Archive for the Sports Category

At the finish line at last, R.I.P Silver Fox

Posted in Journalism, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2018 by macmystery

 

David Pearson

David Pearson

Born and raised in Georgia, I reside now in Beaufort, S.C., in the Lowcountry of the Palmetto State. But for roughly 15 years, Spartanburg County in the state’s upcountry was my home. My two children were born there.

Working for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, I immersed myself in the area’s sports history, if not its history in general. And that included learning all about David Pearson.

Pearson died Monday (David Pearson’s New York Times obituary). He was to the Hub City what Hank Aaron is to Atlanta. Or, in an even better analogy, what Rocky Balboa is to Philadelphia.

What he is to stock car racing is the greatest driver to ever slide behind the wheel.

I am no longer a NASCAR fan for myriad reasons, too many to count or run down here. But I respect it. And there was a time the sport mattered more to me.

My parents, particularly my mother’s family, had roots in rural South Carolina, and there was a knowledge of stock car racing passed down. I heard tales of Fireball Roberts. There was disdain, but respect, for Richard Petty and the Petty clan. Cale Yarborough was a good ole South Carolina boy I heard good things about.

But there was nary a mention of Pearson, born in Whitney, a textile mill village in Spartanburg. And in a lot of ways, that is symbolic of Pearson’s career.

I have never fallen for the fool’s gold that is the Cup, be it the Winston, Sprint or Monster Energy. Auto racing championships are misleading. They are disingenuous. They lie to you.

There is one thing and one thing only that matters in racing. Winning. At the end of the day, you either won or your didn’t.

Richard Petty, a winner 200 times over, is nicknamed The King. Rightfully so. He is the all-time NASCAR leader in wins, and his mark will never be broken.

Richard Petty’s statement on the death of David Pearson

And if you care about such things, he won seven championships, tied with Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson for the all-time record.

If Richard Petty was NASCAR’s Joe DiMaggio, David Pearson was almost certainly its Ted Williams.

And like Williams, Pearson was better.

He won 105 times, 95 times fewer than Petty. Also a number no other driver has sniffed. But Pearson did it in less than half as many races than King Richard.

Contemporaries, Petty and Pearson clashed often, finishing 1-2 in a race 63 times. Pearson won 33 of those.

Essentially a part-time driver, Pearson picked and chose the races he ran, rarely ever coming even close to a full schedule. In fact, the only years Pearson competed in close to a full slate — 1966, 1968 and 1969 — he won NASCAR’s top championship.

From 1972 to 1978, Pearson raced in just 143 races. Roughly 20 races a season over seven years. He won 43 times, averaging six wins a year. That number alone is only one fewer than Bill Elliott, one of the sport’s all-time greats, won in his entire career.

Petty was big. He was brash. He was public.

Pearson was quiet. Friendly. But he was private.

The Silver Fox, as he was nicknamed for his driving acumen, was overshadowed while he was still winning. And he was somewhat, though not in Spartanburg, forgotten when he retired.

Until 1999.

As so many publications did for so many sports when the new millennium approached, Sports Illustrated named its driver of the century.

This time, Richard Petty didn’t win. It was David Pearson.

A panel of 40 of the greatest drivers, owners, executives and crew chiefs in the sports history gave Pearson the narrow victory. (Actually over Earnhardt. Petty was third.)

It happened again in 2011. This time the accolade came from the Sporting News.

Pearson’s peers knew.

Despite my long tenure in Spartanburg, I didn’t get to know Pearson. I was a copy editor and a page designer, rarely getting out to cover, report or write. I met him only a couple of times.

(It was my pleasure, however, on several occasions early in my tenure at the SHJ to pull a fax off the machine in the sports department in the wee early hours of a Saturday morning to find Pearson’s name in that Friday night’s results for one of the handful of dirt tracks in the area. He was in his 60s at the time.)

Two of my friends and co-workers got to know Pearson a little better. I am jealous of them both.

Chris Winston and Todd Shanesy have both spent time as the keeper of the stock car racing flame on the SHJ staff.

