Sports Of All Sorts Scattered Between The Dots…………When Heroes Leave The Team That You Love…………………….By RC

In the late 50’s and early 60’s I became interested in sports and like so many other kids my age, I attached myself to a professional team in football, basketball, and baseball. Many of the allegiances to certain teams was developed because of a favorite player who had appeared on a trading card. For me those trading cards were either in football or baseball. I never remember owning a basketball trading card. Sometimes the attraction was due to being impressed with a game or reading a story about a player or a team…………………..In 1958 the Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants 23-17 in an overtime game that has been dubbed the “Greatest Game Ever Played”. I did not see the game on TV or even read about it until years later, but one of my earliest heroes of my football card collection was a crew cut quarterback named Johnny Unitas. I loved the name: Unitas. I started reading everything I could get my hands on about Johnny U. And the Baltimore Colts gained my unbridled admiration………………….On Sunday afternoons when I would get home from church I could hardly wait to turn on our fuzzy-networked old black and white Zenith television set to watch the NBA. I automatically fell in love with the Boston Celtics. They had several stars with whom I could identify. Most notably was point guard Bob Cousy, center Bill Russell, the Jones boys: Sam and KC, and the best sixth man who ever played the game: John Havlicek. Man could they play! From 1959-67 the Celtics would win a record eight straight championships. Times were good in Beantown for the boys in green playing on the parquet floor of historic Boston Garden……………In 1957 when I was in the third grade my teacher assigned us our first ever book report. We could select a little thin book of approximately 15 pages with each page containing only one paragraph. My selection was a book about a man named Lou Gehrig with the famous NY on his cap. I read that book over and over and was hooked on the Yankees for what looks to be a lifetime. At that time however the Yanks were carrying on a dynasty with the likes of Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Casey Stengel and on and on. I loved it when CBS purchased the Yankees and had them on the game of the week every Saturday. My summers were made!……………………….I am really grateful that while I was a kid most of the time when a hero as dominant as any of the above-mentioned was on a particular team, they were granted the opportunity to finish their careers with that team, as they should have been. Only the Colts broke that sacred belief of mine when in 1973 they traded Unitas to the San Diego Chargers. Sure the Hall of Famer had seen his better days and he retired a year later. Couldn’t the Colts have let him do that in Baltimore? That is when I broke my ties with that franchise and learned to hope for a loss for them every Sunday after owner Robert Irsay moved them in the middle of the night to Indianapolis. I was devastated and broken-hearted and lost any allegiance to any pro football team until Earl Campbell was drafted by the Houston Oilers and earned his Hall of Fame bust for that franchise. And then owner Bud Adams moved them to Tennessee. After that, I was out of the NFL business………………Thank goodness the Celtics let all my favorites finish their careers in Boston. Many of them stayed on in the organization or promoted the brand after their careers had ended…………….And yes the Yankees retired Mantle, Ford, and Berra along with a host of other Yankees in pinstripes. They continue to that to this day…………………….So why am I remembering and writing all this stuff? It has everything to do with my little five year old grandson. His coach-pitch team is the Rangers and he and his teammates look like the American League’s best in miniature form. They are all so pumped suiting up in the Ranger blue. And yes they all want to be Josh Hamilton. At least I think they do because I know that my grandson and his best friend have #32 as number one in their hearts………………………..Every fan who adores the Rangers knows that at the end of the season Josh will become a free agent. Would I love to see him in pinstripes? Do I really need to answer that question for anyone? But when I think about all the little guys out there who day dream or play make believe baseball in their young minds and bleed Ranger Red and Blue I must say that I cannot stand the thought of Josh playing anywhere else or the Rangers allowing that to happen. I know that major league baseball like any other professional sport is more of a business than a game, as sad as that may be. But for adoring fans and especially the kids, the loss of their favorite player to another team has such an adverse effect on them. For one thing they lose their trust in the game and their absolute allegiance to that team………………Josh Hamilton has issues, and we all know what they are. But he has been such an awesome model because of his honesty and his willingness to admit wrong even when denial would be so much easier for him. He is human and when he errs, due to his notoriety, the news is splashed all over every media outlet in the free world. So because of this the writers and “businessmen” of baseball label him a risk and call his free agency a gamble………………………The Rangers should know by now that Josh’s character, not only in the way that he plays the game, but the way he lives his life as well, is worth every penny that he will demand at the end of the year. He truly acts like he loves his teammates and the Texas experience. I can only hope that he too will consider that when negotiations begin. No doubt, due to the fact that he is so talented and that he plays in an era that has produced the richest free agent contracts ever, that a very very lucrative contract awaits his signature. I just hope that it is signed in Arlington. For all the little guys sake! I want my little grandson and his buddies to tell their kids about watching one of the greatest if not the greatest baseball players ever. And I want them to be able to say that he was a Texas Ranger and nothing else. That will make him and his legend even more special…………..As much as I think the same should apply to Michael Young I don’t know if all this will happen for him. The Rangers have already put him on the trading block once and I don’t think they will hesitate to do it again. And #10 just wants to play the game as long as he believes that he is productive. It has been evident that he has more confidence in his skills than the organization does. The one thing that makes Young attractive to not only the Rangers but to many other teams is the fact that he is so versatile not only at the plate but also as a utility player who can do it all. In this era of specialized baseball his ability to perform at the highest level in this role is truly a plus. So let’s hope that he ends up a Ranger as well. That could happen unless some team offers him the opportunity to be an everyday player at the same position. That used to happen quite often when the league was expanding almost yearly. Expansion is not as rapid as it once was so staying put may be in his best interest………………..I was really proud last year when the Yankees inked Derek Jeter to a five year contract that pretty much insured that his career would end in the Bronx. Jeter is slowing down but like his friend Michael Young he will forever be valuable until he decides to hang up his cleats. Maybe the franchises suffer a little bit by allowing aging stars to hang on a little longer than they would like, but by doing it they also develop one of the most loyal fan bases imaginable. There may be many things to hate about the Yankees but ending the careers of those legends with grace should not be one of them………..Look at Emmett Smith! Jerry Jones should have made sure that he never wore anything but the silver and blue. But Emmett finished up a remarkable career in a mop-up role in Arizona. Shame on Jerry! And just think of the damage that he did to the most loyal of Cowboy fans. He never learns………………………..I try to put myself in the place of the owners, general managers, coaches, etc. but I am yet to be able to get to that spot that would allow me to say adios to any player who had put the ring on my finger or the banner above the stadium. I just don’t have that in me…………………..So come on Nolan, make sure that Josh remains a Ranger!………………RC

