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21 to 2

Posted on March 11, 2016 at 2:26 PM Comments comments (13)
There are two rather funny stories I would like to share about Bill Russell, the finest defensive player in the NBA.  Bill Russell retired from playing basketball after the 1969 season.  Although he did coach for awhile in Seattle with the Supersonics and did a turn behind a microphone as a broadcaster, he claims he never played basketball again.  Well, almost.  He did play one game of one-on-one against his oldest son.  The following is his story.  “I took my two sons to the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany.  While there, my oldest son, William Jr., mentioned that he didn’t have much competition when playing basketball,” said Bill.  On an empty court in Munich, Germany, here is how the conversation went:
 Son, “Do you want to play me one-on-one?’
Russell, “Son, I don’t play basketball anymore.”
Son, “You scared of being embarrassed?”
Russell, “No.”
Son, “Well, I think you’re scared.”
Russell, “Okay, how many baskets?”
Son, “Twenty-one.”
Russell, “Okay.”
“I was leading 19-0 and I said to my son, ‘Now I want you to score twice.’  He looked confused but scored two baskets, and then I went on to win 21-2.  My son asked, ‘So, why did you let me score twice?’  Russell responded, ‘There are two reasons:  one, so you wouldn’t go away saying that I was so mean that I skunked you, and two, you can now go around bragging that you scored twice on the great Bill Russell.’”
The second story includes Russell’s powerful nemesis, Wilt Chamberlain.  Russell won eleven rings in thirteen seasons with the Boston Celtics.  The story goes:  Chamberlain once asked Bill if he could have one of Bill’s rings, since he only had ten fingers.  Bill said “No.”  So, Wilt said if he couldn’t get a ring then perhaps he should give Bill a finger.  I’ll let you guess which one.    
                                                             Andy Purvis
                                                      www.purvisbooks.com

Visiting With Dickie V.

Posted on February 11, 2016 at 5:06 PM Comments comments (7)
Congratulations are in order for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, as they defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10.  Now that Super Bowl 50 is over, it’s time to talk college basketball.
Love him or hate him, over the last 37 years, he has become the face of NCAA College Basketball.  With his high-energy delivery, unmistakable hollow voice and unlimited enthusiasm for the game he loves, he has also become an incredible public speaker.  This guy demands attention when he enters the room and the players love him.  He’s funny looking, nearly bald and has only one eye that works.  And like most Italian men, if you cut his hands off he wouldn’t be able to speak.  Meeting him is like going to the circus or being in a parade.  You just know he has a peach basket hanging somewhere in his backyard at home.  His catch phrases like:  “he’s a diaper dandy” (young player), “he’s the “Windex man” (can rebound), “dipsy-do-dunker-rue” (slam dunk), “he can flat-out shoot the ‘J’ (he can make a jump shot), and many others have become trademark slogans.  
In the summer of 1990, Pizza Hut announced they would become a major sponsor of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  Mini-basketballs would now be a giveaway with the purchase of your favorite pizza.  I was in Phoenix, Arizona, for a Pizza Hut rollout meeting and the guest speaker was the godfather of round ball himself, Dick Vitale.  Dickie V. would also be signing his newest book (one of nine).  Dick and I had several neat things in common.  We were both huge college basketball fans, enjoyed the history of the game, and we were both friends of N. C. State basketball coach, Jim Valvano.  In fact, my mom worked in the ordering department for all the sports athletic equipment used by the university.   When I met Vitale, we began to talk about Valvano and Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.  He asked me to sit with him, while he signed books for his fans.  It was quite an afternoon.
Richard John “Dick” Vitale was born June 9, 1939, in Passaic, New Jersey.  His father, John, was a security guard and clothing press operator.  His mom, Mae, worked in a factory as a seamstress.  Dick lost the vision in his left eye due to an accident with a pencil in kindergarten.  Dick graduated from East Rutherford High School.  He attended Seton Hall University, graduated in 1963, and later earned his master’s degree in education from William Paterson University.  In 1959, Vitale’s first coaching job occurred at an elementary school located in Garfield, New Jersey.  He would later become the head coach of Garfield High School and then East Rutherford High School.  By 1971, you could find Vitale at Rutgers University as their assistant basketball coach.  He was hired in 1973 by the University of Detroit, to be their head coach.  Vitale led his 1977 Detroit team on a 21 consecutive-games winning streak and the NCAA Tournament.  Dick Vitale was hired by the Detroit Pistons of the NBA for the 1978-79 seasons.  They finished 30-52 and Dick was let go the following year, twelve games into the 1979-80 season, on November 8, 1979.
Scotty Connal of ESPN offered Dick his first TV job as a broadcaster.  Vitale said, “No thanks.”  He knew nothing about television.  His wife, Lorraine, talked him into accepting the job on a temporary basis.  By December of that same year, Vitale was working as a color commentator on college basketball games with Jim Simpson.  By 2004-05, Dick was calling 40 games a year on television, for ESPN and ABC.  He is signed through the 2017-18 college basketball season with ESPN.
His broadcast partners have been many.  He has also worked with Dan Shulman, Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, “Digger” Phelps, Bob Knight, Keith Jackson, Brent Musburger, and Tim Brando, as well as the late Jim Valvano and many others.
After Jim Valvano’s death, Dick Vitale became the spearhead of the Jimmy V. Foundation for Cancer Research, which raises money in Valvano’s honor.  As mentioned, Dick has authored nine books and has also been a part of several movies.  He continues to travel and speak to students and professionals.  Dick and his wife, Lorraine, live in Florida, and they have two grown daughters. 
Dick Vitale was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008, as a contributor to the sport.  He is also in the College Basketball Hall of Fame.  In 2011, the University of Detroit named their basketball court in his honor.  On August 18, 2012, Dick was inducted into the Little League Museum Hall of Excellence.
Dick Vitale is awesome, baby, with a capital “A.”  I cannot begin to tell you how nice and genuine this guy is.  He is the same guy in person that you see on TV.  His enthusiasm is contagious, and he realizes that he has been blessed.  I watched N.C. State play last Saturday afternoon in Durham, North Carolina, against Duke University, the day before the Super Bowl.  Vitale did the color commentary as no one else can.  He just has that something that connects with fans and it cannot be taught.  At 76 years old, he’s no “diaper” dandy.  One day the world will go on without Dickie V., but I can promise you, it will not be as much fun.
 
