Category Archives: Designated Hitter

Butch Davis should return to Heels’ sidelines

Butch Davis should not be fired.

I was one of the first to say it. Allow me, then, to be one of the first to say I was wrong.

When the NCAA violations and player-agent relationship revelations were coming to the surface at the beginning of this football season, and I was in the “Fire Butch Davis” camp. You don’t cheat at our University. Not at North Carolina. Maybe Davis didn’t know what was going on, and maybe there was nothing he could’ve done about it had he known it was going on, but the head coach of a major college program is the face of that program. And it was his signature hiring of the shady assistant coach, the one who brought these violations onto the University in the first place.

Maybe everybody is doing it, and maybe the system is broken. Those are points that can be argued, and have been throughout a tumultuous NCAA vs. College Football season. The problem was North Carolina found itself not merely in the middle of it, but at its epicenter. And that’s not the kind of scrutiny proud Tar Heel alumni will stand for.

Until now.

Davis’ job at UNC still probably isn’t on the firmest ground even after a trhilling Music City Bowl 30-27 double-ovetime victory over a .500 Tennessee team on Dec. 30. And, for all of the reasons mentioned above, maybe it shouldn’t be. If Davis is let go, I as one UNC alum will understand. It’s the price he and the University would have to pay for the ugly repercussions that led to 14 Tar Heels’ players being suspended — seven of them for the entire season — because of the NCAA problems. Winning is nice, but not at the cost of shame and rules-breaking.

But it was that win over the Vols that was emblematic of what the Heels were like as a football team — as a direct, highly-visual representative of the University — that enables those aforementioned proud alumni the opportunity to consider moving past the Season That Coulda Been with an ounce of actual pride in the process. Yes, there were injuries, quite of few of them, in fact, but every team every year deals with significant injuries. And the depth and talent issues in any given week that the Heels faced were brought on by none other than the program itself.

Still, UNC played the season with a vigor and relentlessness that we all want to see out of our teams each time they step onto the football field — and the composure they showed in a chaotic fourth quarter and overtime against Tennessee was stunning. There is one thing worse than a team allowing its vast talent to waste away and string fans along through a season of underachievement. And that’s a team that licks its wounds, shrugs its shoulders and turns it back on trying because it feels defeated the moment the opening kickoff is in the air.

The Heels never gave up on a season in which its promise was derailed for good before the opening game. Through the tumult, through the harsh stares and hard questions, the Heels kept on playing football and going forward through the season with a fight and a manner that can make fans and alumni, if not proud, then at least appreciative.

The players booted from the team for various reasons may have been the story of UNC Football this season. But at the end of the season, they weren’t the faces of the program.

And for that, Butch Davis deserves a second chance to rebuild North Carolina Football — the right way.

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Filed under ACC, Alex Podlogar, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, North Carolina Tar Heels, Sports, Sports columns, UNC Tar Heels

A handshake, a smile and a conversation with my hero, Ron Santo

RIP, Ron Santo

September 1999. The Cubs are out of it.

But we — my best friend Mike and myself — are in it. “It” being our longtime destination of all time — Wrigley Field.

A throwaway late-season series between the Cubs and Cincinnati Reds was meaningless for much of the baseball world. Two teams going nowhere, even if Sammy Sosa was having another monster year after an MVP season in which he led the Cubs to the playoffs.

Looking back, the Cubs, with too many September roster expansion players who had no business on a Triple-A field, let alone in Wrigley (Ruben Quevedo, anyone?), treated the series for exactly what it was. After a towering Sosa three-run shot onto Waveland Avenue in the first game on Friday — Mike and I could trace the ball’s flight from 20th-row seats behind home plate for our very first Wrigley experience — the Cubs didn’t score again for the rest of the weekend. Our first trip to see our boyhood beloved Cubs, and they go the last 22 1/3 innings without touching home plate. We were swept out of our first Wrigley visit.

Honestly, that didn’t matter so much to us. We got to see the cathedral, the Church of Baseball, and despite the long faces that appear in a couple of postgame photos we had taken of us behind the Cubs’ dugout, Mike and I look back fondly on the trip.

And Ron Santo was a huge reason why.

Sunday’s game was an ESPN “Sunday Night Baseball” game, for reasons probably lost on the network itself. Ryne Sandberg sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the Seventh-Inning Stretch (Caps are necessary for this at Wrigley) and we had a great view of him leaning out of Harry’s window. Mike and I had seats along the third base side, low in the upper deck, between third and home. It was a beautiful Chicago night (if you don’t count the baseball), with a brilliant view of the North Side skyline beyond the ivy and bricks.

