I turned sixty-two years old last week. I don’t feel older, but it may be that I’m just numb and can’t feel anything. Seriously, it was a wonderful birthday, as I had my family, including all three grandchildren with me at the beach at our favorite beach spot; Ponce Inlet Florida.
Back in June of 2006, I had total knee replacement surgery. The surgery wasn’t all that bad, but the rehab was a killer. I did everything I was supposed to do, and my recovery was successful. In fact, just three and a half weeks after getting out of the hospital, I climbed to the top of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse; all the way, without stopping and with no assistance. I have been doing that every year either on or around my birthday. 175 feet high, with 203 steps, I climbed it again in 2013.(That figures to between eighteen and twenty flights of stairs, fyi)
As I was climbing last week, I thought of other memorable birthdays. After all, when you’ve had sixty-two of them, some are bound to be more memorable than others.
In 1961, as I turned ten years old, I was enthralled in Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris’ “Race with Babe Ruth” and the Bambino’s single season record of sixty home runs. As it turned out, Mickey faded at the end due to injuries, but Roger was successful in breaking the record with sixty-one homers. (By the way, that still stands as the American League record today) From that point I was a Yankee fan and remain one today. My all-time favorite sports movie is Billy Crystal’s “*61”
In 1966 as I turned fifteen, I went two for three with a couple of RBI against future Cleveland Indians star Wayne Garland. We were playing a game in the Nashville Babe Ruth League. The irony there was…..Wayne went on the Major Leagues and I didn’t.
When I turned thirty-seven in 1988, the little girls softball team I was coaching, gave me a surprise birthday party following one of our games. It was a pleasant surprise and one that I obviously haven’t forgotten.
The week of my birthday in 1990 brought me one of my greatest joys. I was coaching the Whitwell Dixie Youth 7-8 year old all-stars. We were facing a very good Sequatchie County team in the Sub-District finals. The winner moved on to the District Tournament the following week, and as we entered the bottom of the sixth and final inning, we trailed 13-7. The first two batters for us in the inning failed to reach base, so were down to our final out, with the bases empty. Coming to the plate was a youngster who had not had a hit in the tournament at all. I told him as I watched the parents and fans begin to pick up their lawn chairs and belongings, to just pick out a good pitch and hit the ball hard. Obviously our fans had little faith in our team to come back, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t either. It had been a great season for everyone, and we were heading to the beach the next week.
The kid hit the first pitch into the gap in right-center field. As he stood on second base with a two-out double, he had a smile as big as Texas on his face. That base hit revitalized my team and started a rally that would be unbelievable. Sequatchie County never got the third out. We rallied for seven runs and a 14-13 victory; a win that sent Whitwell to the Dixie Youth District Tournament.
The next year, as I became a forty year old man, my wife gave me a surprise party at our home. There were many friends and relatives on hand, and that event snapped me out of a deep depression, as my father had passed away after battling cancer, seven weeks earlier.
In 2013, as I turned sixty-two, I was again thankful for the ability to climb to the top of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. I was even more thankful for my family; my wife Shelia, our children Christi and Davey and their spouses, Chris and Alison, and especially for the presence of our grandchildren Coleman, Boone and DellaMae. I can’t wait to turn sixty-three.
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).