Where are amateur and professional sports headed?

September 8, 2013

Daily we read unflattering stories about amateur and professional sports. Ambrose Bierce called the amateur “A public nuisance who confounds his ambition with his ability.” Most of us enjoy certain sports that enable us to be a perfect fit for such a definition.

Beginning early a ball, bat and glove had a prominent place in my life. I do read with interest the sports pages of the newspaper and enjoy games on television.

When I was a child, my dad would practice with me. I had trouble knowing when to jump to catch a baseball. More than once, I was hit between the eyes.

I first met a Major League baseball player at the old Kanawha Park, Charleston, WV. I skipped a half-day of fourth grade school and rode with C. B. Hutton in his truck to see the Cleveland Indians and New York Giants. Mel Ott, homerun slugger for the Giants, would raise his right leg as he stepped forward to hit the ball.

Pitching for the Indians was the great Bob Feller. He walked in moccasins beyond first base. Knowing little about ballpark etiquette and rules, I hopped over the fence and hurried to the bench where he was putting on his spikes. I had a pencil and a small piece of notebook paper. He gave me his autograph that I treasure to this day. Years later, when I was a pastor in Decatur, IL, and color commentator on radio for the home games of the Decatur Commodores, San Francisco Giants farm team, Bob Feller came to our city and I spent enjoyable time with him.

Whom have I met in the sports world? My cousin, Jim Ellis, when I asked whom I should root for, said, “The New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers.” I am happy in baseball as long as the Yankees are winning.

Some well known sports figures I have met include, Carl Erskine, Jackie Robinson, Preacher Roe, Ernie Banks, Bobby Richardson, Bill Madlock, Dizzy Dean, Carl Hubbell, Frank Funk, Dallas Green, Larry Milbourne, Roe Skidmore, Bob Knepper, Walter “Boom-Boom” Beck, Del Unser, John Montefusco, John D’Aquisto and managers Ernie Rangazas, Don Brandon, Bobby Cox, Del Crandall, Joe Altobelli and many others in baseball.

In other sports, I met George Foreman, Bart Starr, Chad Pennington, Carroll Dale, Jesse Owens, Sam Snead, Billy Campbell and Chi-Chi Rodriguez.

In basketball, there is Jerry West, Johnny Wilson, Meadow Lark Lemon, Bobby Knight, Bill Armstrong, Greg White and Bob Macholtz along with football coaches, Don Nehlen, “Doc” Holliday, Bob Pruett, Jim Macholtz, Bobby Bowden and Mike Springston.

Whom would I like to meet? Tiger Woods, my favorite golfer; Kobe Bryant and most of all Tim Tebow, whom I admire. Another would be Randy Moss, the great receiver in pro football, whom I saw play when he was in high school. My son had Randy in a math class when teaching at Marshall and called him a good student.

I have conducted chapel sessions for sports teams at Anderson University, Marshall University, West Virginia Tech, University of Charleston, San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and numerous times for the Decatur Commodores.

Many athletes are a credit to the world of sports. Others disgrace it and may eventually weaken their leagues in terms of respect, attendance, revenue and salaries. Christian missionaries rank much higher on my list in terms of importance. Those wealthy athletes could give generously for the propagation of the message of redemption for all mankind through Jesus Christ. That message could also save the world and sports and restore both to the dignity and respect they once had.

© 2013 Wm. C. Ellis

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