After the game, Mike and I lingered in our seats. We had to leave at 5 a.m. for the drive home the next morning, but wanted to soak as much of Wrigley in as we could. We were two of the last the leave.

Ronnie always said what we fans said -- only he had the microphone.

A great thing about Wrigley is that the stadium is so simple. Even the bathroom troughs have some charm. The concourse, especially at that time, was the only way for fans to get to the upper deck, or for the media to get to the pressbox. We watched Sandberg walk out after the 7th, in fact. And, if you are early enough to the ballpark, you might catch a player on his way into the clubhouse.

Finally, with the brightest lights dimmed, Mike and I left our seats and walked toward the breezeway. We make the first turn on the way down, and here comes Ronnie.

Santo is my biggest baseball hero. By far. Of course, he’s one of the greatest Cubs of all time. In fact, though Cooperstown is less of a shrine without him, he’s one of the game’s greatest third basemen. But that was before my time. I loved Ronnie for a lot of the reasons people my age loved Ronnie — he is a Cubs icon, as much for his playing days as for his radio broadcast career on WGN Radio. Ronnie can’t just be called a homer, which he was, because was the ultimate fan, only with a microphone in front of him. When Brant Brown missed the easy fly ball that would have put the Cubs into the playoffs a day earlier in 1998 (thank you Neifi Perez), Ronnie said what the rest of us said: “OH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!”

But Ronnie was more than that to me. My mother fought juvenile diabetes for most of her life, as did Ronnie, in a time when few people, not to mention doctors, really understood the disease. When Santo played ball, he didn’t always treat his diabetes with insulin; many times he ate a candy bar and drank a coke. For six years, even his teammates didn’t know he played with the disease. Knowing all that, go back and look at his numbers again.

And so Santo’s unbelievable charity work for diabetes hit home with me. My mother went through two major heart surgeries, a kidney transplant in 1985 (she was her surgeon’s 50th transplant patient), numerous eye surgeries that still couldn’t save her sight in her left eye and intense pain in her extremeties. She eventually lost her fight four years ago, but along the way, Santo had his own heart trouble, had both legs amputated, and finally, on Dec. 3, 2010, lost his fight to bladder cancer.

Neither were ever known to complain about the illness. Ever.

But 11 years before this sad day, Ronnie was walking toward us, striding, I can still see through my teary eyes this morning, on his own legs. There’s no one around us. No one. It’s that late after a sold out baseball game. Somehow, we muster up the courage to say hello to Ronnie.

And Santo stops cold. “Hey guys, where ya from?”

One of us: “North Carolina.”

Santo: “Really? That’s great. You came all the way here from North Carolina?”

Me: “We even drove it.”

Mike: “Yeah, we were here for the whole series.”

Santo: “No kidding? Wow. Sorry we couldn’t have played better for you boys.”

Mike: “That’s OK. It’s nothing new.”

Santo: “Well, you got that right.”

Me: “Thanks, Ron. Thanks so much.”

He shakes both of our hands. “You guys be safe going home, OK?”

“Yes, sir.”

If only Ronnie had some clue as to what I meant in saying thanks. If only I had the time or the nerve to tell him why I had to say thanks.

But hell, I could barely breathe.

Mike and I still talk about that moment, and we laughed and cried with Santo for the next several years thanks to the beauty of MLB broadcasts on XM Radio. (“Hey, did you hear Santo when we couldn’t move the runner over in the fifth?” “Yeah, he was still groaning about it and saying, ‘Geez!’ in the 11th.”)

Today, though, we’re mostly crying.

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to shake my hero’s hand. I didn’t need a picture. I didn’t need an autograph.

I had a moment with the man. And, on his way home, he was kind, generous, engaging and actually interested in what my best friend and I had to say.

Just because we were good fans.

Ron Santo, I will miss hearing your voice when the days are warm.

But I will never forget what it sounded like.



I'll miss you, Ronnie.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Chicago Cubs, Designated Hitter, Major League Baseball, Ron Santo, Sports columns

Donnie Baseball is back in my life — again

I have this poster, too. Of course I do. It's my favorite of all time.

It’s official. I’m officially a partial L.A. Dodgers fan now.