 
                                                           Andy Purvis
                                                   www.purvisbooks.com

Yogi’s Rules

Posted on February 11, 2016 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (296)
In 1964, before Spring Training, former Manager of the Yankees, Ralph Houk, had been promoted to the front office as the new General Manager.  The new Yankees’ Manager had a familiar face, Yogi Berra.  He had played 18 seasons with the Yanks, so he knew the Yankee way of doing things.  He was a smart baseball man, but he had no managerial experience.  The first obstacle for Yogi would be the transition from being one of the guys to manager.  He would now be the man making the decisions.  He went from being their peer to their boss.  The transition got off to a rough start.
Second baseman, Bobby Richardson, always brought his family to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for Spring Training.  The day before Spring Training was to start, Yogi called Bobby and asked if he could come over to the home Richardson was renting.  “I want to try something out,” said Yogi.  “Tomorrow I’ll be talking to the ball club for the very first time as the manager.  I’m gonna set some rules,” said Yogi.  Berra then began listing his rules:  no tennis, no swimming, no golf, no card playing, and so on and so forth.  Then, Yogi said, he would tell the players, “We’ll work hard on the field, but we’ll have some fun, too.”   Then he looked at Bobby and asked, “How does that sound?”  “That sounds good,” said Bobby. 
The next day, Yogi gathered all the players and began reciting what he had said to Richardson the day before.  Yogi had made it to about his third or fourth “No” rule when Mickey Mantle stood up, threw down his bat onto the concrete floor and said, “Aw hell, I quit,” and walked out to a chorus of laughter from the rest of the team.  There went Yogi’s big opening speech.
  
 
                                                             Andy Purvis
                                                      www.purvisbooks.com

Fifty Years in the Making

Posted on February 8, 2016 at 2:51 PM Comments comments (138)
We lost a familiar voice a couple of weeks ago, Jim Simpson.  I grew up in Raleigh, N.C., and discovered Simpson in the late 1950’s as he became the first play-by-play radio announcer for ACC basketball.  This was the days of no televised basketball games.  My brother Cliff and I spent many nights listening to the golden voice of Simpson on my transistor radio.  Remember, the first nationally televised college basketball game was not played until 1968, when UCLA played the University of Houston in the Astrodome.  Interestingly, as I did research on Simpson for a chapter in my new book, I saw where Jim Simpson was also the first radio play-by-play announcer for the first Super Bowl.  It really is a small world.  
On Sunday, January 15, 1967, a local friend of mine, Jim Sambol, and 61,946 football fans made their way into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to watch what would later become known as the “Super Bowl” between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs.  Remember this was 50 years ago.  As you can see by the photo, his ticket cost him $12.  The going rate this past week was $5300.  The temperature at game time was 72 degrees.  Jim grew up in Kansas City and he, along with several hundred fellow country club friends, purchased a package to Las Vegas that included tickets and airfare to the AFL-NFL World Championship Game.  “We arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday,” said Jim. “My plane left at dawn, Sunday morning, for Los Angeles.  There where several chartered planes loaded with Kansas City fans and some flights left at a later time. Unfortunately, when the later flights arrive in L.A., the smog was so bad they were not able to land, so those planes were forced to turn around and head back to Kansas City,” said Jim.    
Some little-known facts about the Super Bowl I include that fact that the two teams used different footballs.  Kansas City used the J5V by Spalding, and Green Bay used “The Duke” football made by Wilson.  Super Bowl I is also the only Super Bowl in history to not sell out.  Of the 94,000-seat capacity in the Coliseum, 33,000 seats went unsold.  “I stood outside the Coliseum before game time and tried to sell our extra tickets, but there was no one to sell them too,” said Sambol.  The Packers were favored by 14 points.  This game was also the only Super Bowl to be broadcast simultaneously by two television networks, NBC and CBS.  The cost of a 30-second commercial was $42,000.  This year, Super Bowl 50 commercial spots will exceed 5 million dollars each.  Only six officials were used by the NFL from 1965 through 1977, so Head Referee, Norm Schachter, oversaw a combination of referees from the two leagues.  Since officials from the NFL and the AFL wore different uniforms, a neutral uniform was designed for this game.  Neither team brought their cheerleaders, so the Ramettes of the Los Angeles Rams performed.  “Halftime included a flying demonstration by the hydrogen-peroxide-propelled Bell Rocket Air Men,” said Sambol.  
As for the game, the Chiefs’ regular season record was 11-2-1 and they had beaten the Buffalo Bills, 31-7, for the right to play in the championship game.  The Packers, with a record of 12-2, beat the Dallas Cowboys, 34-27.  According to Jim Simpson’s halftime report on radio for NBC, Kansas City led Green Bay in first downs, 11 to 9, and total yards, 181 to 164, but the Packers held a 14-10, lead on the scoreboard.  The final score was 35-10, Green Bay.  Packers’ quarterback, Bart Starr, was chosen as the MVP.  Paul Hornung was the only Packer that did not play in the game, because he suffered from a pinched nerve in his neck.  Elijah Pitts replaced Hornung and scored two touchdowns for Green Bay.  The winner’s share of Super Bowl I was $15,000 and the losers earned $7,500.  “After the game, I purchased a dozen hats in the parking for a dollar a piece,” said my pal Jim.  Interestingly, the name of the trophies that are given to the AFC and NFC Champions are called the Lamar Hunt (AFC) Trophy and the Vince Lombardi (NFC) Trophy; and both played a part in this game.
Representing the two teams, a total of 14 players, two head coaches and one owner are currently enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.  The names are worth remembering.  Packers:  Vince Lombardi (coach), Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Forrest Gregg, Paul Hornung, Henry Jordan, Ray Nitschke, Dave Robinson, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, and Willie Wood.  Chiefs:  Lamar Hunt (owner), Hank Stram (coach), Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan, Len Dawson, and Emmitt Thomas.
As for Jim Simpson, his voice and name are attached to many high-profile sporting events.  Jim called 14 Olympics, 16 Major League Baseball All-Star Games, six Super Bowls and six World Series for television and radio.  He worked for NBC from 1964-1979, calling AFL and later NFL broadcasts. On January 15, 1967, Simpson and former quarterback, George Ratterman, called Super Bowl I for NBC radio.  
Over the years, Jim worked for NBC, ABC, CBS, and TNT.  In 1979, a small fledgling company named ESPN lured Simpson away.  His very name gave this new cable sports station instant credibility.  Jim Simpson called the very first college basketball game ever televised on ESPN.  His color commentator was none other than a new-to-the-business, Dick Vitale.  Vitale credits Simpson with helping him develop as a sportscaster.   Simpson also called USFL and College World Series Baseball Games for ESPN.  In addition, Simpson was the initial U.S. sportscaster to appear live via satellite from Asia, and he was involved in the first American sportscast using instant-replay technology.   Simpson, a television legend, received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sports Emmy Awards show, in 1997.  In 2000, he was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.  Jim Simpson left us for his field of dreams on Wednesday January 12, 2016, after a short illness.  He was living in Scottsdale, Arizona, when he passed.  He was 88.  
I have info from reliable sources that the NFL has invited all living players and their immediate families to attend Super Bowl 50 at no cost.  Personally, I have been blessed to attend five Super Bowls:  XXVII (27), XXVIII (28), XXIX (29), XXX (30), and XXXIII (33).  Those trips were always a blast and something every football fan should put on their bucket list.  My friend Jim and I would like to say, “Enjoy the game.”


