Little League, Lyman, Doug & the ‘N’ Word

It was 1970 and I decided that dropping out of college was a really smart idea. DUH! My dad had taken a management position with Cabot near Franklin, Louisiana and said that if I wasn’t going to college at West Texas State anymore, then I was to get my behind down to Franklin & start working.

After I had been there a few months, I got a call asking if I would help coach a Little League baseball team; I accepted. At the end of the very first practice the head coach handed me the team scorebook, the equipment bag and told me he had been transferred for the rest of the summer to another work site. YES, that meant that I was the new head coach. (20 yrs old)

After a week of working the boys out, I had pretty much decided on who our starters would be. Our shortstop was named Doug and our catcher was named Lyman; Doug was white & Lyman was black and we were in south Louisiana. Lyman was the biggest boy on the team, Doug was big too, but not as big as Lyman. (Lyman would later be a 2-time All American defensive lineman at LSU)

I was working the boys really hard one day with a 3-ball drill catching grounders. Doug made one of his throws to Lyman and Lyman missed it. Lyman thought it was a bad throw; Doug thought it was good and that Lyman had botched the catch. I hollered, “Come on, boys, get this right.”

That’s when it happened. Doug hollered, calling Lyman the “N” word. Lyman flipped off his mask and took off for Doug. I ran as fast as I could to get to Doug before Lyman did. I grabbed both boys and yelled, “Now stop this.”

That’s when we had our first “come to Jesus” team meeting. I told the boys that I couldn’t control what the vocabulary at their home was like, but that I was in TOTAL CONTROL at baseball practice and games. I told them that since I hadn’t specifically addressed how I personally felt about the “N” word, then there would be no punishment today.

Then with a firm, deep voice I said, “I better never, ever hear that word used again from any of you and especially NEVER toward a fellow teammate. ARE WE CLEAR?” Then one at a time I got uncomfortably close to each of the players, stared at them and asked: “ARE WE CLEAR?” Each boy said “YES, COACH.”

I saved Lyman for next to last and Doug for last. Both of them said, “YES COACH.” I then looked at Doug and asked him, “Is there anything you want to say to Lyman now.” That’s when God showed up at our team meeting. Doug teared all up and not because I had hollered at him. He looked over at Lyman, eyes full of tears, tears running down his cheeks and poured his heart out, “Lyman, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. That was a bad thrown and I knew it. I guess I was just mad at myself and was taking out on you. Honest, I’m sorry, it won’t ever happen again; I promise.” I looked over at Lyman and asked, “So are we OK now?” Lyman always had the biggest smile, but as he looked over at Doug, I think his smile was a record-setter. “Yeah, we’re ok.”

I never heard that word used again with my Forest Motel boys. And even though we were picked for last place, we won the Championship. I still have our team photo and I smile every time I look at it. God, please bless all the boys, wherever they are.

Mike Sublett is a pastor at Hi-Land Christian Church, 1615 N. Banks St., Pampa, Texas 79065. Email him at pawdad@nts-online.net.

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