes. Four men lay dead and only four shots had been fired. None of the ballplayers, nor anyone else, was involved."

That was the last time Pete Conner allowed a baseball game to be played on his farm.