                                                        Andy Purvis

                                                   www.purvisbooks.com

Perfect Fit

Posted on February 8, 2016 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (104)
He moves with long deliberate strides that tell you he knows where he is headed.  A great smile and eyes that sparkle; he puts you at ease quickly.  This guy loves basketball.  His first words may have been the “Big O” and “Wilt.”  In a crowd, he appears more comfortable than an old baseball cap.  He is intelligent, gives credit to everyone but himself, and is a fine speaker.  Some say he could draw a crowd at the North Pole.  He’s a guy that doesn’t mind showing you the way to success; it remains up to us to follow.  He knows we only get a short amount of time to be great at what we want to do, so he does not waste time.  He understands that sometimes greatness is about struggle not victory.  It’s about finding out what’s inside, the reason for being who you are.  He also knows that regardless of the score, there is always time to coach.  Shooting free throws with this guy for ten minutes will teach you more about him than 15 years of sitting at a desk across from him.  He’s a fine man, good husband, great father, trusted friend and a basketball coach.  A teacher in tennis shoes, Willis Wilson is the perfect fit for Islander basketball.
The first time I met Willis Wilson was at the 2011 NCAA Final Four.  Where else would you meet one of the most respected basketball coaches in the land?  Interestingly, Willis, the newly-named Head Coach of the Texas A&M--Corpus Christi Islanders, was introduced to me by the Islanders’ original coach, Ronnie Arrow.   We shook hands, spoke for a minute, and made plans to connect later back in Corpus Christi.  I grew up in ACC country and, like Willis, I also love college basketball.  I can’t wait for basketball season.  I attend the Islanders’ pre-season practices on occasion and Coach Wilson has always made me feel a part of his program.  In this crazy world of social consciousness, you will see, hear and smell three things at an Islander round-ball practice:  Character, Toughness and Talent.  He calls it the bedrock of his program when; in fact, I believe it is a reflection of him and all that he stands for.   I think the thing I like most about Coach Wilson is that he coaches the old-fashioned way, with respect, patience, honesty and understanding.
Willis Thomas Wilson, Jr., was born on March 22, 1960, in Indianapolis, Indiana, the land of college basketball.  His family later moved to Silver Springs, Maryland, where Willis won All-Metro Washington and All-County honors for Montgomery Blair High School.  As a junior, Willis led his basketball team to the 1977 Maryland State Championship.  The following year, Wilson was selected the MVP in Montgomery County and captained the McDonald’s Coaches Scholarship All-Star Team in the Capital Centre Classic.  
Willis later played basketball and graduated from Rice University in 1982.  He would begin his coaching career at his alma mater in 1985, as an assistant.  With stops at Strake Jesuit Prep, Stanford, Rice and then Memphis, Willis is the winingest coach in Rice history and has so far placed 25 of his kids in the professional ranks.  He has been selected Coach of the Year several times and has won way too many awards to mention here.  Willis Wilson accepted the Islanders Men’s Head Coaching position on March 25, 2011.  He inherited a very young team in disarray.   In his third season, the Islanders showed tremendous improvement.  In the 2013-2014 season, the Islanders earned a 14-4 win-loss regular season record in the Southland Conference and received a spot in the College Insider Tournament.  There they recorded the Islanders programs’ very first postseason win since the team’s inception in 1999.  Last year, Willis also earned the prestigious Ben Jobe Award, as the top Minority Coach of the Year, in Division I basketball.  And this year he has already celebrated the 250th win of his coaching career.  
Willis Wilson has always been there when I have asked for his help.  He has spoken to his fans at my business and he and his wife, Vicki, have attended my book-signing events.  He has asked me to speak to his team on occasion, and I treasure his friendship.  Wilson has spent nearly 30 years breathing through a whistle while teaching young boys how to become men, how to be productive in society and accountable to others and “oh yes,” how to play the great game of basketball.  So, if you want to see the results of a great coach and be proud of the kids representing our city, grab a ticket and Go Islanders.

