Randy Smith: McEnroe And Me

Friday, August 22, 2014 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

Earlier this week I received an email from my son. It was part of a group message sent to all the members of my family and it read, "Now I know the story behind the picture that has been in our house for 30 years. Check it out on YouTube."

The picture he was referring to is a picture of myself in my freshly starched tennis attire, playing alongside tennis great John McEnroe. The video he had found on YouTube is from a story that was done by channel 12 sports reporter Doug Thomas back in November of 1982. That was when the UTC Arena officially opened with a tennis exhibition between McEnroe and Argentine tennis star Guillermo Vilas. It was the first event ever held at "The Roundhouse" and following the exhibition match, (won by Vilas 6-3, 3-6, 6-3) I teamed with McEnroe to play Vilas and channel 12 weatherman Don Welch.

It was an event I will never forget....for several different reasons.

First, let me say upfront that I found the "bad boy" of tennis to be very likeable and quite unlike anything you read or heard about. When he arrived at the airport, we picked him up in a big limo and he was very polite and seemed to actually be happy to be in Chattanooga. While our match was going on, he did his usual antics but under his breath as he made fun of my racquet and my big heavy feet on the court, he was apologetic for making fun of me.  He had plenty of reason to poke fun because tennis was never one of my best sports, though I enjoyed playing. We won our match over Welch and Vilas pretty handily which doesn't speak well for Don Welch's ability on the court either. Though the tennis and athletic ability actually went down when Welch and I took the court, the crowd stayed for the entire match, and everyone seemed to enjoy watching us stumble all over the court.

I have always had a good friendship with Don Welch. We have worked together on several occasions, but I still haven't forgotten that he took my clothing that I was given from the Levi-Strause company for that tennis exhibition. Levi-Strause was the official sponsor of the exhibition tour and we were given a couple of shirts and pants combinations. The only problem was this; they gave us each the same size. Don Welch was considerably smaller than I was in 1982. The clothing fit him perfectly but was two or three sizes too small for me. Thus, he took all of it. I complained for weeks that he got all the "loot" but all he would do was smile at me with those big pearly whites. It was good-natured fun and I still think fondly to this day about how special that evening was.

So, if you would like to see the actual footage, search YouTube.com and type in, McEnroe WDEF-TV archives. The video should come right up. For my son Davey, I have this question; how in the world did you ever find that video after thirty-two years? My wife Shelia was pregnant with you on that night, and you would be born in less than a month. And for Don Welch, remember "Grandpappy" you still owe me a couple of outfits of clothing! 

-----

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.

His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.

He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.

In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have four grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, DellaMae and CoraLee.

To contact Randy: rsmithsports@epbfi.com


Lee Softball Falls To West Florida

West Florida opened up a six run lead and held on for a 6-3 victory over the Lee softball team to avoid the series sweep on Saturday afternoon on a brisk day at Butler Field. Lee took the first two games of the series in a doubleheader sweep yesterday. The Lady Flames are now 7-4 overall and 2-1 in the Gulf South Conference. The Argonauts improve to 7-3 and are 1-2 in league ... (click for more)

Cleveland State Cougars Split With Gordon State

The Cougars of Cleveland State split their double header this afternoon at Gordon State College. Cleveland State (4-2) lost game one 7-6, but took the rubber match 6-2 winning the series.  "We let game one slip away," said head Coach Mike Polilcastro.  "Our goal was to win the series and we battled all weekend coming back from deficits in winning two games." ... (click for more)

Couple In Small Plane Make Emergency Landing On Highway 27 North Of Dayton

Tom Webb and his fiancée were traveling from Pigeon Forge to Winchester when, at 5,500 feet, they experienced engine trouble. They lost their engine and had to make an emergency landing on Highway 27 north of Dayton. They landed safely and were able to push the plane off the road with help from the Rhea County Sheriff's Department. The incident happened around 7 p.m. on ... (click for more)

Man At Homeless Camp On Chestnut Street Charged With Trying To Set Fire To Another Man

A man at a homeless camp on Chestnut Street has been charged with trying to set fire to another man at the camp. Richard Warren "Trey" Erwin, 40, is charged with aggravated arson. Police were called to the 2200 block of Chestnut at 12:40 a.m. Earlier, Michael Nye and Alisa Buckels had called for an ambulance. They were checked out at Erlanger Hospital for inhalation injuries. ... (click for more)

Black History Month Hero - Theodore McGraw (Kidd) AKA "Pongee" - And Response

I grew up in "Old St. Elmo" on 39th Street behind the Incline. As a child I remember my older brother "Pongee" as being my hero. This month of February being Black History Month, I cannot think of a better person to be honored than my late older brother, Theodore McGraw (Kidd) aka "Pongee" of St. Elmo (Gamble Town). Growing up without my father, Theodore was always available ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Evaluators Earn $11.70

A number of curious job notices, under the heading of ‘General Labor,’ have appeared on various Craigslists, that free Internet portal where you can find everything from a used lawn tractor, guitar lessons or even a saucy Saturday night date. This week on the Charlotte, N.C., Craigslist, for example, there appeared an offer to become a “reader/evaluator” for a company known as Measurement ... (click for more)