In the eighth grade at Burdine, Mrs. Adams, one of our teachers, took our best runners to Jenkins ball park on May Day for a race against the Jenkins High School team. At this time in my life, not many guys could outrun me.
When we got to the ballpark it was pouring rain. The Jenkins boys all had nice running shoes, and all were older than our team. We were all barefooted.
My team members and I won the three-legged race. I won the 100-yard dash. I was the anchor on our relay team, and when the baton was handed to me I was some ways behind the tall senior from Jenkins.
I overtook him and beat him to the tape. Mrs. Adams caught me there in the rain and mud, we both started crying because we were so happy.
Another time, Coach Saylor’s girlfriend, later his wife, and another one of my teachers, took the Burdine basketball team to Jenkins to play against the freshman team.
The Burdine team never had a coach or anyone to tell us how to play the game the right way. Whoever had the ball and was near the hoop shot the ball.
The Jenkins team had nice uniforms and shoes. We had mismatched shoes and cut-off jeans and tee shirts. The fans made fun of us.
Jenkins beat us by a few points, but we gave them a run for their money. Later, some of the Burdine boys became some of the best athletes Jenkins ever had.
Two years later I was in the old Army Air Corps taking basic training at Sheppard Air Base in Texas, and playing sports with my flight.
I’ve played sports all over the U.S., Far East and Europe — bowling, football, baseball, softball, basketball, horseshoes and billiards.
In the late ‘40s, I played left field for Cook’s Clothing Store in Texas as a 20-yearold while stationed at Lackland Air Base, Texas, before the Korean War.
Our pitcher was Jerry Borne from Indiana, and one of the top-10 fast pitch pitchers in the nation, and we won a lot of games all over Texas on the weekends.
When I retired from the military I played softball for the company I worked for, Syar Industries in Napa, Calif., for years. When I turned 50 I got together with the seniors in Fairfield, Calif., and we started the Suisun Valley Golden Seniors Slow Pitch Softball Club.
We have four teams, the over 50s, 60s, 70s, and the over 80s, both men and women coed teams. We play the year round, doubleheaders on Mondays, and Saturdays. We travel on Wednesdays to all over northern California, and also play doubleheaders. Syar Industries sponsors two teams.
My oldest daughter, Donna Kay, who was Elvis Presley’s girlfriend’s classmate, sponsors one, and my insurance company, the other one. We are starting our 32nd year playing senior softball.
I do not play on the traveling team any longer. I don’t want the players smoking in my classic cars I drive. I had managed and pitched for all four age groups over the 31 years.
I now pitch and manage the over-80 team. I’ve hit over 700 average over the years, and we’ve won over two-thirds of our ball games. I have not hit a home run in a couple of years, but I can still hit the ball up to the fence at 82 years old.
Some of my over- 80 players can no longer run the bases, so when they hit the ball we have a runner for them. These men and women are from all walks of life, and they, like me, still love the game.
As a pitcher I’ve been hit all over my body. I don’t get out of the way when a ball is hit back up the middle like I used to. Five years ago we were the state champs of players on the over 75-yearolds’ team. I pitched the first game and won.
Billy Arrington, a retiree from Pennington Gap, Va., pitched and won the second game in best two-outof three playoff games.
This column is dedicated to my best friend from childhood, who died recently, Rodney Gallion. He will be greatly missed.