                                                         Andy Purvis
                                                    www.purvisbooks.com

Stepping Up To the Plate

Posted on February 8, 2016 at 2:49 PM Comments comments (101)
There is an old story about a doctor who asked a young fellow what he dreamed about at night.  The young boy answered, “Playing baseball.”  The doctor then asked, “Don’t you ever dream about anything else?”  “Of course not,” said the young boy; “if I did, I would miss my turn at bat.” A young boy like the one described above is retired now, living on the Island here with us, but his fire still burns for the game of baseball.  Very few of us play at the Major League level, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still love it.  There is nothing about the game of baseball that he doesn’t like.  Everybody is just a kid from somewhere and, growing up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, he spent as much time as possible at Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  As a member of the Knothole Gang, once his hero, Duke Snider, got into his heart, he never got out.
He is the kind of guy who looks you in the eyes and connects.  The word “grit” always fit him better than his uniform, and he is so funny, he can make your pets laugh.  Handing this guy a baseball bat was like giving George Patton a tank; something unbelievable was going to happen.  Some said he could spot talent from a moving car and that his jump shot was illegal in three states.  For many kids, Pat Dwyer became the Irish Robin Hood with a trunk full of baseball equipment.  Somebody had to step up to the plate.
Bernard Patrick Dwyer was born January 7, 1942.  “When I was a kid, I didn’t play baseball.  A police officer by the name of Eddie Gray asked if I wanted to play baseball.  When I told him I didn’t have a glove, he left, and then later returned with an old, used Wilson glove.  That’s when I fell in love with the game.”  Little did Pat know at that time the influence Officer Gray’s gift would have on his future.  Baseball in the summer and basketball in the winter took up most of his time.  Pat told me, “I was a better basketball player than baseball player in high school, but baseball was my first love.  ‘Hubie’ Brown was my first basketball coach.  I was always the first one to arrive at the playground.”  While in high school, Pat played with and against future NBA Hall-of-Famer, Rick Barry.  They played against each other during the season and with each other on local, all-star tournament teams.  “I always held him to 40 or 50 points,” laughed Pat.  Many years later, when Rick Barry joined the Houston Rockets, Pat took his son, Bernie, to meet Barry and get his autograph.  “When we met, I told Bernie in jest, that this is the guy I used to outscore in high school,” said Pat.  After a pause, Rick responded, “That may be true, but ask your father how much money he makes now and then I will tell you how much I make.”  
Pat received several offers to play ball in college but, tired of school, he joined the Army.  He enlisted in 1962 for two years and ended up in Germany.  Before being shipped out to Germany he was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana.  It was there that Pat met Lois, his future wife.  In 1964, when he returned to the States, he married Lois and went to work for Anheuser-Busch in Newark, New Jersey.  In 1970, he was transferred to Houston, Texas.  There he played softball and basketball for the Budweiser teams, while continuing his education at San Jacinto Junior College.  He didn’t like crunching numbers as much he did crunching fastballs.
Pat met Houston Astros’ scouting director, Dan O’Brien, in 1990.  “He hired me to scout the four counties in and around Houston,” said Dwyer.  Pat would spend the next 20 years sitting on wooden seats behind chicken wire, in out-of-the-way towns, for gas money and a pat on the back, looking for the next Nolan Ryan or Reggie Jackson.   
Pastor, John Maxwell once wrote, “Greatness is by what we give, not what we receive.”  Maxwell may have been talking about guys like Pat Dwyer.  In 1994, Pat Dwyer became the brainchild of the RBI Program in Houston, Texas.  RBI stands for Recycled Baseball Items.  The idea was to collect old or used baseball equipment for underprivileged kids who could not afford their own equipment to play the game.  “I started recycling old baseball gloves and used equipment in my barn, on a ranch located in Alvin, Texas,” said Pat.  It was reported in 2015 that 35,000 kids around the Houston area and Central America have received equipment from this program, along with personal instruction from current and former professional ballplayers like Larry Dierker, Enos Cabell, Mike Hampton and Bob Aspromonte.   In fact, it was Enos Cabell who asked Pat to bring his program to Houston.   Pat, Bernie, and John Nash once delivered enough uniforms and equipment for 26 teams, to Guatemala, after hurricane Mitch destroyed their ball fields.  
The recently departed Milo Hamilton always MC’d his fundraisers and asked Pat to sit with him in the booth during game night, on several occasions.  “For a guy who talks a lot, I was in awe and speechless,” said Pat.  For the kids, the RBI program has been the greatest thing since the invention of penicillin.  The RBI program still continues today in the hands of Pat’s most trusted friend, John Nash.
Pat has been an avid memorabilia collector in the past, but sold off most of his collection to raise funds for the RBI program.  He still has a signed photo of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider-- his most prized possession.  The person he would most like to meet would be “Babe” Ruth and the most famous person Pat has ever met was President John F. Kennedy.  Pat and Lois have reared three children:  Bernie, Colleen and Michele.  
Pat Dwyer, a fine Christian man, has strolled through life like he was holding the winning lottery ticket.  I am reminded of what writer Joseph Campbell once said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”  The RBI program has been Pat’s way of giving back, his way of saying thanks to Officer Gray.  I’m proud to call him a friend.



