Softball ruled ESPN airwaves Saturday

Published 4:50 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2015

ESPN elected to choose the Alabama vs. Oklahoma softball game as its main attraction Saturday. In fact it loaded its airways all week long with numerous promo ads and even dispatched its top ranked trio of female announcers to Tuscaloosa to broadcast the games. This was because the Tide-Sooner matchups carried national appeal based on their national standings and previous World Series appearances.

Well, those promos were right on target because the games turned out to be the most exciting on its networks. That is all but one other series of games. While it did not get the flashy promotion as Bama, the Auburn-Louisiana Lafayette series were equally exciting. And, home runs were the main attractions in these contests.

It was like you score-I score throughout each set of games. The Tuscaloosa crowd, numbering near 4,000, watched on the edge of their seats the full three day set before Tide home run leader Marisa Runyon drilled a bases loaded drive over the right field wall to give the Tide the lead and eventually the win.

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That game was also filled with defensive highlights used by ESPN on its top 10 highlights of the day. One of those highlights was a miraculous over the fence catch by Alabama center fielder Haylie McCleney. That was just one of the Morris, Alabama native’s remarkable plays.

Auburn added even more home runs to its records and one of them proved key to their drive to the Softball World Series this week in Oklahoma, their first appearance ever in this national event.

I regret to report that Emily Vickrey and the University of Mobile Rams were eliminated from the Ladies Softball World Series in Sioux City, Iowa, on Monday. After winning their initial game, the Rams dropped a 5-2 extra-inning decision to LSU-Alexandria. I will have more details of that tournament next week.

Now, let’s take a look at some news from 1970.

Popular Atmore City Policeman J.D. Stewart retired from the local force that year. Many will remember Mr. Stewart as he patrolled the city streets checking on the parking meters. If your meter had expired and he knew you were in a nearby building, he would always poke his head in the door of the business and point to his watch. It was his friendly way of letting you know he didn’t want to give you a ticket.

Vandals burned Grissett Bridge that year, causing more than $25,000 damage. Located not too far from Barnett Crossroads, the bridge was 120 feet long. Residents were severely disadvantaged as they had to take “out of the way” alternate routes to school, work, church and to town.

Two prominent deaths were noted in spring of 1970. Greene King, owner of an air-conditioning firm, and Jamie (Weekley) Hendrix, formerly of Perdido passed away. Greene, who was brother to Doctor W.G King, had operated his business here for a number of years. Mrs. Hendrix, who was the mother of Rev. Arnold Hendrix, was living with her family in Valparaiso, Florida. She was also a niece of Mr. John Weekley, a well-known L&N Railroad agent here.

Elwood Barden Jr. was named “sailor of the month” at his California base of operation. The Auburn University graduate was recognized for his work in a surgical intensive care unit.

In the ongoing 1970 drive for a coronary unit to be established at Greenlawn Hospital, Masland and Sons made a sizeable donation.

Hugo Esneul, prominent local businessman, retired as chairman of the board at the Bank of Atmore.

Finally, I cannot say enough about my “renewed friendship” with Sam Ford. I have written several times about our days in the early 1950s at WATM. It was only a couple years ago I learned that he was living in New Orleans and was retired after working many years for a Network New Orleans radio station. In addition to his published articles and prize-winning radio and TV commercials over the years, the University of Alabama grad also did work in national network radio.

His former sister-in-law Annie Sue (Keller) Newman gave me his email address and we immediately began renewing memories from those days of long ago. I also stay in contact with his former wife Jeannie who now is married to a medical doctor and lives in Mississippi. Jeannie and Robert Maxwell were known quite well back then for their First Baptist Church singing duets and outstanding harmony.

But, I was totally amazed to learn that Sam has been married for a number of years to the daughter of a world renowned orchestra leader. His wife Joyce, and such a wonderful lady, is the daughter of Louie Prima, the great Dixieland bandleader and trumpet player. Prior to Prima’s death, he and Keely Smith recorded several hit songs. “That Old Black Magic” was probably one of their greatest hits.

In an email to Sam yesterday I told him I recently watched a TV movie (Analyze This) which featured a couple of Prima’s songs. He told me he lost many valuable collections, including prized Prima memorabilia, in Hurricane Katrina.

He has many friends still living here and he wants me to say he has a tender warm spot in his heart for Atmore.

More, next week.

You can email Lowell McGill at