Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Pinch Hitter

Bill Kidd played center for the University of Louisville and the school's legendary coach Bernard 'Peck' Hickman. After graduating from college, he entered the Army, where he was a star player on the Fort Knox team.

After the Army, Kidd began a coaching career, which led him to Clinton County High School, where he coached both basketball and baseball. Bill Kidd was the first coach at Clinton County to take both the basketball and baseball teams to the regional tournament in the same year. Just like his coach at the University of Louisville, the legendary Peck Hickman, Kidd was a strict disciplinarian, who never used profanity of any kind, and did not allow his players to use any. In fact, his players did not use words of any kind, because Coach Kidd required complete silence during practice, while traveling to games and during games.

What is it that makes a man forgo everything he believes in just to get himself out of a bind? Is the desire to win so strong that a man will rise above his principals for the sake of one single victory? I guess it all depends on how important that one game is. Obviously, whomever said winning isn't everything never won.

The year was 1955. The district baseball tournament that year was being played at Tompkinsville. The old Clinton County School Bus had just passed Marrowbone heading west on Highway 35. Little did anyone know that things were about to change for a couple of players on the bus -- Sid Scott and my dad, Darrell Speck.

Now, Sid was one of the best athletes to ever come from Clinton County. He is a Clinton County High School Wall of Famer. He was once named as one of the top five basketball players ever at CCHS. To say that Sid and his childhood friend, Darrell Speck, were rambunctious would be putting it mildly. Teacher Martha Brummett, who taught school for more than 30 years, said they were the meanest students she ever taught. Sid and Darrell weren't really mean, they just loved to entertain. Darrell would bring his guitar to school and the two of them, along with Deanie Dyer, would go from classroom to classroom entertaining. Sid loved to sing Hank Williams' songs.

Your cheating heart will make you weep
You'll cry and cry and try to sleep
But sleep won't come the whole night through
Your cheating heart will tell on you

Sid and Darrell would be driving down a road at a speed way past the legal limit and would change drivers without slowing down, and not from inside the car, but out the passenger door, over the hood and in through the drivers side door.

They were hanging out at The Snack Bar at three in the morning when up pulled a man with a truck load of chickens. As the man went inside to eat, Sid, Darrell and Robert Page went outside and were attempting to 'borrow' some chickens when the man caught them. He told them that he would give each of them a chicken if they didn't tear up his truck. Soon, the three boys were standing in the parking lot wringing those chickens' necks. One of them accidentally let go of their chicken and it went sailing across the intersection and into the parking lot of the New Palace Motel. It wasn't long before they were sitting inside The Snack Bar eating fried chicken.

Darrell's dream was to be a singer and a musician. In 1954, his band, The Rebel Rousers, had a 15 minute radio show every Saturday morning on WAIN in Columbia, In 1955, the group took their act to the area's brand new radio station, WFLW in Monticello. Sid would accompany Darrell and his band to the radio station. He became acquainted with station manager Welby Hoover, just like Darrell had, and later in 1955, when Darrell decided to quit school and join the Navy, a position came open and Sid was hired as a disc jockey at WFLW. When Darrell returned two years later, it was so the two could help put WANY on the air.

Before they reached their 20th birthdays, both Sid and Darrell had become extremely popular. Both men continued to broadcast and entertain for over 30 years and became two of the regions best known broadcasters and entertainers. But, it was on that Clinton County School bus on that day in May of 1955 that their talking and entertaining got them into a whole heap of trouble.

As I stated earlier, Coach Kidd did not allow talking on the bus while traveling to a game. Just past Marrowbone, Sid and Darrell broke the silence and began talking. If they thought they would get by with it, they were wrong. Coach Kidd stopped the bus near Fountain Run and ordered the two boys off the bus. Fortunately for them, a fan who was traveling to the game stopped and gave them a ride. They took a shortcut to Tompkinsville, pulled up at an intersection the same time the bus did, turned in front of the bus and beat Coach Kidd to the baseball field. The coach was furious. He ordered Sid and Darrell to sit in the stands and watch the game as spectators, instead of allowing them to be on the field as players.

But then something happened to Coach Kidd. Something about him changed. It was something so obvious that it was probably talked about for a long time. It was the fourth inning and there was a runner on base. The Bulldogs were down one and a weak hitter was headed to the plate. Suddenly, Coach Kidd called time-out. He walked over to the stands and motioned for Sid to come to him. And, standing there silently before the coach, Sid was ordered to come out on the field and pinch hit.

What is it about a pinch hitter that is so special? Usually, a pinch hitter is the best hitter on the team that is NOT in the game at the time he's called to bat.

Someone wrote that each time a pinch hitter walks to the plate, for a brief moment, a split second, he sees a vision. A crane flies slowly over a dusty road, over a line of birch trees, over a bog, and swoops downwards to a vast lake, the sun nearly blinding. The image just visits him whether he wants it to or not. Then he takes a practice swing, and is ready. After the pinch hitter has made the big hit to score the run, he stands on second, hands on hips. The runner points at him, an acknowledgement of success. The crane stands knee-deep in water, feeling the cool water lap around him.

Without saying a word, Sid grabbed a bat and walked toward the batters box in street shoes and clothes. When the first pitch was thrown, he smacked a line drive deep into the outfield. The runner scored to tie the game.

The May 19, 1955 edition of the Clinton County News stated that Clinton County defeated Austin Tracy 4 to 2 in the opening game of the tournament and that Sid Scott got a pinch hit in the fourth inning to tie the game. The Bulldogs defeated Glasgow in the second game to win the tournament. It was the school's first ever district baseball tournament championship.

48 years later, almost to the day, I called Sid at home to tell him that dad had slipped into a coma and was dying. Both had been retired for several years and hadn't seen much of each other, but on that Sunday afternoon, Sid sat beside dad's bed and, as he held the hand of his now lifelong friend, he assured dad that it was okay for him to go on to his reward in heaven. I'm glad I was there to witness that. I kinda wish Coach Kidd had seen that, too.

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