Thursday, May 17, 1973, I was living in Murfreesboro, Tn. at the time and was just two days away from my wedding. I was umpiring Babe Ruth League baseball and had a pair of games on this clear, beautiful evening. I was paid a grand total of $15 for the two, meaning umpire’s pay back then was a whopping $7.50 per game.
After the first game, I got my complimentary hamburger and soft drink from the concession stand, and I walked over to the bleacher area to sit down. As I slid across the wooden bench in the bleacher area, I realized how old and splintery this particular row of the bleachers was. In other words, my rear end was full of little wooden splinters. At first, they were sore, but after a while I forgot they were there; until I sat down in my car and drove home.
That’s when I knew, ‘I’ve got to get these things out.’
On Friday morning, I drove to Whitwell, for the final time as a single man. On Saturday, May 19, I would marry my best friend, and the most beautiful woman I ever saw. Shelia Morrison was waiting for me when I pulled into her driveway. I very gingerly got out of my 1962 Chevrolet Bel-Air, and when she asked me why I was walking funny, I told her, “My butt is full of splinters.”
By the time I got there, they had begun to get infected, and with our wedding the next day, we were all set to drive to Daytona Beach, Fla., for our honeymoon. I had to get those splinters out, right now. As I walked into the house and told my future mother-in-law, Louise Morrison what had happened, she said, "Drop your drawers and bend over the washing machine. Shelia, go get my tweezers.”
Now, the way things had started in our relationship was not good at all. The first three times I went to Whitwell to visit Shelia, Mrs. Morrison said all of three words to me. “I’m Shelia’s Mother.” She did not like me and had no intention of allowing her daughter to date a “long haired, guitar-picker from Nashville.” Shelia’s father, Oscar Morrison was always friendly with me and he at least talked to me some. Louise, on the other hand, even tried to turn Shelia’s nephew Scotty against me. He told me, “You’re not taking my Aunt Shelia across Monteagle Mountain.”
Needless to say we worked things out. She came to accept me and as I was bending over the washing machine in her kitchen, with my drawers down below my knees, I realized just what a vulnerable position I was in. The game of baseball had allowed me to bond with my mother-in-law, in the strangest way possible.
The last words Louise Morrison ever said to me were, “I couldn’t have loved you more, if you had been my very own.” That was the day she died in April of 2004. I have never forgotten those words, nor have I forgotten the time she plucked the splinters from my butt, the day before my marriage to her daughter.
Happy 40th anniversary to my wife Shelia. It hasn’t been perfect, but it sure has been a lot of fun. I love you!
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).