                                                        Andy Purvis
                                                  www.purvisbooks.com

Mad About Baseball

Posted on February 8, 2016 at 2:48 PM Comments comments (4)
There I stood with Corpus Christi baseball coaches, Hector Salinas, Lee Yeager and Steve Castillo, at the 2011 South Texas Winter Baseball Banquet.  I was standing in high cotton.  I felt like the guy who played third base with Tinker and Evers and Chance.  That night the Corpus Christi Hooks were honoring the success of Head Baseball Coach, Steve Castillo with a Lifetime Achievement Award, after John Paul II High School had won their second state title.  Castillo is slim built, business-like and wears tinted glasses.  He looked like he should be teaching calculus in a baseball cap.  He also has a heart as big as a watermelon, and you always get nine innings of truth from him in an interview.  Castillo understood that baseball is the game of long seasons, where small differences decide who wins and who loses that game, that series, that season.  There are so many sports slogans like “One game at a time,” but when you live it that’s when people notice.  People noticed Steve Castillo.  He was always two innings ahead of everybody else.  He believed that good baseball cures bad baseball and preached to his kids that the best player on the team is the team.
So now we fast forward to the present, January 15, 2016.  You know, the word “first” carries a lot of weight in the world of sports.  Steve Castillo is now the first Corpus Christi Independent School District (CCISD) coach to be inducted into the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, located in Waco, Texas.  The 65-year-old Castillo was caught completely by surprise for two reasons.  It was his first year on the ballot, and the names of other coaches being nominated were impressive.  Along with Castillo, the 2016 class included Julian Pressly of Odessa, Rudy Alvarez of Austin Bowie, and Jim Long of Brenham.  Castillo has joined his dear friend, Steve Castro from Robstown, who recently passed away.  These two are the only area coaches to enter the Hall of Fame.  In 30 years, Castillo has won 717 games, while losing only 222 and tying 13.  That’s quite a record.  Castillo led Moody High School to three state championship games in 1983, 1994 and 2000, all of which they lost.  Castillo left for John Paul II in August of 2006, and won two state 4A TAPPS Championships (2010-2011) in three trips.   Steve has earned the Caller-Times All-Metro Coach of the Year Award four times and the All-South-Texas Coach of the Year Award three times.   In 2013, his contract with the John Paul II Centurions was not renewed.  The baseball community was shocked.  Castillo, never one to look back, said, “They did me a favor. I’m really enjoying my three granddaughters.”  So, hats off to Steve Castillo.  
You see, Coach Castillo has never been unhappy at a ballpark.  He has always been mad about baseball.  He still gets lost in the game.  There are very few things besides family that you can go through your entire life caring about.  Baseball is one of those.  Corpus Christi is proud of you, coach.   


                                                         Andy Purvis

                                                    www.purvisbooks.com

Lucky No. 7

Posted on February 8, 2016 at 2:46 PM Comments comments (82)
He’s a “good old boy,” with a wide smile and football stamped in his DNA.  Back then he owned a gravelly voice, a tanned face, and he couldn’t say a word without using his hands.  Content and now retired, he whispers more when he speaks.  Back in the day, the smell of fresh-cut grass and a sweaty locker room made him feel alive, and he’d rather watch game film than sleep.  He had spent almost 41 years drawing up plays and dusting the chalk off his hands, and he answered to the name of “coach.”  Some said he could spot talent from a moving car and his playbook may have had only two words on the cover, “Option Football.”  He felt naked without headphones, a whistle around his neck and a stop watch in his pocket.  As head man he could be calm inside of a hurricane, never raised his voice, and as positive as Phil Mickleson with a three-foot putt, uphill.  No one knew “veer” football like he did and he could turn an offense around faster than a Popsicle melts in August.  He was a teacher first and a master communicator second; you just trusted what he told you.  The old saying goes “There is no ‘I’ in team,” but there is one in WIN; and winning was what his teams did best.  So in July, he became lucky number seven, the seventh former Texas A&M Javelina to be inducted into the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame, and I can promise you there was no luck involved.  If someone gave you the ingredients to make a football coach, you would create Ron Harms.
Someone once said, “If you’re going to learn to cross-country ski, start with a small country.”  Head Coach Ron Harms was born on September 10, 1936.  If anyone was born a football coach, it was he.  After he had graduated from Valparaiso University in Indiana, Ron Harms began his teaching and coaching career at Lutheran East High School in Detroit, Michigan, as an assistant football coach.  He also coached the track and cross-country teams.  In 1962, after three years, he left to become the head football coach at Concordia College, located in Seward, Nebraska.  At 27 years of age, it was his first head-coaching job.  After six years, Harms left Concordia and headed to Alamosa, Colorado, to coach the Adams State Grizzlies.  In the spring of 1974, after four seasons there, Harms resigned as Adams State head football coach and went to Kingsville, Texas, to hopefully land a job on Gil Steinke’s staff.  Ron became the offensive coordinator during the 1974-75 seasons.  Then he was offered and accepted an assistant coach’s job with Head Coach Grant Teaff of the Baylor Bears.  Harms would spend the next three years in Waco, Texas, before heading back to Kingsville in 1979, to become their head football coach.
Harms’ induction into the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame allowed him to join legendary coach Gil Steinke, for whom Harms had worked in 1974-75, and five of his former players.  They are as follows:  Darrell Green, John Randle, Johnny Bailey, Dwayne Nix, and Richard Ritchie.  Both Randle and Green are also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “It’s an honor to be part of that group,” said Harms.  The enshrinement ceremony occurred on July 20-21, 2012, in South Bend, Indiana.
Coach Ron Harms spent 23 seasons at Texas A&I Kingsville (later to be called Texas A&M Kingsville), two as an offensive coordinator and 21 as the head coach and athletic director.  During his two seasons as offensive coordinator, A&I won 25 straight games and two NAIA Division I National Titles.  Beginning in 1979, as a head coach of the Javelinas, Ron Harms’ teams won 14 conference trophies including 11 Lone Star Conference titles.  Six of those championships came in a bunch from 1992-1997.  His overall record at Kingsville was 172-72.  Harms received five different “Coach of the Year” Awards during his tenure, including the NAIA National Coach of the Year.  He has also been inducted into the Lone Star Conference Hall of Honor and the Javelina Hall of Fame.  You have to respect excellence.  
I am proud to call Coach Harms a friend and I have made the 35-mile trip to Kingsville from Corpus Christi many Saturdays to watch his teams win.  It was like being in a pro locker room because many of his players would wind up in the NFL.  Some guys collect cars; this man collected football players.  Jorge Diaz, Kevin Dogins, Earl Dotson, Roberto Garza, Jermane Mayberry, Heath Sherman, Anthony Phillips, Johnny Bailey, Al Harris, John Randle, and Darrell Green are among the players I saw.  But there are more.  Names like Gene Upshaw, Randy Johnson, James Hill, Eldridge Smalls, Dwight Harrison, Ernest Price, and Don Hardeman made their way into the NFL ranks.  
What is it about the game of football that’s so consuming?  A game where the end results often lead to quarterbacks who can no longer raise their arm, linebackers who can’t bend over to tie their own shoes, and tackles who can’t get out of bed in the morning without the help of their wife.  Maybe it’s a reflection of America; man on man, brute strength against force, confidence against fear.  The game is played out on the biggest stages, televised nationally, in front of millions each week.  Maybe part of the attraction is that we have to wait a week in most cases, to experience the excitement of the game again.  “I enjoyed the sport itself, it was very intriguing to me,” said Harms.  It appeared that they grew NFL players down in Kingsville, Texas, as 46 athletes from this Division II School have played on Sundays.
Harms, at 77 years old, now spends his time with his wife, Marlene, three daughters, one son, and chasing around a slew of grandchildren.  He enjoys a swim now and again between rounds of golf and finds strength in his faith.  They live in Aransas Pass, Texas, a quiet community located on the Gulf of Mexico.
Harms served a year on the NCAA Football Rules Committee with my friend, Dotson Lewis.  “Harms always appeared logical and rarely spoke without thinking things through,” said Dotson. “He did a great job.”  
Ron Harms and Davis Flores co-wrote a book entitled The Whole Enchilada, a history lesson of forty-one years of walking the sidelines.  “I wrote it particularly for the fans of football, the Texas A&I Javelina fans,” said Harms.  
Gil Steinke always claimed that Ron Harms was a “breath of fresh air.”  I’ll say.  You can’t find another Ron Harms; you just have to be happy with the time he gave us.  Thanks Coach.  