The Dodgers announced Friday that Joe Torre would be stepping down and Don Mattingly would be taking over, finally ascending to a managerial job he seemed destined for in New York three years ago.

It didn’t happen then, but it’s happening now, and, as I was then, I’m torn. I wrote about this three years ago. Here it that column, from October 2007.

 

I’m torn.

Oh man, am I torn.

I always had a feeling something like this would happen, and now it appears as if it may.

Hey, I like and respect Joe Torre. And anybody who has read my blog knows that I think the guy got about as raw a deal from George Steinbrenner and the Yankees’ brass as anybody in The Boss’ blustery tenure.

But now it looks like the leading candidate to replace Torre is Don Mattingly.

And for me, that’s great.

And terrible.

Every kid who grows up playing baseball has a favorite ballplayer. But for every kid who thinks working on game-time situations in baseball practice is the greatest thing since the annual arrival of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, well, having a favorite ballplayer is something different entirely.

It’s the root of fanaticism. Of hero worship. Of idolatry.

And for me, the diminutive middle infielder who could barely hit his weight but could bunt his butt off, my guy was Donald Arthur Mattingly, New York Yankees first baseman. No. 23 in pinstripes, No. 1 in my heart.

I was that kid. In my room growing up, two of my walls were dedicated to Donnie Baseball. Posters, Beckett Baseball Card magazines. Newspaper clippings. Cards. T-shirts. Anything and everything Mattingly, it went up on the walls.

I can’t explain this. Honestly, I can’t. It should have been Ryne Sandberg. It could have been Mark Grace. I’m a Cubs fan, one in a generation that was brought up on WGN and Harry Caray and 2 p.m. summer baseball games on 24-channel cable systems. That was me.

But it was Mattingly who did it for me.

Guts. Grit. No complaining. Just play ball, and dammit, play it well.

I can try to explain it, but I don’t ever get very far. I didn’t play first, though I did always play infield as a kid. But I was right-handed, and I sure as heck didn’t hit with the kind of thunder the Hit Man did before a back injury brought both him and me to tears. And I was never big enough to wear No. 23 on my back, not with little league jerseys being sized according to number.

But I did hit left-handed. That came from my dad, who, after a rather ignominious senior year of high school baseball at the plate, turned lefty for the first time in a playoff doubleheader and started clobbering the ball, even belting a home run.

His coach told him never to bat right-handed again, and when I came along, dad was foresighted enough to teach me the game from the left side. With a whiffle tee ball set, dad made sure I batted from the left side from the time I was 3, knowing that once kids started to throw curve balls, the ball would break into the strike zone to me. Not only wouldn’t I be scared, I’d be able to hit. This actually worked for a time and helped me onto a couple of all-star teams.

The stance -- and crouch -- that made him who he was at the dish. It also wrecked his career -- and prolonged mine.

And I can remember one time in high school, struggling badly with the bat, eschewing my stand-up batting stance for one like Mattingly’s low crouch, the one that eventually wrecked his lower back and derailed his rocket ride to Cooperstown. Leaning back into that crouch, moving my left shoulder back and down toward the catcher, I saw the ball a split-second longer and actually started making contact again.

Donnie Baseball was there for me, all along.

And now, more than 15 years later, he’s back in my life. He was the bench coach for Torre last season after serving as the Yankees’ hitting coach for three years. But in those roles, the pressure wasn’t ever on my guy, and the Yankees’ success or lack thereof didn’t necessarily have anything to do with him.

The Yankees are the Evil Empire now, though, which they weren’t when Mattingly was playing there. They are the towering symbol of all that is wrong with baseball’s economic structure. They are the franchise that accepts winning and nothing else. While that always sounds good on paper, it translates to a sour climate that has no real joy, only frustration at anything short of a championship and mere relief when it all comes together. What fun is in that? Who wants to be a part of that?

His time. My worry.

Except Mattingly may soon be the focal point of that monster. Should he get the job, every single little thing he says and every single little move he makes will be debated, dissected and, possibly, destroyed.

While Mattingly may be willing and able to take that kind of incessant heat, I’m not sure I can, and I’m not even a fan of the Yankees. It’s something deeper, really, something a shrink could probably have fun with.

Donnie Baseball.

