Friday, September 26, 2008

Tribute to Teddy

We lost a friend recently, but I lost a great friend.

You don’t know him, but Ted Leach , arguably an icon, at least in Carthage , passed away recently. I say Carthage because that’s where he lived. The Panola Watchman will have a difficult time replacing Ted Leach , its sports editor. Maudie Leach, his wife, will never be able to replace him.

Ted Leach knew sports and coverage of it like nobody else, as far as I’m concerned. Small newspaper-wise, Leach’s sports coverage was second to none. He single-handedly made sure every athlete in Carthage got his or her name in the Watchman, if for no other reason than just being on a team. Most of them got their picture published at least once – Maudie probably took it, too.

Wherever Ted was, there was Maudi. They went together like, well, like ice cream and a cone, for lack of a better description. In other words, where you saw one, you saw the other, and vice versa.

Ted’s coverage of Carthage sports was impeccable, down to every last stat, be it a batting average, a shooting percentage in basketball, a time in track, or a golf score. Whatever.

He covered the kids’ sports, too. He had to figure little league stats by hand in the early days, but he ran every stat in the paper for Carthage and Beckville teams. At his funeral service, the Carthage football team, the boys basketball team, the girls basketball team and the volleyball team were on hand, all at the funeral home sitting on the floor, standing, in addition to all the friends and family. A football stadium would have been more fitting and it would have been full, too

He was probably thrown out of every basketball gym, every baseball park and every football stadium in East Texas at one time or other. If for no other reason than making sure every basketball referee, every football official or every baseball umpire made the right call on a Carthage athlete. Not always the right call, but at least a good call. He knew every rule as well as any referee ever did.

Ted was also very funny. I can never forget the time we were going to see the Dallas Cowboys. As sports editor of the Longview News-Journal, I always covered the Dallas Cowboys, Ted always went with me to take photos. One Sunday, I picked him up at the newspaper office and we got about 15-20 miles down I-20 when he said, “Wait, I’ve got to go back. Go back! I forgot my teeth.!”

Dentures were something he hardly every wore, because he could eat almost anything without them. But he knew he would be on the sidelines with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.

He always went to coaching school with George (Whitley) and me. George, sports editor of the Henderson Daily News and later the White Oak Independent, and I were well aware of his stories, but we figured we’d only have to hear one. It took him practically the entire trip to tell one story, whether it was about one of Carthage ’s athletes or a fish story, because he also wrote an outdoors column for the News-Journal.

Still wanted to go

After his health has gotten so bad, he still wanted to go, even in a wheelchair. His van was equipped to carry a wheelchair in the back. George drove Ted’s van. We went to Dallas , Ft. Worth and Houston . We never got to go to San Antonio (by that time, I had retired).

One year in Houston , we had started to walk across the street over to Astro Hall, to see the all the booths and to visit with as many coaches as we could. Johnny Green, sports director of the Texarkana Gazette, and I took off across the street, before all of a sudden we remembered Ted was going, too. There he was, still back behind us with George. It was hot that day, too, but Ted wheeled himself across the street and across the parking lot to Astro Hall.

The moment was funny, because we had forgotten about Ted.

Ted despised Leon Spencer, longtime basketball coach of Henderson County and Trinity Valley . Spencer would always get into it with Audie Apple, coach of the Panola Ponies. When they got into an argument, Ted, working at the scorers table, got into it with Spencer.

Once, Ted yelled at Maudie, standing at the end of the court with a camera, “Maudie, get a picture of Leon and Audie arguing … don’t miss it!”

Once, at a Panola-Kilgore basketball game, the lights went out, and Ted sighed, “I hope that wasn’t Michael (a grandson).” Turns out, it was Michael, who at the time was just a mere little boy, running underneath the steps at Panola gym and just flipped a switch, not knowing it was a light switch. With vapor lights, of course, once they’re turned off, it takes a while for them to come back on. The game had to be delayed for the lights to come back on. Think Ted didn’t give Michael what for?

Another time, when his grandson, Danny, a big lineman and kicker for the football team at Carthage , lined up to kick a medium (25-35-yard) field goal, the kick went right through the uprights. Ted pushed the sliding window in the press box open and yelled, “Way to go Danny, it would have been good from 50!”

Once, at a football game in Kilgore, he was standing on the sidelines (that’s how he covered games out of town) yelling so loudly, the referee had to ask him to please quit. Apparently, Ted called the ref a “Homer,” and the ref didn’t like it and promptly asked Ted to leave the stadium. Ted said, “Why …? I just thought your name was Homer.”

Once Ted was your friend, he was always your friend. One time, I told my managing editor, Joe Calvit, I was interviewing for a public relations job with the Dallas Cowboys in 1976. The editor, Ed Leach, Ted’s father, caught wind of it, and asked Ted to come to Longview as the sports editor. Ted agreed, but only if I took the job with the Cowboys. I didn’t get the job and Ted still came to the newspaper, but not as sports editor but as a columnist for the news side. That’s when I became friends with Ted.

2 Comments:

At September 29, 2008 at 9:19 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great story, John. I do remember Ted. He was a great guy. - Jim Patterson

 
At September 29, 2008 at 5:09 PM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

Very nice tribute to a beloved friend. In the final analysis, friends and memories are the only significant things we leave behind.

 

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