Andy Purvis

www.espncorpus.com   Uncle Andy’s Blog

Looking Back With Bart

Posted on February 8, 2016 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (130)
Marcel Proust once said, “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”  That line describes this fellow to a “T.”  One of the perks of having a sports talk radio show and being able to attend many of my favorite sporting events has been to allow me to meet and converse with many of the best athletes in all of sports.  Occasionally, these interviews would lead me to meeting another of my favorite players.  Believe me, it’s the best part of this gig.  Being a writer and writing well is hard work.  As a sports enthusiast, we all have pockets full of stories to share.  Writing requires constant thinking and there’s an added difficulty with writing about sports or athletes.  You see, the writer ages but the players do not.  They remain young and are constantly replaced with younger versions of themselves.  In my case, I followed Mickey Mantle until Derek Jeter came along.  But every once in a while, I meet an athlete who becomes a true friend, a guy I can trust and one I feel comfortable with.  That’s when the stories really start to flow.  Bart Shirley is one of those guys.  My favorite sports writer, Jim Murray, once wrote in jest, “When you think everything is hopeless, just remember Yogi Berra.”  That’s how I feel around Bart, ten years old with a bat in my hands.  He has a way of serving as the rainbow in everybody’s cloud.  I believe that man makes his destiny through his choices and values, and so does Bart.  In my opinion, Bart Shirley was born with a heart three sizes too large.  There is nothing this man would not do for you, and that’s a good thing.  Bart is humble, God-fearing and snail quiet.  I proudly refer to him in public as a “Corpus Christi Treasure.”  
Barton Arvin “Bart” Shirley was born on January 4, 1940, in “The Sparkling City by the Sea,” Corpus Christi, Texas.  As an athlete, this guy was electric, pure energy.  Bart was fast; some said he could catch a cold in the desert.  Bart played and starred as a shortstop in baseball for Head Coach A.J. Luquette and left halfback in football for Head Coach Bill Stages, for Ray High School in Corpus.  Bart Shirley was what we call a two-play guy.  You turn on the projector and watch him field two ground balls and then turn it off.  His play was such that Bart was inducted into the Ray Texans’ Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995, as part of their inaugural class.  After graduating from Ray in 1958, Bart, along with his close friend and teammate, Bobby Oliver, signed athletic scholarships and headed to Austin, Texas, to play for the Longhorns.  After his freshman year, Bart would line up as a halfback for legendary football coach, Darrell Royal, in the 1959 Longhorn backfield.  Bart would complete four of ten passes for two touchdowns, while executing the halfback-run option.  One of those touchdown passes came against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, for a Texas win.  Bart also rushed for 90 yards on 25 carries and caught two passes for sixteen yards.  In 1959, the star quarterback, Bobby Lackey, and the 9-2 Longhorns, would finish 4th in the final Associated Press Poll and would take on Ernie Davis from Syracuse, in the Cotton Bowl.  The Orangemen from Syracuse won that day, 23-14.  
Bart’s star shined even brighter on the baseball diamond for the 1960 Longhorns, as Bart started at shortstop for Head Coach “Bibb” Falk and was voted to the All-Southwest Conference team.   Later that same year, Bart was signed as an amateur free agent by celebrated scout, Hugh Alexander, of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Alexander, who was referred to as “Uncle Hughie” by the players, had pitched and played outfield briefly for the Cleveland Indians before an oil field accident in Oklahoma took his left hand.  Uncle Hughie became a scout and signed many great players like Allie Reynolds, Steve Garvey, Dale Mitchell, Don Sutton, Frank Howard, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and our very own Bart Shirley.  “Once I signed the contract I lost my amateur status at Texas,” said Bart. “I went to Spring Training in 1960 and sent my signing bonus home to my mother.”    
In 1961, Bart Shirley reported to the Atlanta Crackers, the Dodgers’ Double-A team, of the Southern Association.   Bart later joined the U.S. Army Reserves and attended basic training, in 1961.  He would fulfill a six-year obligation to his country.  By 1962, you could find Bart playing shortstop for the Triple-A Omaha Dodgers of the American Association.  
In 1963, he would hone his skills for the Triple-A Spokane Indians of the Pacific Coast League, before being called up to the Los Angeles Dodgers on September 14, 1964.  On Tuesday September 15, while wearing #11, Bart collected 3 hits in 4 at-bats including a double, with one RBI and a run scored against pitchers, Bob Friend and Joe Gibbon, of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Dodgers beat the Pirates 5-3 that day.  Bart also turned two double plays, from the shortstop position, that day, with Nate Oliver and Ron Fairly.  Interestingly, Bart’s teammate, Willie Davis, and opponent, Roberto Clemente, also had three hits each in that game.
“My greatest memory in professional baseball was when I got the game winning hit against pitcher, Jack Baldschum, of the Philadelphia Phillies, while playing with the Dodgers in 1964,” said Bart.  “We won 4-3 and I was extremely excited.”  That hit came three days later on September 18th; Bart had collected two more hits with his last hit driving in the winning run against the Phillies.
By the end of 1964, Bart had played in 18 games while hitting a respectable .274.  He scored six runs with one double, one triple, and recorded seven RBI’s.  Bart struck out eight times and walked six times.  He remained on the big club until the end of that season.  