What it comes down to is that I don’t want my favorite player to look bad. Not ever. It doesn’t matter that Mattingly is just a ballplayer, a guy I’ve never met who, for all I know, might in reality be the biggest jerk the world has ever known (although that’s unlikely, what with Barry Bonds still around). Why I should care about Don Mattingly’s legacy or reputation, I don’t know. I just know that I do. I imagine Mickey Mantle fans, cognizant now of Mantle’s alcoholism and his womanizing, feel the same way. Something you held dear from your childroom gets shaken, and when you look back, it all feels so phony, like such a colossal waste of time.

With Donnie Baseball at the helm, I realize that it would be his best shot at getting that elusive ring, and knowing my luck, it would come against the Cubs. But while it could mean undeniable glory for my main man, I also understand that the Yankees could destroy him, and that would get to me.

At the same time, I realize that I could never truly root against the Yankees.

At least not until they ran my guy out of town on a rail like they did Torre.

And then I would hate them, hate them like I’ve never hated anything in my life, and that would include the St. Louis Cardinals.

And so you could say I’m torn.

After all, I’m the guy who, at 23 years old, named his beagle puppy Mattingly in 1999.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, L.A. Dodgers, Major League Baseball, New York Yankees, Sports, Sports columns

Stop the presses! For me, anyway

I'll miss you.

Nine years old. 1984. It’s been a big summer for my new favorite team. After moving to central South Carolina, my family got this thing called cable. There is a box that is actually connected to a long cable, or wire, and it has about 30 buttons on it. This thing changes channels.

One summer day a year before, I went through all of them, starting with 2 and going up.

I stopped at 9. Baseball was on. I love baseball. It was here my love affair with the Chicago Cubs began.

A year later, I’m getting ready for school. It’s morning, and it’s September. The Cubs are in a pennant race, and I’ve got to know.

No internet. No web. Heck, no time for ESPN.

Thank goodness for the newspaper.

Cubs win. Right there in black and white.

Middle School. Seventh grade. An avid sports page reader, I clip articles about all of my favorite athletes and post them on my bedrom wall. Don Mattingly. Ryne Sandberg. Kirby Puckett. Larry Bird. Art Monk.

I already know what I want to do with my life. The middle school doesn’t have a school paper. I ask if we could start one. One teacher, Mrs. Satterwhite, says we can use her planning period and classroom to get it up and running.

Myself and three other students join in. One of them is the one girl every 7th-grader wishes would just talk to him, much less hang onto him at the school dance. Way out of our league. Turns out she’s just a normal kid, and kind of a dork, like the rest of us. Interesting. Anyway, the L-E Post is born (for Lugoff-Elgin Middle School). It’s more newsletter than newspaper, for sure.

But it’s ours.

I’m hooked.

Senior in high school. 1993. My third year on the school paper. No other Pinecrest student had ever done that before. Maybe nobody wanted to. The teacher, Mrs. Boyer, had to get a special exemption to make it happen, since there was no Journalism III class.

But it was my year to be a Co-Editor, after being the Sports Editor my junior year. Paula B wasn’t going to take that away from me.

A friend has a fantastic idea. James Moore has been the girls’ basketball coach at Pinecrest for eons and has a couple of state championships in his hip pocket. Beautiful man. Pinecrest’s gym isn’t named for anyone, but it should be.

I agree. I write a back page column, “The Senior Voice.” Coach Moore doesn’t want any fuss, won’t comment.

But Felton Capel will. He goes to the Moore County School Board and the ball is rolling. You don’t turn down Felton Capel. Not in Moore County. His presentation includes my column.

A year later, I come home from Chapel Hill for “James H. Moore Day” at Pinecrest. I sit on the dais and even get a moment to speak. Coach Moore’s name adorns the gym’s wall now.

It wasn’t necessarily my idea. Credit my buddy Neil Oakley.

But I had the pen and the keyboard.

The future is now.

A part of freshmen orientation at Chapel Hill. Parents are invited, and we go to a discussion catered to our prospective major. Naturally, we’re in the Journalism and Mass Communication hall.

After a brief presentation, we mingle with professors and such. My dad and I strike up a conversation with one. We talk about the future. The man says one day we’ll all be able to have newspapers in our hands on small electronic devices. There may not even be paper involved anymore.

This is 16 years ago.

I go cold.

"Shoe," patterned after, "Shu."

Summer school after sophomore year. Done with my general college requirements, I jump into more J-School stuff. Who do I draw for Newswriting? Of course. Jim Shumaker.

“Shu,” the inspiration to the comic strip “Shoe,” is about 4,372 years old. He cuts an intimidating figure still. But it’s his sandpaper voice and fierce red pen that get you. Day 1, he tells us nobody will get an A in the class. “I’ve done this 50 years,” he growls. “There’s nothing you 20-year-olds can do that I can’t find fault with.”

There are 20 of us. One day he asks the room, “How many of you want to do TV?” Half the hands go up. “Uh-huh. And how many of you want to go into PR?” The other half go up. “Jesus H. Christ. Anybody here still want to go into newspapers?” My solitary hand goes up. “G-dammit, at least there’s one of you.”

Wish he was still vertical.

Shu gets me two summer jobs at Chapel Hill newspapers over the next two years. Not internships. Jobs. He gets the papers to pay me as a correspondent.

Newswriting with Shu. The proudest A-minus of my life.

The good ol' days, I bet.

I’m gonna marry this girl. She’s amazing. I’m young, but I don’t care. God, she’s the one. No semblance of doubt.

But it would be nice to have a job.

The Daily Courier in Forest City, N.C., obliges. Of course they do. I have a pulse. Football season is 15 days away and they need somebody. The football preview edition has to be done in 13 days.

But I’m enthusiastic. And it’s a sports job. Not bored of education, or cops and courts, or general assignment. And as a one-man sports department, it even comes with a Sports Editor title. Done deal.

I arrive with eight days to get the preview section done. Eight pages. Three high schools. Terror sets in.

Somehow I get through it, and the next six years.

That great woman has given me a wonderful little girl. We’re looking at bigger houses. One night at work, the past managing editor asks if I had checked the job sites lately.

The Sanford Herald has an opening for a sports editor. That’s half an hour from my hometown. And mom has been sick.

And it’s a two-man sports department.

No-brainer.

The news.

It’s been a helluva ride for the last six years. To say that I’ve loved every single minute of it would be something less than the full truth, but when I look back on this time down the road, I’m sure I’ll view it exactly that way.

About a week after I got to Forest City straight out of college, a spectator at a football game told me I had big shoes to fill to match my predecessor, who had been there 11 years. I had hoped when it was time for me to leave The Courier, someone might say the same thing about me.

I’ve heard that happened, but I don’t know if it was true. Hard to believe my buddy Fisher sometimes. And, I will admit, fully aware how selfish it is, that I do hope someone may say something close to that again now.

More News.

Because I am leaving The Sanford Herald.

And, for now at least, and maybe forever, newspapers.

I’m not sure what Shu would think. Then again, he had to realize one day that teaching was the right avenue for him to take. And so that’s what he did in the last years of his life, until the retort, “Still vertical” could no longer be the answer to the question, “How are you, Shu?”

But I am staying in media, just in another capacity. I’ve accepted the position of Assistant Sports Information Director at Fayetteville State University, and I am thrilled about the opportunity to serve that proud institution.

There are too many people to thank personally for fear of leaving someone out, but they range from Mrs. Satterwhite to Paula Boyer to Jim Shumaker to Wister Jackson and Jim Brown at The Courier to Bill Horner III at The Herald. But to every person who has ever said something to me — good or bad, agree or disagree — about something I wrote, I owe you all the most precious and heartfelt of thank yous.

There is something about newsprint. Thumb through a newspaper, and the newsprint’s coal-like sheen will effortlessly cover your fingertips.

But it takes soap, water and some scrubbing to wash it off.

If only it were really that easy for me.

Alex Podlogar has been The Herald’s sports editor for six years and five days, since Aug. 16, 2004. Continue to read his blog at designatedhitter.wordpress.com and follow him on Twitter @alexpodlogar. The Herald will continue to publish a periodical column by Podlogar.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

The PODcast, prep football preview edition

http://media.podhoster.com/podlogar/2010.08.19-12.31.01-dedit.mp3″

In Part I, we break down the upcoming seasons for Lee County and Southern Lee.

http://media.podhoster.com/podlogar/2010.08.19-13.00.00-d.mp3″

In Part II, there are brief previews for Northwood, Western Harnett, Chatham Central, Jordan-Matthews, Overhills, and Union Pines.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Cape Fear Valley Conference, Chatham Central, Designated Hitter, Lee County High School, Northwood, Overhills Jaguars, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, Tri-9 Conference, Union Pines, Western Harnett

Cubs/Cardinals — and Facebook/Twitter

Normally after a Cubs/Cards series, this is me. Or any other Cubs game for that matter.

