SMITH COLUMN: Summer of 1962

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Repairing to my basement office earlier this week to search for a document, I ran across a file labeled, “Coast Guard,” which brought pause to my objective. There was not much stashed away in the file, just a very few military documents, but I was suddenly overwhelmed with flashbacks to a wonderful year.

I had finished college but was taking care of my military obligation, which included six months of active duty, the last of which had me stationed in New London, Connecticut.

It was not where I wanted to be. although the duty was very pleasant.  Because I could type, I landed an office job, and the Chief Petty Officer was a baseball aficionado of the highest level.

When I told him, I would be going to the World Series one weekend, he was overwhelmed. The Yankees were hosting the San Francisco Giants, the latter team having vacated the nearby Polo Grounds after 56 years and landing in San Francisco.

The way I got my ticket was through a friendship with a highly regarded Associated Press columnist, Will Grimsley. I used to enjoy conversations with him each spring at Augusta. He was a native of Tennessee. I was introduced to Will by another Southern sports writing icon, Fred Russell of the Nashville Banner. Will got me a Western Union Pass to a couple of World Series games.

This meant that I was fortunate to see Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays in competition. Extraordinarily fantastic. Will did the same thing for me when I wanted to attend New York Giants home games, which allowed me to watch Y. A. Tittle and Frank Gifford lead their team to the playoffs.

When the Philadelphia Eagles played at home, I most often would take a train from Penn Station to Philly and enjoy an Eagles game. There were several Georgia players on the Philadelphia roster: Marion Campbell, Bobby Walston and Theron Sapp.

Sapp always gave me a ticket to attend the game at Franklin Field on the Penn campus, which meant that I would always be sitting with a very pretty girl. The Drought-Breaker always had a penchant for dating good looking women.

On the field, there was remarkable talent. Sonny Jurgensen, Tommy McDonald and Chuck Bednarik, the last 60-minute man in professional football, considered one of the most devastating tacklers the league has ever known.

Later on, when I took trips to the Eagle training camp in Hershey, Pennsylvania, some of those stars remembered being introduced by their hard charging fullback and would allow me to join them after practices for a beer.

The Eagles had won the National Football League title in 1960, and, naturally, were the toast of the city. When I got to the “City of Brotherly Love” on Saturdays, I had the stimulating experience of visiting all the historical places. The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross House and the historical home of one of my favorite Americans, Benjamin Franklin.

That was the beginning of a tradition which has always brought excitement and fulfillment to travel. Sports can take you to many interesting venues, but it doesn’t have to end with a stop at the stadium. There is so many exciting opportunities to learn about a city or campus if you take the time to explore just a fraction.

Sometimes, depending on your schedule, and available time, there might be an opportunity to find a place to catch a trout or bass, maybe kill a few quail or a turkey.

The summer of ’62 extended into the greatest highlight of my life. It concluded with marrying the prettiest coed I ever saw. We honeymooned at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville where I had a public relations job as an assistant.

Enterprise can do a lot for you, regardless of the circumstances.

I earned enough money to buy our first refrigerator.