Of Blues and Rogues

In my many years in Memphis, I had contact with lots of people. Some I liked and some I didn’t but one of my favorites was Will Carruthers of the Press Scimitar. After his retirement he became the general manager of the Memphis Blues. The name of our baseball team for many, many years was the Chicks but the name was changed to the Blues for some reason that I  didn’t understand and didn’t really care.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Will covered high school sports and he was a big fan of Christian Brothers College and Catholic high. Back in those days, there was no CBHS (they had a high school on the college campus, ergo, the high school was called CBC).

I was broadcasting high school football in those days and they played three nights a week on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Since I had lots of other things to do I relied on Will’s write-ups in the paper for any background I would need. I remember his favorite line–It’s pickem’ night in the prep league.

Will was as good as gold. I remember one night I felt lousy and the last thing I wanted to do was call a football game. I had a color man but I needed a big time guest at the half so I could goof off. I called Will at the paper and he said something like, “My boy, I’ll be proud to be on your program.” He was a great half time interview and he hung around for the second half and gave his insight into what was going on. Good guy.

The prep league integrated late in the 60’s and there were lots more teams and it was about that time that Coca-Cola ceased it’s sponsorship of the broadcasts and my high school career was over. WMC tried to encourage other sponsors but no luck.

My memory is a little vague here but my recollection is that Will retired about that time and took over as GM of the Memphis Blues. Dr. Bernard Krause owned the ball club. He and Will were a heck of a team. For some reason, the Blues weren’t drawing well and Will asked me if I would help by interviewing players and others. One of the others was Whitey Herzog. He bacame a semi-regular on TV5 sports. Lots of baseball big shots came to town and Will would always call me. The commissioner of baseball came for a visit and I think I was the only one to interview him. But my favorite was Cleveland Indians strike-out king, Bob Feller. Bob was one of best ever. He lost four years because of World War II but didn’t complain. He was in Memphis to pitch in a home run hitting contest and naturally Will  wanted as much free media as possible so I was filmed batting against the great Bob Feller. What a thrill.

About a week later Bob was back in town with a traveling exhibition from the Baseball Hall of Fame. I interviewed him again.

At that time, I was also the color man on WMC-TV telecasts of the Memphis Rogues, our soccer team in the North American Soccer League. Rudi Schiffer was the GM and he wanted me to be a cheer leader for the Rogues. I could handle that. Here is where the story gets good.

OK. The Rogues played a Saturday night game in Atlanta and were booked to fly home after the game–around midnight. The old Atlanta airport was small and cramped and this night it was jammed. I mean packed to the rafters. I was walking with Rudi when I saw a sign reading–Cleveland–and there was Bob Feller leaning against the wall. I said, “Hey Rudi, there is Bob Feller.”

“Do you know him,“ he asked.

“Sure,” I replied. I walked over and said, “Hi Bob.” He looked at me and said, “Oh, hi Jack.”

Rudi was impressed. But later I admitted to him that I only interviewed him twice in less than two weeks and that Bob Feller and I were not best buddies.

I wonder if he would remember me.  Probably not but I sure remember him.

Looking back I had so much fun there were times when I almost felt guilty getting paid. The key word there is–almost.

Big Jack can be heard every Friday at 8am on KWAM 990 alongside former County Commissioner John Willingham.

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