[Nameplate] Rain Fog/Mist ~ 53°F  
High: 76°F ~ Low: 62°F
Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

On mound or on sideline, competition burned hot

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Standing on a pitching mound a mere 60-feet, 6-inches away from some lumbering brute with a bat in his hands the size of a log has got to be quite a sight.

Just looking in at a batter as he prepares to try and knock you off the mound with a laser-beam shot is a dicey proposition, much less trying to dodge one of those shots coming straight at your head.

But for Preacher Roe, one of the hardest shots he ever absorbed came on the hardwood floor of a basketball gymnasium, not on the green grass of a baseball field.

Deciding that it was going to be hard to make a living off just what he was earning per month playing baseball in the minor leagues at the time, Preacher turned to teaching during the winter months for extra income.

So with that, he came back home to Arkansas during the winter, teaching class and coaching basketball at Hardy High School. He taught for a total of eight years and quit teaching after going to the Dodgers in 1949.

And it was as a coach that Preacher suffered what turned out to be a severe head injury.

As Preacher told Roger Kahn, author of the best-selling book The Boys of Summer, "At one game, I didn't like a referee's call and I shouted something."

"He (the ref) shouted, 'Shut up.'"

"I thought he shouted, 'Stand up.'"

"He decked me. My head hit the gym floor. I got a skull fracture and a lacerated brain. The fracture ran eight inches long."

While that incident did slow down Preacher for a couple of years, it didn't keep him down for the count. And doubtless it did anything to curb his intensity to win, whether coaching basketball in Arkansas or playing in the World Series in New York.

Major League Hall of Famer George Kell can testify to as much.

"He was a good coach. A really, good coach. He had the same kind of fire coaching that he did playing baseball," Kell said. "I refereed for him for a number of years. It seems like I did nearly all his games at Hardy. On this one particular day, my brother (Skeeter) was getting married and I called Preacher and said, 'I can't come referee on that day, my brother is getting married at 6 o'clock and I've got to be home.' I was going to be in the ceremony, be the best man. Preacher said, 'OK, I'll get somebody else.' And then, boy, about 4 o'clock that (wedding) day, Preacher calls and says, 'I can't get anybody else, you get up here.' So I did, I left my brother's wedding to go ref for Preacher. And in those days, the road from Hoxie all the way to the Missouri border was all gravel."

Filled with desire to succeed, be it pitching, teaching class, playing baseball, or later in life, fishing or playing a round of golf, that was the love Preacher had for competition.

"He really did love to compete. He was fiery," Kell said.

And when asked if he played any part in the skirmish that broke out between Preacher and a referee all those years ago in a rock and wood high school gymnasium, the former Detroit Tiger great is quick to answer, "No, no. I wasn't any part of that, thankfully," Kell said. "Heard the story, but that wasn't me."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: