Loran Smith’s Sports Column: Sports and Reminiscing

Published 4:32 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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One of my pastimes is reminiscing which seems to be gathering

steam as I count my birthdays.


The time for reflection most often comes about at the start of baseball

season. It causes me to flash back to my days on the farm where there

was no television—only scratchy static on an old Philco radio. We couldn’t

afford a daily newspaper but if we had, the baseball scores would arrive at

least a day late, sometimes, two.


I saved my pennies and couldn’t wait to buy a copy of SPORT

Magazine and read the in-depth stories on players like Robin Roberts, Dom

DiMaggio, Duke Snider, Bob Feller and Warren Spahn.


The teams they played for were as far away as Saturn and Jupiter.

However, I knew about Fenway Park and the Green Monster, the wall in left

field. I was aware that Yankee Stadium was the “House that Ruth Built.” I

knew that the ivy on the walls of Wrigley Field would turn green with the

passing of time, about cotton chopping time in May.


There was a deep and abiding passion for the game of baseball. I

read every book at the county library about baseball. I dreamed of going


to a Big-League baseball game someday and then chastised myself about

the pure folly of my day dreaming.


Then it happened. My senior class took a trip following graduation to

Washington and New York. Our coach was from Valdosta and knew Ellis

Clary, a journeyman player with the Washington Senators and St. Louis



At the time of our trip, Clary had become a coach for the Senators.

Our coach called Clary who found bleacher tickets for a group of us, and

we were overwhelmed when he invited us in the locker room after the

game and regaled us with his unvarnished profanity. We never knew

anybody could cuss like that. Little did I know that such commentary was

standard with America’s pastime.


When we got to New York, our coach took us out to Yankee Stadium

for a game, buying bleacher seats for us wide-eyed country boys. Mickey

Mantle hit a batting practice home run in the area where we were sitting.

Today, I am often amused by the fact that the Braves play in the

classiest ballpark in the majors and only an hour and a half away from my

front door. Even with access to a media credential, I would rather watch

the Braves on TV.


I have had the good fortune to get to know many ole timers in the

Atlanta area. It is fun to interact with them and reminisce about their time in

the Big Time. It is also interesting to see how affluent they became playing

a game for a living.


A player who spent ten years in baseball with any degree of success

in recent times more than likely earned in excess of 100 million dollars. The

Super Stars can’t count all the money they make. Even so, many of them

squander their fortunes.


You think about the ole timers who didn’t save any money and didn’t

invest any of it and had to eek out a living with pedestrian jobs that barely

kept them off relief rolls.


Then there was Ty Cobb who bought General Motors and Coca-Cola

stock which made him a wealthy man. Cobb’s success is a reminder that

there has always been opportunity in sports if you take advantage of your



While I do not know the details of the contracts that the players and

the clubs engage in today, it sure seems that everybody is making money.

The owners certainly don’t experience any red ink today if they own a Big-

League ball club.


The pure fun of the game, dating back to balls wrapped in friction

tape and bats repaired over and over, has remained the same. Kids no

longer choose up sides and play for the fun of it.


They have parents and coaches who are reminding them that if they

play well enough, they might make it to the Major Leagues and earn a

hundred million dollars and retire before they are forty years old.