Winston, like me, no longer working for a newspaper, put together a book on stock car racing in South Carolina that included an entire chapter dedicated to Pearson.

I expect him, in the near future, to put his thoughts about Pearson together. When he does, I’ll share a link.

Shanesy still works for the Herald-Journal and wrote Pearson’s hometown obit on Monday night.

For Shanesy’s 1999 story on Pearson’s Sports Illustrated honor, he talked to Cotton Owens. Owens, whose given name was Everett, is a NASCAR Hall of Famer for his time as both a driver and a team owner.

Also a Spartanburg native, Owens owned the Dodge team that Pearson drove to the 1966 Grand National Championship and voted him No. 1 in that Sports Illustrated poll.

Owens wrapped Pearson up best.

“He was just the best ever. It didn’t matter what kind of track it was. Short track, speedway, dirt track, whatever. Pearson could win anywhere, any time.”

“There’s never been anybody like him.”

 

 

List of the week: Doubling down

Posted in Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2010 by macmystery

San Francisco Giant Edgar Renteria, back, is congratulated by teammates after his three-run home run in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series.

Shortstop Edgar Renteria’s seventh-inning three-run home run in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series led the San Francisco Giants to a 3-1 win and a 4-1 Series victory against the Texas Rangers.

Renteria also had the Series-winning hit in the 1997 World Series for the Florida Marlins.

With the the homer, Renteria became just the fourth major league player to have the World Series-winning hit in more than one Fall Classic. And he joined quite an elite club.

Here are the major league baseball players who have had the Series-winning hit in more than one World Series:

 

Jimmy V

Posted in Sports, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 9, 2009 by macmystery

If you watch ESPN at all, you would have had to have been under a rock the past week and a half to miss the replay of this speech. Every year at this time, it becomes a nightly ritual on the network during the Jimmy V Classic.

On March 3, 1993, former N.C. State basketball coach and ESPN basketball analyst Jim Valvano gave this speech at the ESPYs after receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award. His body was riddled with cancer and he knew his time was short.

And his speech was magnificent. It’s one of those television moments I never grow tired of seeing. I’m sure the people I work with don’t feel the same way.  I’m sure they get tired of me turning the TV up every night to hear the speech when ESPN plays it. I don’t care.

In the speech, Valvano said he hoped to survive long enough to present the Ashe award the next year, but it didn’t happen. He fell victim to his cancer April 28, 1993.

Though he didn’t live much longer, there are two themes in his speech that have endured.

First, he very poignantly suggested how one could ensure they live each day to the fullest:

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Then he closed the speech with this:

“Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever. I thank you and God bless you all.”

(Many mistakenly believe that his famous quote, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up,” came in this speech. It did not. It came two weeks earlier, February 21, 1993, at N.C. State’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of Valvano’s 1983 NCAA Championship squad.)

Valvano’s entire speech can be found in a text version here.

I hope that should I ever be unfortunate enough to face an unforgiving disease like cancer, that I might have the grace and class that Valvano did.

Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award

The next Dick Weber

Posted in Family, Sports with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2009 by macmystery

I took Dylan on a long-promised bowling trip tonight with Grandpa Bill at the Oasis of Loganville, Ga.

He had a blast, bowling three games and even breaking the century mark (102) in the third game.

Of course, he had rails, but he’s 6 and he gets it. After an 80 and a 75 in the first two games, I told him his goal was an 80 in the third game.

He was easily on pace, with a 69 through eight frames, when he hit a strike — with no help from the rails, I might add — in the ninth frame, which brought cheers from the bowlers three lanes down.

Then he opened the 10th with a nine, and I knew if he got a spare, he would break 100. When he picked up the 10 pin, he got high fives from one of the girls from three lanes down.

Of course, after the strike and the awesome spare, he closed with an anti-climactic 3 in his final roll.

(Not that it matters, but I bowled a 117, cursed my shoes, removed the left one and finished with a 203 and a 188 wearing only one shoe.)

Dylan spent $1 on some ski-mobile spy-action video game, which was quite entertaining to watch, especially when he repeatedly ran into gates, trees, walls, buildings, etc. Then I took him to Sonic for an orange slush and popcorn chicken.

