PLAY BALL!!!

PLAY BALL !!!

James Blake, was an American tennis professional from 1999 to 2013—obviously, not a geezer. But he caught my attention with his book ”Ways of Grace”, stories of activism, adversity, and how sports can bring us together. What follows here are some short bio’s of several geezers that will summarize for us all how sports made a strong impact on their lives following or during their professional careers.

If you live in a community loaded with retirement residents, it’s as easy as falling asleep in front of the TV when trying to find geezers with some type of sports history. Some did sports merely during their school years, but others carried one or more elements of sports into their career. No matter how long they carried sports participation they enjoy talking about their exploits and even, in some cases, displaying whatever memorials they have. I reached into my hat and found several who had sports involvement worth passing along to you readers.

BILL DeCOLIGNY is first and foremost an artist. His colorful paintings are scattered around the halls and rooms where he now lives in a senior type community. And his woodcuts are famous—especially one he did of three facial expressions of Duke University’s beloved basketball “Coach K”. But his art didn’t carry his career. He taught English in the Caribbean, history at Syracuse University and the University of Delaware and maintained an active academic career. So why are we using Bill DeColigny at the starting gun of geezers and their sports lives?

Football at St. Christophers School in Richmond, VA brought him a scholarship to Trinity College in Hartford, CT. He was a big kid in high school (still weighs in at 275) and was a star defensive tackle at Trinity. He set shot put and discus records while at Trinity and was All-New England in football. But his big moment in sports, coveted by many collegiate football players, was being drafted by the great Chicago Bears of that era. George Halas was the revered coach of the Bears and he drafted DeColigny to play guard. Defensive tackle had been his position, so Halas sent him to Saskatchewan to become a guard, but the coach in this minor league team let him play in his favorite position. With the disagreement between coaches, that meant that there was no spot on the team for Bill, so that was the end of professional football and he returned to the US and began his teaching career. Being drafted by the Bears, who were pro football’s premier team then, appeared to be a college grad’s dream toward fame and a start on fortune, but as we saw with disagreement between two coaches, the dream was easily shattered.

As he grows older and can concentrate on his art and poetry (he says he is writing a novel), agrees that being in sports helps one to appreciate the value of competition in life, although he is convinced that modern American football will gradually wither away due to lifetime injuries and the game will revert to flag football played in these huge and glamorous stadiums which then will be full of empty seats.

Here’s a story where an early life in sports led into a long career combining sports with major development work in medicine. RAYMOND “BUCKY” WATERS, began his sports career playing three sports in high school in Camden, NJ, then on to North Carolina State to play basketball under famous coach Everett Case. He planned a coaching career himself, and like most coaching careers, Bucky started in a North Carolina high school, then became a freshman coach which was followed by an assistantship at Duke University. His next spot was head basketball coach at West Virginia University where he coached their first integrated team. He never had a coaching job where he not only helped his teams post new records, but he helped build confidence and stronger personal relations among the young men for whom he coached.

After WVU he returned to Duke for four more years as head basketball coach. Following several years at Duke and also making several post season games, he traded in his coaching garb for a microphone and spent 35 years doing television game broadcasts working along side of famous sports broadcast names such a Marv Albert, Billy Packer, Al McGuire and others. You would have heard him on ESPN, NBC, Fox, CBS and several other sports TV and radio channels. These broadcasting years and his coaching years produced several very special lifetime awards that bear Bucky’s name.

But here is where the sports world led into a whole new life for Bucky that combined his sports ability and fame with a major development opportunity for Duke Medicine. Dr. William Anlyn, then the chancellor for the Duke Medical Center saw an ability of Bucky’s to reach out and connect with others, and appointed him as vice-chancellor of development for Duke Medical Center. So during those broadcasting years in Madison Square Garden and elsewhere, Bucky at the same time was helping build strong alumni support for Duke Medicine, helped attract millions for a Duke cancer center and co-founded The Childrens’ Classic which in itself has raised over $13 million for cancer research. Bucky is a sparkling example where sports in one part of a life can lead to an element of service and personal contribution in a much broader sense.

Next in this line-up of older men who have had years of sports activities, often tied in with their professions or careers is Orrin H. Pilkey, Jr., a world famous geologist. He included all his sports ventures during his years studying beach geology while at Duke University Nichols School of Environmental Studies. Actually, he began helping with the environment as a college student in Washington and jumping from low-flying planes to stop forest fires. But he went from the burning mountains of his home state to the study of sea bottoms and then to his long career analyzing beach health, overall beach conditions, and the decline of recreational beaches. He became the enemy of the Army Corps of Engineers who promoted beach nourishment by plowing up off-shore sand, blowing it onto declining beaches, only to watch it eventually wash away once more as storms did their expected beach damage.

During the years of study and teaching, Pilkey discovered the challenge of marathon running. He began his running effort during his 40’s and his first marathon was the “All American” marathon run at Ft. Bragg, NC. This led him to his first Boston marathon in 1975. He did two in Boston, one in New York, one in New Orleans, even one in China, and enough to add up to 12 marathons. All this while keeping up with his faculty work at Duke, his international beach analysis, as his wife helped manage a household with five growing children.

Pilkey has written a mile-by-mile review of his first Boston race. Runners under age 40 are required to have a marathon time of fewer than 4 hours and he expected to come in within that time range. He did not quite break the 4 hour mark during this first Boston race, but did the New York marathon in three hours and five minutes and the New Orleans in under three hours—2.56. The duration time is determined by many conditions, including the runners overall health, the weather, and the topography of the race layout. In the first Boston race, the temperature was a surprising and uncomfortable 90 degrees with some gradual hills while the New Orleans race course was all flat which helped produce his under three hour result.

He was encouraged to start this running part of his life by a fellow academic, Peter Klopfer, who tantalized him into the All-American race in Ft. Bragg. From then on, it became mostly an ego effort and welcomed the great thrills by reaching and crossing all the finish lines. It’s easy to compare Pilkey’s marathon running to his continuing determination within his profession, proven by his dozens of books, many articles, and world wide effort to study the lives and continuing changes of beloved beaches. His books such as “The Last Beach”, “Retreat from the Sea”, are written so we all can follow his mission, preparing us as seashore lives will change as sea water replaces sand and all our beloved seaside structures will be there no more.

Here’s a man, Fred Best, who also discovered running, but mostly in college, and is still running today at age 81. He had avoided sports in high school, but is tall and athletic in appearance, and a friend encouraged him to compete in track and this produced some wins in the mile runs. He then entered RPI in Troy, NY, and set school records and won the NY state cross country title. Fred feels running is a great human specialty. It teaches discipline and in every race you need to evaluate what you are doing in order to improve.

With his RPI degree he began his career at Johns Mansville in New Jersey in chemical engineering. His next move was into a family pencil business in various management jobs for fifteen years. But running kept beckoning him to return, so he participated in the steeple chase, a run of 3000 meters in which there are hurdles to jump over plus a water jump. He became so well recognized that he represented the US in international steeple chase competition. Somewhere along the line, I’m not sure exactly when during his professional career, he began doing marathons. Overall, he did 21 marathons, including 15 in Boston. This was some time before marathons attracted thousands of runners so they were not quite the mob scene they are today.

Another career change allowed him to get into sports medicine and sports health which took him to Johnson & Johnson where he spent 12 years and entered a post age 40 group of runners doing 12 and ½ mile races. Along about this time he also became a certified track and field official and now while living in North Carolina he officiates in various meets. But before North Carolina, he became a computer programmer, working for Chubb and Company as well as EDS in Rhode Island. And with these various career moves, running was all part of his life. He finally hung up his competitive running shoes at age 72, but still runs about two miles at a training Duke track while keeping his ability going.

What we are showing here is the value of sports before and during the lives of these geezers and how they may have used sports as a motivator or partner in their professional lives. We could also show the lives of many women who have followed the patterns recognized here with sports sometimes playing nearly a lifetime connection. YEAH TEAM!!!

 

Born in small town in Ohio, high school in Lorain, Ohio, then College of Wooster, then US Army Counter Intelligence Corp. where I learned most about human relations among the friendly and otherwise. Followed by a career advising businesses and individuals as the types and costs of employee benefits and personal insurance. Now a radio interviewing host

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