I don’t have a pacemaker. I have no idea what one does, other than fire electrical impulses into your heart, to provide a steady heartbeat. My good friend John Ward has had one since 1992. Both my mother-in-law and father-in-law had one, and my old softball coaching buddy Clifford Kirk has one as well. It appears now that when Coach Kirk collapsed on the field Wednesday, with the Region Title on the line, in a 1-1 game with Whitwell, it was a supposed misfire from his pacemaker, rather than a full-blown heart attack. Either way, when he dropped like a rock on top of third base, he needed help and several people, who are now my heroes, ran to his side and administered aid.
It was called a cardiac event by the doctors who treated him at Erlanger. I even thought it could have been diabetic shock; where your blood-sugar drops to an alarming rate. Warm weather can also help trigger that problem.
An excitingly tight girls’ softball game will do that to a much younger man, but to men who are like Coach Kirk and myself; a little long in the tooth if you will, it comes as no surprise. I’m just happy he’s okay and hopefully will get to coach again.
When the game was resumed on Thursday, the Whitwell Lady Tigers defeated Coach Kirk’s Sale Creek team 5-1, to claim the Region Championship. Both teams play sub-state or sectional games today for the right to advance to the TSSAA Spring Fling next week.
Before the season started, Clifford Kirk was talked out of retirement by Sale Creek Principal Tobin Davidson. Kirk had won eight state titles at Soddy-Daisy as well as two at Hixson. He retired last year after more than 900 career wins, ten championship rings, and a stadium at Soddy-Daisy named for him. He is the guru of softball coaches in the tradition rich Chattanooga area.
He was not ready to retire when he announced he was stepping down last summer but he did, so that his heir-apparent, Wes Skiles could move in. It didn’t take long at all for Tobin Davidson to talk Cliff into taking over the reins at Sale Creek, and the job he has done with the help of assistant coach Kendra Goforth has been absolutely amazing. Sale Creek posted just one victory in 2012 BC (Before Clifford).The turnaround is nothing short of a miracle. The Lady Panthers are just one win away from a trip to the Spring Fling, with a lot of freshmen and eighth graders carrying the load.
Sale Creek plays at Gordonsville today, while Whitwell hosts Trousdale County tomorrow night. The winners advance to next week’s State Tournament, and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if both teams are in Murfreesboro when first round play begins on Tuesday.
Coach Kirk has received a new pacemaker; one that hopefully will not misfire on him like the old one did. If Sale Creek can win just more game, I look for him to be in the dugout next week. Being around the young ladies you love and who also love you can do more for a coach than anything else; even a brand new pacemaker.
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).