Chasing urban myths while missing the stars of my youth

Published 7:06 pm Tuesday, October 27, 2020

I’m finding out there’s more to this newspaper thing than I thought. It’s beeninteresting and challenging to writeabout the people and places that make Beaufort County unique. I spent quite a bit of time last week chasing leads that went nowhere, at least so far. Urban myths,I’ll call them. You’ve probably seen the political sign that reads: “2020 Independently Lukewarm Ricky Dale Woolard for President”in a mixture of very patriotic red, white and blue. Being election season, I decided to investigate. Google wasn’t much help. Mr. Woolard’s last known address was in New Bern,and the phone was always busy when I called. The next number I found was for a day care center.I did find that he had paid the filing fee to run for president along with 900 others but had not collected even one signature to get him on the ballot. The third number I found was no good either. Three strikes,and I’m out.I’m still working to track two other potential stories that don’t yet exist in my mind. I’ve been charged with trying to find the fellow who greets passing motorists with a big wave and a smile as he runs along River Road most mornings.I’vesearched from HavensGardens to the Piggly Wiggly twice with no luck. Too early or too late, who knows. So far,the Happy Runner is in the same category as Bigfoot.Thismyth is the most intriguing to me. I keep hearing that legendary Motown star Smokey Robinson was born here, visited here frequently as a child and/or had (has) family here. Accounts vary, but Smokey doesn’t mention Washington in any of his official publications. I’ve always enjoyed his music and would love to tie him to our area. Now to the second part of the headline. I have loved baseball my entire life. The first major sporting event I can remember was the 1968 World Series when the Detroit Tigers beat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. You might think I pulled for the Cards since I’m from Missouri, but you would be incorrect. Mickey Lolich was my man,and he outdueled Bob Gibson in Game 7 to win the title. Gibson, Tom Seaver and Joe Morgan, all heroes of my youth passed away recently. I saw Gibson pitch the first game I ever attendedin old Busch Stadium with the rest of my elementary school Safety Patrol group. I remember watching him on TV many times. He wasa fast worker, always a pitch or two into the inning before the commercial break ended. He was a fierce competitor and never minded aiming at a batter’s head. I met him once in the mid-1990s. He was cordial but had an intense air about him. I told him how much I enjoyed watching him pitch, he thanked me,and I moved on before he could throw at me.I loved watching Seaver pitch on TV as well. The Amazing Mets of 1969 were my team,and I was thrilled when New York traded him to the Reds in the mid-1970s. Iregretnever meetinghim.The Reds became my team in the 1970s when they were the Big Red Machine with Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez and Joe Morgan. He was a left-handed batter like me. The difference between us was he could hit. I still remember leaping off the couch when he won Game 7 of the 1975 World Series against the Red Sox with a bloop single toright field.
I met Morgan in Durham while I was the Bulls broadcaster. The team retired his number from when he played there in the 1960s. I had him on-air far longer than he probably wanted, but he told great stories and made it a memorable evening.I’ve thought about those guysa lot lately. It keeps me occupied while I’m waiting for the happy runnerto appear.