A great night.

Dylan and Danny

Posted in Family, Sports with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2009 by macmystery
Two of my favorite people -- Dylan and Danny Ford.

Two of my favorite people -- Dylan and Danny Ford.

I went to the Spartanburg Touchdown Club meeting on Friday at Wild Wing Cafe in downtown Spartanburg to hear former Clemson football coach Danny Ford speak.

Dylan loves Wild Wing, and since he had a big program at school (that his grade wasn’t even allowed to attend) and then early dismissal, I took him along.

He was excited to wear his Clemson jersey and take his clemson football to have Coach Ford autograph it, even though he has no real idea who Coach Ford is. Coach of the 1981 national champions somehow doesn’t mean as much to him as to me.

He got to eat chicken fingers, hang out with the grown-ups (the thrill of missing school played a role, as well) and get his picture made with someone who his daddy liked a lot. And he loved it, especially since Mommy and Ella didn’t get to come along.

The picture doesn’t mean a lot to him, but hopefully one day he’ll understand why it does for me.

Daddy & Dylan Day, Part II

Posted in Family, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2009 by macmystery
Dylan and Grandpa Bill at Atlanta's Turner Field on Monday night. It was Dylan's first major league baseball game with daddy, and the Braves won 4-0.

Dylan and Grandpa Bill at Atlanta's Turner Field on Monday night. It was Dylan's first major league baseball game with daddy, and the Braves won 4-0.

Monday night was Dave Ramsey Night at Turner Field. As a result, the seats in the sections at the end of the upper deck, in both right and left field, were all $1.

It seemed like the perfect night to take Dylan to his first Major League Baseball game. The Braves were winning and still in the wild-card hunt. The seats were cheap.

Brooke called my dad, and he said he was interested. So I picked Dylan up early from school on Monday and we drove down to Atlanta. Brooke and Ella stayed with my mom, and Grandpa Bill, Dylan and I headed downtown.

After a quick dinner at Arby’s, we caught the MARTA train at the East Lake station. Dylan had been looking forward to the train ride as much as the game. As it turns out, it was easily his favorite part of the evening.

Our seats were not bad, but that didn’t mean Dylan had any intention of staying in one. It was a two-plus-hour effort to get him to be still. He was in the aisle, on the steps behind us and three rows down at the railing.

At one point, he was leaning at the railing and yelling below, “Hey you, hammer head! Hey hammerhead, up here!” I thought, “Oh my God. He’s yelling at a person.”

Boy, did I feel stupid. When I reached the railing to admonish him, I realized he was yelling at an actual hammer head. Braves sponsor Home Depot holds a race similar to that of the sausages in Milwaukee, only it’s a hammer, a saw, a paint brush and a drill that race around the outfield wall.

Dylan and I missed a Chipper Jones home run while we were in the souvenir shop. That’s where I spent 20 minutes convincing Dylan that we didn’t need a red foam tomahawk for $5 (I must have 10 in a box at home) or an $8 red big foam finger.

(The souvenir shop is also where a I was approached by a hot latin chick about the 2009 Little League World Series T-shirt I was wearing.)

We bought two drinks for $9 and a bag of peanuts for $6.25. Ouch.

We stayed through the seventh inning, and then we left to let Dylan play in the big Cartoon Network playhouse and then take some pictures with some big statues. (The most disturbing of which shos Dylan sitting on Ty Cobb’s lap as he slides into a base.)

Dylan complained about the walk back to the MARTA station as much as he complained about the walk to the stadium. I guess it was to be expected. But for the most part, while a bit hyper, he was good.

Will he ever be a baseball fan? Enough to sit through a game? I don’t know. And that’s fine. If it’s not his cup of tea, I won’t push it on him. But I can hope.

MJ’s Hall of Fame speech

Posted in Sports with tags , on September 12, 2009 by macmystery

Here’s Michael Jordan’s induction speech for the Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night.

It’s pretty good. And the whole thing is much better than the edited clips on ESPN.