In 1965, Bart suffered a terribly sprained ankle in Spring Training.   It also didn’t help that Maury Wills was playing shortstop for the Dodgers.  “I was sent home for a week to recover,” said Bart.  “I had a real shot at making the club before my injury.”  After healing, Bart found himself back in Spokane for the season.  At the beginning of the 1966 season, Bart was called up again to the big club on April 19th.  Shirley would stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers until June 25th, and was then drafted on November 28, 1966, by the New York Mets in the Rule 5 baseball draft.  Walter Alston and the Dodgers continued to play well and won the 1966 National League pennant with a 95-67 win-loss record.  With stars like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Willie Davis, John Roseboro and Don Sutton, winning was made easy, but it was not enough.  Bart was proud to be a part of that team.  The Dodgers were swept by the Baltimore Orioles for the 1966 World Series title.  Bart received his share of the 1966 World Series money.
Bart Shirley opened the 1967 season with the Mets, while wearing the # 6, before being sent back to the Minors on April 29th of that same year.  Bart was traded back to the Dodgers on May 18, 1967, by the Mets.   At the beginning of 1968, Bart finally joined the Dodgers for the last time on July 31st.  Bart wore the #2 in 1968.  His final game occurred on September 29, 1968.  He was 28 years old.  Bart headed back to Spokane for the 1969 and 1970 seasons, but the writing was on the wall.  In his four years in the Major Leagues, Bart had played in 75 games, while hitting .204.  He scored 15 runs on 33 hits with 11 RBI’s and recorded no home runs.   
In 1971, Bart decided he was not yet through playing baseball and did what many American players have done before him.  He headed to Japan.  There he signed with the Chunich Dragons of the Japan Central League.  Bart would play there for two years.  I asked Bart if he could change anything about his baseball career, what it would be.   He thought for a minute and said, “I was blessed with a great arm and could cover a lot of ground with the best, but I wish I had applied myself more to the art of hitting sooner than I did.  It wasn’t until I got to Japan that I really started to understand hitting.  The Dodgers wanted me to hit more to right field, but when I got to Japan they pitched me inside so I became more aggressive and began to pull the ball to left field.  I began to look more at location instead of the spin of the ball.  When I learned to bend my knees, while swinging, which in turn kept my bat level and in the hitting zone longer, I became a better hitter with more power.”  That explains why Bart made better contact in the “Land of the Rising Sun.”  During his two years in Japan, Bart played in 246 games, hit 15 home runs and drove in 79 RBI’s, in a short period of time.   I asked Bart what the major difference was in Japanese baseball versus the Major Leagues.  “The pitching is not consistently as good,” responded Bart.   Other American Major League players that played in Japan while Bart was there include Clete Boyer, Davey Johnson, John Miller and his close friend Jim Lefebvre.
Bart Shirley returned to the States in 1973 to manage in the Dodgers’ Minor League system.  He would get his start in Daytona Beach, Florida.  In 1974, you could find him managing in Orangeburg, South Carolina, and in Danville, Illinois, during the 1975 season.  Bart would manage a total of 401 games in three years, while winning 199 for a .496 winning percentage.
Pastor Mark Salmon introduced me to Bart Shirley.  Mark had met Bart in August of 2001 when Mark became the Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church.  Mark Salmon, being a diehard baseball fan of the Yankees, and his friend Bart spent hours talking baseball.  “We had many great conversations about the Yankees and his career with the Dodgers and Mets.  We even talked about his college career at the University of Texas,” exclaimed Mark.  “I also heard many stories of his days at Ray High School.”  Bart is an Elder and very active member at Grace and I was surprised to find out he sang in the choir.  “I felt especially close to Bart when his wife, Bette, got sick and passed away.  His Ray High School friends embraced him with such love and I heard over and over again how much Bart had meant to them over the years.”   Mark continued, “Bart also subbed for me several times at Whataburger Field and led Baseball Chapel with the visiting and hometown Hooks teams. His greatest days were not when he was a professional baseball player, but as a true and devoted friend.”  
One of those devoted friends was a fellow by the name of Garron Dean.  Garron has been a Bart Shirley fan for sixty-plus years.  “We went to junior high and high school together and participated in sports together all those years,” exclaimed Garron.  “Upon graduation, he went to Texas and I went to LSU and we lost each other until he returned to Corpus Christi.  Bart had been in Japan playing baseball.”  Dean continues, “Bart was a born sportsman and to this very day he is an avid and accomplished golfer.”  I myself have never played golf with Bart.  I do admit that the only compliment I’ve ever received on the golf course was, “Hey I think we can find that one.”  Bart would always smile when I mentioned that.  “Bart is one of the most honest individuals I have ever known and a devout Christian who spends a lot of hours devoting his life to Christ,” said Dean.    
“When Bart returned to Corpus, he joined Tommy Wright at Citizens Bank, where he learned the ropes on how to become a banker,” said Garron Dean.  “Then he had the opportunity to go to work in the Real Estate business and began working with my firm for about five years before he chose the insurance business, where he has been ever since.”  
Interestingly, Bart’s high school relationships with teammates stand as strong today as ever.  They continue to move in and out of each others’ lives to this very day and gather occasionally to remember and celebrate their past.  Bart and his current wife, Victoria, make their home here in Corpus Christi.  Bart Shirley is not so much a religious man as he is a spiritual man.  Calm but intense, Bart makes difficult look easy.  He understands that real toughness is finding strength in something other than yourself.  Faith is about living in the unknown, and suffering occurs when we lose part of our identity.  The loss of a job, a child, spouse or home can be painful.

