Friday, June 26, 2009

We called him "Coach"

We called him "Coach"
The summer of 1962 was a mighty hot one as are most summers in the part of the country where Heavener is. Back then I had a part-time job working for Olive Brothers Grocery which meant I had to work the days the delivery trucks came in and all day on Saturday because back in those days there wasn’t a Wal-Mart up to Poteau and Saturday was the day everyone came to town. The pay was 40 cents an hour except on Saturday it was working from seven in the morning until seven at night with 30 minutes of for lunch for a whopping $4.00 for the day; but that was $4.00 more than I would have had if I had not of had the job except I guess I could have kept my old job shining shoes at the City Barber Shop for 15 cents a shine which on a good Saturday might be a good bit more than that $4 Buck and Clyde paid out about 6:55 p.m. each Saturday Night but somehow it seem a bit more respectable to be caring out groceries or loading feed sacks than shining shoes. But anyhow being part-time that left plenty of time for playing American Legion baseball. Our team that summer was coached by Lonzo Hudlow. Lonzo had learned his baseball just like us kids had by playing it all his life and he had been a pretty good sand-lot slugger himself out on the playground at the Loving School and later at Heavener. Some of Heavener’s really good players had been picked up by Ft. Smith. Guys like Jerry Johnson, John Council and the "Mick" being on the Ft. Smith roster meant Coach Hudlow had rather slim pickens to work with only the likes of his son Chuck, Buster Coggins, Mike Dedmond, Jim Day, Jim Allendar, the Raines twins, Mike Vickers, Ray Gaskin, Fred Pugh a few others and me. Not meaning to discount the talent and skills of these guys for certainly some of them could surely play and Fred, Buster, and Ray were good enough to play on about anybody’s American Legion team. Though we were not the best team around, Coach Hudlow was sound on the fundamentals and we got to be a pretty good team. Oh, we could hold our own with teams from Howe, Wister, Talihina, and even Poteau, but there was that one trip we made to McAlester for a double header that showed us how good we were not.. Some of out team members had gone off with their parents on vacations and Coach Hudlow was left sure enough shorthanded, especially when it came to pitching. Now me being the regular catcher on the team, I was about the closest thing to being a pitcher he had left. Not that I was anything close to being a pitcher, but I had at least caught a lot of pitches in my time and had some kind of idea of what to throw and when to throw it - and I could throw pretty hard too. Not that it meant much in that game because it seemed that all of McAlester’s players were like the Jerry Johnsons, Micky Wynns, and John Councils that we didn’t have on our squad. Practically every batter on the McAlester team was hitting the ball hard off of me and the ones that didn’t get a hit, I hit them and McAlester beat us something like 12 to 0. Well, Coach for sure was not going to pitch me in the second game so Chuck Hudlow was selected to throw against the Buffaloes in the second game. Now Chuck had pretty good fundamentals when it came to pitching. He knew how to stand on the mound right and had a good looking wind up and his fast stuff was ever bit as good as mine and he could throw a curve ball too. But, Alas, the outcome was about the same. Chuck couldn’t get anybody out either and we lost that game too. Although we had definitely let Coach Hudlow down, he never let on that he was the least bit disappointed in us and he made us feel like he was proud of us for trying to do our best. I’ve always been glad I got to play baseball for Coach Hudlow that summer. I’ve been away from the Ole Hometown most of the time since then, coming "home" for short visits and sometimes getting to see Coach Hudlow. He always knew who I was and somehow had kept up with where I was living and what I was doing. Most other folks would mistake me for my more famous brother, Wayne and ask how things were going in the Forest Service, But Coach Hudlow always made me feel like I was someone special to him. He was certainly special to me. The last time I saw Coach was at his wife’s funeral. I talked to him briefly there and he seemed that he was very glad to see me again. Yesterday Coach was buried in Heavener. The funeral was as excellent as a funeral can be I reckon. Coach Hudlows grand daughters sang and my how beautifully those girls can sing. A tribute Chuck had written was read and I know it made our old Coach proud. Rev Bob McCaslin preached the service and basically finished up the sermon he had started when he preached Chuck’s Mother’s funeral a few months ago and it was a fine message that he brought. As I left the Church yesterday, I noticed it was terribly hot outside and my mind went back to those hot summer days nearly 50 years ago and a good man we called "Coach".


At June 26, 2009 at 2:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Colin, an excellent tribute to Lonzo!
Bo Shupert

At June 26, 2009 at 7:33 PM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

Moving! And heartfelt!

At June 26, 2009 at 10:11 PM , Blogger Chuck Hudlow said...

Thanks for the memory, Colin. Dad would have enjoyed reading what you wrote.

How well I remember that trip to McAlester. You were too kind in your description of my pitching, but I appreciate your saying what you did. The truth is, I wasn't a pitcher, I was just someone that was usually able to throw the ball straight most of the time, and let's face it, I was mostly suited for pitching batting practice than an actual ballgame because usually all of the guys could hit my pitches. Batting practice is just what I gave those guys on that hot summer day, wasn't it. Everyone got a hit (or walked). I was so embarrassed that day because I felt that I had really let my Dad down (and the team). Dad never said a negative thing to me, however. He said it just wasn't our day.

I felt sorry for you, too, having to squat down for so long while they batted around several times. Of course, the only pitches that you had to actually catch were the ones that I threw so far outside or high that the batters couldn't reach them with their bats.

At June 27, 2009 at 5:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never played baseball for "coach" Hudlow, but I remember all the guys you mentioned. I'm sure Chuck appreciated you being at Lonzo's funeral It meant a lot for one his former players to remember him in such grand fashion. It was good to see and talk to you there, Colin.


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