I wrote these words close to seven years ago in a column talking about the night Davis was presented a Gold Ball Trophy at the Holiday Festival Basketball Tournament.
I write them again today a few days after his passing. A lot has been written about how Randy helped bring Minor League baseball to Rome. But saying he helped remains a vast understatement. Randy pulled, cajoled, pitched, travelled and did just about everything possible to get a team. And when the initial efforts failed, he refused to give up. It’s not far from the truth to say if not for Randy Davis there would be no Rome Braves.
But Randy Davis is so much more than a man who brought baseball to our city.
A few memories of my time spent in Davis’ circle stick out to me.
I can’t remember when I made my debut on the high school football picking show with Randy, Matt, Phil Carter and Jim Bojo, but I do remember our first taping session. Midway through the second segment someone brought up a sports topic I felt strongly about, and I went off. Those that know me know I’m not one to hide my opinions and feelings, and I told the listening audience exactly what I thought.
When we cut to commercial break a few moments later, a couple of the other pickers eyed me a bit warily. I’m pretty sure one of them uttered the word, “Mercy.” Randy leaned back in his chair and chuckled.
“Boy. We’ve really got a live one here.”
I’m pretty sure he enjoyed my rants, because there was more than one occasion I caught him with a devilish smile right before asking a question he knew would get me going.
One year my picks weren’t so great, and I finished last among the pickers earning a special trophy.
The trophy, if one is so inclined to name it as such, is the back half of a horse on a small wooden pedestal. If memory serves me correctly it’s known as the Rick Award, named after a sportswriter who either finished last in the picks one year or for several years. As with many myths, legends and fables, the telling has been skewed for a while.
I have no clue where the award currently resides. I remember Randy handing it over to me with glee as I posed for pictures with it. Over the ensuing year, the award accompanied me on family trips to Florida as well as earned a spot on my Christmas tree. You see, the point of the trophy was to thoroughly embarrass the “winner.” I instead owned my losses and enjoyed every moment of the award. So much so that I would gladly win it over and over again.
I think Randy loved it that the print sportswriter was the one who earned the award.
A few years back, Randy asked me to be on his morning radio show. He had heard a few of my sports writing stories second hand from his son Matt, who served as my Gridiron Central co-host for several years. During the show I recounted a story about how after I interviewed tennis legend John McEnroe he came up with a plan to freak out the other reporters who were much later arriving than myself. Johnny Mac pretended to be mad and even rigged it with my knowledge for me to be the only one allowed to ask questions. I then peppered him with such journalistic fast balls as, what was his favorite color and the name of his childhood pets.
McEnroe eventually broke down laughing and then resumed a regular interview with everyone. During the commercial break after telling the yarn, Randy looked at me with a big smile and a twinkle in his eye.
“That’s a great story. You need to hang on to that one.”
Let’s be honest, if Randy thought a story I told was great, it must be. But even better is that something I said lit up his face.
When word got around that Randy was going to stop doing radio calls of the Holiday Festival Basketball Tournament games, David Mathis came up with the idea of awarding Davis a gold ball trophy. In the lead up to the surprise ceremony during a Model Calhoun girls game at the tournament, I attempted to interview Randy.
More than once I tried to get Randy to open up about his career and the many things he’d done. Within two sentences he would turn the conversation to someone else like a great Rome sports team or a great Rome person. He always managed to find a way to deflect the comment from himself and heap praise onto someone else. The praise was always deserved, but that wasn’t my question.
I even pinned him down once. I asked a question about him and immediately warned him that I would stop him if he deflected and began talking about anyone but himself. He paused for a moment and then gave a simple statement.
“This isn’t about me.”
Davis never sought the limelight, but he made damn sure that local athletes and citizens got their day in the sun. My final correspondence with Randy was an email about two to three weeks back. I sent a reminder to the Rome-Floyd Sports Hall of Fame Committee members outlining the steps they needed to take to nominate individuals for possible hall inclusion. Of course, Randy is in the hall of fame and on the hall of fame committee.
The example I decided to use is a local athlete who has a long list of achievements and probably will be in the hall sometime in the future. Within half an hour of sending that email, I got a reply from Randy.
His words, “Wow. What a great candidate. He has done Rome proud.”
Randy loved Rome and he loved helping tell the stories of Rome. He celebrated every one of us. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate him than to emulate his standard and continue celebrating this city, its people, its athletes and its great stories.
More than a few people have mentioned it won’t be possible to fill his shoes. To which I could hear Randy scoffing. Instead of us talking about how we can’t, let’s copy Randy and say we can. Because if more people in this community followed his example, who knows what the possibilities are for Rome.