George Orwell once said, “At a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”  What I would want to leave with Bart and others is the realization that whoever you are, there is some younger person who thinks you are perfect.  I would count myself as one of those who feel that way about Bart Shirley.  Both Mark Salmon and Bart Shirley wrote some very kind words about my earlier books, In the Company of Greatness and Remembered Greatness which I decided to use at the beginning of my newest book, Greatness Continued.  Bart also joined me during one of my book-signing events this year and quickly became the star.  The fact is we need our heroes more than they need us.

Diamond In The Rough

Posted on February 8, 2016 at 2:43 PM Comments comments (201)
As a kid he would rather spend his time on a ball field instead of at the mall.  You can’t read a book and learn how to play a sport.  He believed you needed to play the game and watch the game being played.  You should be able to walk into any park with the scoreboard covered up and know which team is winning by watching how they are playing.  I can’t imagine how many games this fellow has seen.  As he grew older, he became a symbol of what’s good about the game of baseball, and he would rather play catch than sleep.  As a former American League All-Star pitcher, this guy could bury his pitches in the bottom of the box.  He had four right-handed pitches that could embarrass you.  With a fastball, curve, slider and changeup, he had many ways to sit you back down.  At times he pitched like home plate had eight corners.  He just lived at their knees.  Now he spends his time here with us.  You could say he’s our “diamond in the rough.”  
Corpus Christi Hooks’ President, Ken Schrom, is one of a kind.  If he had never played ball, if you had never heard his name and you passed him on the sidewalk one day, you would turn around and look.  I’ve known Ken Schrom for over 20 years and I’ve never heard a bad word spoken about him.  Ken loves hearing the vendors hawking peanuts, beer and popcorn at Whataburger Field.  He loves the sound of the ball popping the catcher’s mitt.  He loves the fairness of the game, the colors, the smells, and the feel of the ball in his hand.  He loves that he never grows old at the ballpark.  He also loves how the ballpark gets quiet when the game is on the line.  You will find Ken at game time standing on the concourse greeting folks, shaking hands and watching baseball.  
Kenneth Marvin “Ken” Schrom was born on November 23, 1954, in Grangeville, Idaho.  Ken Schrom was a heck of a high school athlete.  He was selected All-State in baseball and basketball and All-American in football at quarterback.  All total, Ken earned 11 athletic letters.  In 1973, after high school, Ken was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in tenth round, but decided to attend the University of Idaho on a football and baseball scholarship.  Schrom dreamed of becoming an NFL quarterback.  In fact his favorite player of all time is Bart Starr.  “I got in trouble more times than you can imagine because I wrote the #15 on everything I had, including new school clothes,” laughed Schrom.  Injuries steered him toward baseball.  Ken was later chosen and signed by the California Angels as a pitcher, in the 1976 amateur draft.  
Ken was traded in 1980 to the Toronto Blue Jays and debuted against the Kansas City Royals as a reliever, on August 8, 1980.  Ken would again be traded and become a starter and spend 1983-1985 with the Twins.  In 1983, Ken recorded a 15-8 win-loss record and was selected the Twins’ Pitcher of the Year.  On June 26, 1985, Ken threw a one-hit game for the Twins against the Royals.  It was the first one-hitter ever thrown in the Metrodome in Minnesota.   Schrom and his Twins got the win, 2-1.   
In 1986, Ken would find himself in Cleveland with the Indians.  He started off his season with a 10-2 record and was selected to the American League All-Star team which beat the National League 3-2, at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas.  His 1986 All-Star jersey is one of his most prized possessions.  Ken would finish the year 14-7.  In 1987, Ken tore his shoulder labrum which required surgery.  His last game occurred on October 3, 1987.  Ken pitched over 900 innings in seven years in the Major Leagues, for three teams (Twins, Indians, and Blue Jays), and won 51 games while losing the same number.  He struck-out 372 batters and hit 25 while earning a 4.81 ERA.  
Schrom spent the next 16 years in the front office of the El Paso Diablos of the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization.  El Paso is where I initially met the Diablos’ owner, Jim Paul, and Ken Schrom.  Ken, his wife Cindy and the kids left El Paso and joined the Hooks in 2003.  Ken was selected the Texas League Executive of the Year in 2005.  He became the President of the club in 2009.  He was inducted into the University of Idaho Sports Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.  Ken is a fine man, a good friend and a heck of a baseball guy.  He was also kind enough to write part of the foreword of my newest book.  In his spare time, you can find him winning money from his friends on the golf course, or fishing somewhere quiet.

Did you know that in the past ten years, 56 of our very own Hooks’ players have joined the Houston Astros?  Ken Schrom just announced that on April 2, 2015, the Astros will make their third trip to our fair city to take on their Double-A club known as the Corpus Christi Hooks.  This is to be a homecoming for some, as there are 17 former Hooks’ players on the current Astros 40-man roster.  The game will be played at Whataburger Field with a 6:05 PM start.  Ken Schrom and I hope to see you there.

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