Legends, Hushpuppies… & Umbrellas

Wilbers BBQ in Goldsboro NC
January15/ 2012

“BobLee, what’s the deal with the umbrella?” – “Whoa Doc; don’t even start with the whys.  Once you start it will never end.  This is The Night Of 1,000 Whys.”

Our annual column on The George Whitfield Baseball Clinic ‘Cue & Puppy Gobble & Giant Plaque Giveaway in Goldsboro.  An evening unlike any other in the crowded universe of sports awards banquets.  The name of this event does not have quite the cache as, say, The Bob Hope Desert Classic or The Jimmy V Celebrity Golf Classic.   That’s not the only difference.

He is a internationally renown orthopedic surgeon.  He has performed over 15,000 knee and shoulder surgeries as Numero Uno Sawbones Extraordinaire of UNC Sports Medicine for the past 35 years.  He has sliced and diced Tar Heel athletes for four decades as well as USA Olympians and the occasional clumsy undergrad who tripped on the steps of Wilson Library….. and he’s asking ME why he was just handed a coffee-table-sized plaque……. and an umbrella.

Dr Tim Taft’s bemused expression was shared by 20-some other honorees in a packed auditorium at Goldsboro High School.  Among the bemused
20-some were Carl Tacy….. Woody Durham….. Don Shea….. David Thornton….. Wendell Murphy….. Bob Kennel…… Wes Chesson….. THE Skywalker….. Two Medal-of-Honor winners…. and a dozen or so other salt-of-the-earth luminaries of varying luminence from assorted communities from Murphy To Manteo.

Who knew – a former catcher for the Pea Ridge Peapickers had something to do with Kevlar?

This assembled menagerie of aging athletic celebrities shared one unique qualification – George Whitfield wanted to give them a really big plaque…. and an umbrella.   So they all came to Goldsboro with their posses.

Dr Taft’s posse consisted of yours truly…. Bucky The Coach…. Nickle Al…. Clark The Cop….. Charlie…. and Mo.  What we lacked in numbers we made up for in smart alecky snide remarks.  Bucky, Albert and Charlie had received their really big George plaques in prior years.  Mo is scheduled for next year.  Clark The Cop and I are hoping for at least umbrellas when we attend our 5th GWBCQPGGPG next year.   Bucky, Albert and Charlie were visibly miffed that they had not received umbrellas at their “heeeere’s your big plaque” ceremonies.


Oh…. did I mention that George’s 2012 Shindig managed to get itself included on the 2012 Richard “Call me Dickie” Baddour Farewell Tour & Swag Grab?

Yes indeedy.  Prince Tassel Loafer hisownself was there.  “There” being his hometown of Goldsboro.  Dickie left Wayne County in 19 and 63 to take up permanent residence on the UNC payroll in Chapel Hill.  During which he either did or did not have anything to do with hiring Butch Davis.  The “did or did not” depends on what segment of Butch’s tenure is under discussion.  During the last two years Dickie was apparently taking a shower with Bobby Ewing; and claims no knowledge of, or responsibility for, whatsoever.

George figured what the heck.  Throwing expense to the wind, he found one more plaque and a spare umbrella and gave’em to Dickie.  Dickie had received a larger pile of other swag last week at a sickenly sweet Good By Dickie Don’t Let The Door Hit You in The Butt ceremony at UNC.

WHY you ask?  Wasn’t Dickie’s total lack of any oversight whatsoever largely responsible for Butch/Blake/Julius/Jennifer et al?  Yes but what’s your point?  This is UNC where (as with George’s Goofy Goldsboro Deal) once you start asking “Why” you get a mind numbing headache and break out in hives.

Dickie shoulda been handed a 2×3 cardboard box, given ten minutes to gather his personal crap and led off campus by a phalanx of security goons.  The Carolina Way (wink!) refutes the adage that “sustained mediocrity is its own reward”.  Play it Dickie’s Way and the rewards are cruises, rocking chairs, plaques and more plaques.

“BobLee, were Uncle Julius and Jennifer at Dickie’s Do?”  I don’t know.  As with Bob Winston’s Christmas Party, I was not invited.  I did hear that NCAA gumshoes were taking down license plates #s and monitoring all outgoing cell calls.


George Whitfield is one of THE most incredibly sincere, well-intentioned, congenial, eternally convivial human being ever to draw breath.  I have known George for 50+ years.  He won more baseball games than any high school coach in North Carolina history.  He loves baseball, Eastern North Carolina, Wilber’s barbecue, Clyde King, Goldsboro…. and on one night each January – the sound of his own voice droning on for 2+ hours.  George Whitfield IS God Bless America sung delightfully off-key by a 3rd grade choir .

Sit in a hard wooden seat for two hours in a high school auditorium with narrow rows, poor ventilation, and 300 people all asking “is this ever going to end?” and you tend to get jaded.   George honors his honorees in alphabetical order.  The fidgeting, sighing and occasional snores begin around J-K-L.  Bucky and I kept elbowing one another to maintain our rapt attention.  Others were less courteous.  By the time George got to R-S-T the empty seats were multiplying like rabbits.

I always see old friends I never see any other time.  I did so this year.  Reid, Everett, Charlie, Allan, Cuzzin Bobby…. PLUS, I get great column fodder out of the silly thing.  But no umbrella.

I did get us lost finding the high school.  That turned out to be a sinister plot hatched by Little Dickie who had street signs changed to confuse me.  To which I can only utter the old familiar phrase – “Damn that Dickie Baddour!” 

Someone asked how George determines how many honorees he will honor each year.  He first scrounges up the free umbrellas then uses that total as his “sign from Heaven”.  No one has a better explanation.

Of the 20-some recipients this year, history says less than seven will actually display their George plaque.   Wives with good taste and available wall space destine the others to attics, basements and “no one knows where”.  Of the six or so who will display their award, they will spend the rest of their life answering the question:  “Now who is this George Whitfield and why did he give you this?”  All 20-some will have lost their umbrellas by mid-March because everyone loses umbrellas.

George Whitfield’s Night of A 1,000 Whys is Souza marches…. home-made peach ice cream….. Kindergarten ballet recitals…… haircuts on Saturday morning….. seeing Mt Rushmore and getting a lump in your throat….. and playing catch with your dad before supper.  It’s a good thing.  Goofy as hell…. but “a good thing”.



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