About Ronnie Clifton

Ronnie Clifton was a Texas Football Coach for 29 years. In addition to football, Clifton also served as the head coach in basketball and both girls and boys track. “I loved being involved in and playing sports as a kid, and I soaked up every ounce of available information about any sporting event; I also love to write. What better combo for me than becoming the writer of a sports blog?”
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4 Responses to Sports Of All Sorts Scattered Between The Dots…………When Heroes Leave The Team That You Love…………………….By RC

  1. Harrell Gilbreath says:

    Hey Ronnie,enjoy your blogs. In 1955 Dublin won their District Championship in Class 1A. Our Coach Glen Johnson promised us a surprise guest speaker at our football banquet. Our banquet was held in the basement of the old First Methodist Church in Dublin. We didn’t need a very big place because we only had about nineteen boys on the squad.Anyway, about 7:30 there was a knock at the back door of the church and Coach Johnson asked me to check the door.we were all watching the front door. When I opened the door a slender man in a grey suit wearing the biggest grey stetson I had ever seen was standing there. As I had been schooled all my life I immediately stuck out my right hand and offered , come in sir ,my name is Harrell Gilbreath. He took my hand , looked me square in the eye and said, Hello son , My name is Sammy Baugh. Ya’ll got anything to eat?

    • Ronnie Clifton Ronnie Clifton says:

      Great story Harrell. I coached at Aspermont and Sammy paid school taxes in our district as well as Rotan. In the mid seventies Aspermont had built one of the first all-weather tracks in the Abilene area. Ther was a lot of complaining about the cost from the property owners and Sammy came into pay his taxes and wanted to know if it would make his taxes increase. Our school secretary said no plus we are going to have horse races out ther too. They both laughed and Sammy said if that is the case I will double my blankety blank taxes. He was a character. He owned property about 10 miles from where the great Bobby Layne had a hunting lease. Two of the NFL’s greatest ever right there in Stonewall County.

      • Harrell Gilbreath says:

        That was the only time I ever saw sammy. In 1959 my nephew Bobby Gilbreath and Sammy’s son David both won their respective divisions ,1A and 2A n the 880. Bobby ran for Iowa Park and David ran for Rotan. I looked for Sam that day but I could never pick him out in the crowd.I think I am right on this but I was at the State meet three years in a row watching Bobby compete so I might be off a year. I remember one of those years a boy from Comanche, Gene Westmoreland was there and I believe he won his class in the 880.Back to the banquet in 55. Sammy during his speech remarked,”since we are in the cellar of the Church I have a couple of stories for you.” You probably know what came next. Great memories, See Ya!

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