In the event you are not “friends” with me on Facebook or don’t follow me on Twitter (and really, what’s the hold-up, people?), I found that attending a three-game series between my beloved (and terrible) Chicago Cubs and the hated (and damn good) St. Louis Cardinals is even more fun when you involve social media.

So then, here are my Facebook statii and/or Tweets from the weekend series from Aug. 13-15, in which the Cubs improbably took two out of three from the Cards (and beat Chris Carpenter in the process) at Busch Stadium. They are in order from when I posted them, so you can relive the games as I did (only without the giant nachos and beer).

Game 1, Cardinals 6, Cubs 3

4:30 leave for the airport. 6:30 board plane. Chance to see cubs win in st. Lou? Unlikely.

Leaving Chicago Midway for St. Louis. Got great tshirts though. Go Cubs, or something.

Why do I even bother buying a metro ticket? Nobody ever checks em. I want my 4 bucks back St. Lou. If Cubs somehow win, don’t worry abt it.

All hope is not lost for baseball. Long conversation on train abt cubs-cards with young black man. Are u listening Bud Selig?

Pujols just hit the first of his three bombs tonight. Its officially a cubs-cards game: I’ve seen pujols homer.

Cards fans know their baseball. Standing O for Yadi Molina in 1st AB at home since the brawl. Chills. Well deserved. Helluva ballplayer.

Game 2, Cubs 3, Cards 2

Kinda psyched to see a no-hitter today. Good chance with Carpenter vs. The Cubs.

Let carpenters no-hitter begin.

Busch stadium applauds the cloud that hides the sun for 30 seconds. 98 degrees with a heat index of 412.

La Russa justed bunted Rasmus in the 8th. Why doesn’t he trust the kid?

What’s it called when the Cubs finish a game with more runs than the other team? Oh yeah, a “rarity.” Still, overjoyed to be a spoiler for a day and beat Carp.

Game 3, Cubs 9, Cards 7

Game 3 today. Two out of three is waaaaaay too much to ask, right?

Great seats for cheap. Kyle Lohse pitching. Cmon Cubs. Maybe we got a shot after all.

I bring out the best in Albert Pujols. Seven games in three years: six home runs. And he’s got four more ABs today.

In busch. Line to restroom. Cubs fan leaves, sees the Santo jersey, motions for me to take open slot. Brothers in bathrooms.

Bathroom again. Cards fan gives me hell for Santo jesery. Other cards fan says: “give him a break. Santo is their mike shannon.” Shook that guys hand. Well played

What’s with all the empty seats busch? 8 2 got u down? Go Reds.

Hey, Mateo, try a strike.

AAAAAARRRGGGGGHHHHH! Only the Cubs could blow this.

Whew. Marmol. Win.

SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dempster such a gamer. Love him. Thanks cubs.

Monday

Loved my time with the Lee-Piersons and the Cubs. But really, really miss my girls and ready to get home.

Home sweet home. For so many reasons, the two of which are obvious. (Three, if you add Barkley.)

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Chicago Cubs, Designated Hitter, Major League Baseball, Sports, Sports columns, St. Louis Cardinals, The Sanford Herald

Floyd Little’s Hall of Fame speech

This is a must-see.

And a must-read. Here is the text for Little’s inspirational Hall of Fame speech.

Jerry Rice, sit down. You too, Emmitt Smith.

This is a speech.

Text:

Thank you. Thank you. I am still standing. And I give all the glory to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. I am truly blessed to be standing here on this day to celebrate my journey as a person and as an athlete.

I only wish my mom and dad were here to celebrate with me. I know my mom is looking down on me today and she’s saying, Floyd, I’m proud of you, you done good. I also miss my two brothers. Fred, known as Ranger, and Charles, known as Gitty. Gitty was the real hero. He served two terms in Vietnam and was a war hero. I miss my two brothers.

Floyd Little


But God continues to bless me with three living sisters, Betty Jackson, Rosalie Johnson and Priscilla Goodson. These three ladies have been my biggest fans since I first put on a football helmet at Troop Junior High School. You have been my rock and strength on this journey. I could not have made it without your prayer and your support. Thank you for always being there for me.

I also have three very special and talented kids. You’ve already met my son Marc. He was my presenter. Marc is not like a regular son. He’s also my lawyer, my advisor, and my best friend. Life would be real different for me if Marc wasn’t around. I love you, man.

