Last of the first and only Fabulous Five, Wallace Clayton “Wah- Wah” Jones left us this week. He was 88.
Nicknamed Wah-Wah by his sister Jackie when she was just learning to talk and couldn’t pronounce his name. An All-American for rawhide tough legends Bear Bryant in football and Adolph Rupp in basketball at Kentucky, Wah Wah was their equal at thriving on toughness.
He had an incredibly full life in and around athletics. High school then college stardom including an Olympic gold medal, the Harlan native was once sheriff of Fayette County and remained a popular fixture around UK athletics all the way to introduction at the 2013-14 basketball season.
A photograph of Jones taken in 1948 represented what I believed a genuine college athlete ought look. At 6-feet-4, heavy muscled shoulders and legs, fiercely competitive, tough, with Clark Kentlike shock of black hair and no tattoos. A twin for Jim Thorpe only larger.
Adolph Rupp was asked frequently about his “favorite player of all time” and Der Baron never said so, but some believe Wah Wah was his man.
In 2011 a newspaper photograph imaged UK All-American Anthony Davis alongside a bentby age, Wah Wah Jones. It left me to wonder: Does young Anthony Davis realize he is in the presence of greatness?
Who could cast Kentucky’s stillin the-honeymoon-glow football coach Mark Stoops as villain? Maybe someone who fails to see John Boehner as a windmill chaser. Or, a grumpy Louisville fan.
In Shelbyville last week, and still contrite, Bobby Petrino was at the ready but Stoops was a noshow at the Governor’s Cup fete. Cardinal fans called a snub, a UofL house writer said it was UK arrogance. And, Stoops who said he had excused himself weeks ago, offered an apology to the offended.
What it was, was much ado about nothing. An arranged media event turned into war stories-andgolf, and a gaggle of reporters left to hit a deadline with something, anything. Stoops as no-show beat nothing.
Upside fro Governor’s Cup party? Petrino got a stage to himself and Stoops got a larger stage a day later IN Louisville.
Jarrod Polson will write a book about University of Kentucky basketball. Maybe.
Vantage point and four years inside the self- anointed gold standard of college hoops as qualifi ers, makes this heady stuff. Rare opportunity.
Polson is probably too young, too close, and still too warmed by the golden glow of two Final Fours to do much more than offer a clutch of anecdotes, name drops and “thank you!” to offer anything earth shaking. But possibilities are, to understate the case, intriguing.
• Given his effectiveness over Ryan Harrow, why Polson wasn’t given a sustained chance to be the point guard 2012-13?
• How and why Kyle Wiltjer transferred to Gonzaga?
• Why a coach can sweet talk a recruit, then have no sway with clueless kids determined to leave UK too soon (Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague, James Young)?
More likely, a Polson book would be to make a few dollars, sign a few more autographs, keep whatever limelight is left a bit longer and have brag rights to a campus bookstore shelf spot filed alphabetically with Hatton and Chandler, Mills, Farmer, Sheppard, Krebs and others.
If you were fresh from four years inside a favorite basketball program, had notes filed away, and wanted to embark on a project, how would you proceed?
Consider these preliminaries.
• First, detachment. Accepting this life experience as unique, unexpected as it was it is history. Could you pen a “Tell All” at risk of being shunned?
• To learn HOW to write about the inside. A Season On the Brink by John Feinstein, would be required reading.
• If the goal was higher than say, a shelf spot at the campus bookstore, alphabetically with tomes by Mills, Farmer, Hatton and Chandler, Krebs and other ex-players and officials, would you be inclined to inform, and more, fascinate freshly? After all, books written about UK basketball placed end to end, might stretch from wherever you are all the way to Fredonia in Caldwell County.
• Then, when the writing starts, time is critical. time to work, time to avoid Sports Center, time to purchase a good Thesaurus and use it, and time to resolve yourself to never use the word great. Ever.
• Ready to begin?
We will see if Jarrod Polson is.
One of the most fascinating autobiographies in Kentucky would be life of man who celebrated his 71st birthday this month.
Fifth of 11 children, he broke the color line in Campbellsville in 1961, became first black and allstater at Taylor County High School; was, along with Dwight Smith of Princeton, first black player at Western Kentucky where Clem-The- Gem became an All-American. Played nine years in the NBA, returned to coach at WKU, then 13 years at Minnesota where he endured a profound fall from grace.
Hall Of Fame Images
Baseball added five plaques to its hallowed halls last week. Favorites of mine, Atlanta Brave pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. v Maddux. His money pitch, always low in the zone, headed toward a batter’s knees … turned left (or right) at the last instant, painted the corner of strike zone, strike three! Consistently. v Tom Glavine. Dr. Clever, I called him. Much as umpires in the 1950s let Ted Williams determine what a strike zone was, by his swing or not, NL umpires let Glavine decide where the outside corner was. Consistently.
Remarkably, Maddux and Glavine got to the Hall on guile, control and smarts, not miles-per-hour.
And so it goes.
You can reach bob Watkins at bob. firstname.lastname@example.org