My daughter Christy who has blessed me with four grandkids, A.J., Skye, Blaze and Hayes. Christy is a proud mommy in training and has created a career teaching other mommies to be better mommies and I’m so proud of her for that. Christy, I am so proud of all the things you do because when I look at you I see all the things you do for our family. We are a close family because of you. I have been truly blessed to have you as my daughter. I love you, Christy.

My daughter Kyra. I have watched you perform on Broadway and on stages across this country. I have not seen anyone with more talent than you. You truly are a triple threat with abilities that make me proud to stick my chest out and say, That is my daughter. I love you, Kyra.

To Joyce Davis, the mother of my two daughters. Joyce, you did a great job as a mother. Thank you for your support during those early and challenging years as a Denver Bronco. Thank you for your support.

To my beautiful wife DeBorah, my friend, my partner and everything a husband can want. You stand shoulder to shoulder with me. You never wavered in your steadfast resolve, always willing to go to battle on my behalf, always ready to help me finish the fight. Thank you for always being by my side. You are my Hall of Famer and I love you.

No one travels this road alone. I can never have imagined the impact of a phone call I got from Tom Mackie’s wife Emily. She called asking if I would consider meeting Tom for his 40th birthday because I was Tom’s hero. Not only did Tom and I meet, but he became the co-author of my first book, Tales from the Bronco Sideline. My biggest advocate for my Pro Football Hall of Fame consideration. Now Tom is my hero. Thank you, Tom Mackie, for all you’ve done. I truly appreciate it.

Lastly I want to thank my biggest friend and supporter, Jim Gray. Thank you, Jim Gray, for all you’ve done that contributed to my moment of being here today. I’m truly grateful, Jim, for all you’ve done.

The list of those that’s had an impact on my life and career is long, but I must give thanks to Ernie Davis, to Jim Brown, to John Mackie, to Hal Williams, to Ernie Barnes, to Billy Thompson, and my coaches Dan Casey, Al Verdel, Jay Lou, Ben Swartzwalder, Lou Saban, John Ralston. A special thanks to the Hall of Fame committee, Jeff Legwold, Jim Saccomano, and my Syracuse family, Dr. Nancy Carter and Dr. Daryl Gross and the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden. To all my classmates, all my teammates from Hillhouse High School, Bordentown Military, Syracuse University, and the Denver Broncos. To Pat Bowlen and the entire Bronco organization, and to all the Bronco fans around the world. To all my friends and family who are here, and those who could not be here, thank you for your loyalty and your support over all these years. I am truly, truly grateful.

There’s no words to describe the joy of experiencing this final sports chapter in my life. This is obviously the highest honor any football player can garner. I stand here today celebrating my athletic life journey, and I understand significant. Everything else pales in comparison. Every player wakes up wishing to have this honor. I encourage you all to continue to dream for this moment. I have been favored by God and by those who have had a say in what happens to me.

But the road was not always so easy and clear. I remember being a strong but angry young man in school. I used my strength in ways that became my weakness. After being kicked out of school, I had reached an impasse in my life. Everything was done. My hopes were shattered and done. And then I had a vision from my late father that came to me and said, Floyd, I’ve chosen you to take my place, to do what I could not do, and to finish what I could not finish.

I came to myself. With the help of those who saw the good in me, I was re-enrolled back in school with determination. Not only did I become the president of my class, but I started my journey as a leader in everything that I did, and I never looked back.

Because of those that encouraged me in those early years, I am here today. So I want to encourage you, every student, every athlete, every person who will hear my voice, don’t listen to the naysayer. I had plenty of those. Don’t listen to those that will judge you for your rough edges. Don’t focus on your weakness so you won’t become a victim. Find the goodness in you that says, Yes, I can be a good student. Yes, I can be a good son and daughter. Yes, I can be a positive role model. Yes, I can, because the good in you is better than the worst in most. The choice is yours. Be the best that you can be.

I truly believe that none of us is anything until the least of us is something. The great writer James Baldwin said, Naked I came into this world and naked I shall leave. We are bound to leave everything we accomplished in this lifetime behind, passing it on. So leave a legacy that you and your family can be proud.

I’ve given you the best that I’ve got. And I’m a better person for it. Thank you for being here with me and for me. I thank God for His favor today, and may God bless us all. Thank you so much.

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