With high school baseball over for another year, I realize again how much I miss my friend Frank Grearr who passed away a couple of years ago. Frank was an excellent umpire and an even better person.
I had the honor of calling his last game with him. We said “see ya next week” on Sunday, and they called and told me he was gone on Tuesday.
I still wear the shirt he gave me with the number 29 on the sleeve. I still pray for him during the national anthem before every game, and I know he is down there at first base.
We used to make the long rides to Clinch Valley to call doubleheaders in freezing weather in February in his big maroon Cadillac. He would tell me stories about how he grew up in the coalfields as a kid playing against grown men and being able to hit anybody’s fastball. Frank was 82 when he left, but he looked like he was 50. He had the perfect demeanor for an umpire, always neutral, never paying attention to detractors.
I always remember one game in particular in my younger days. It was the regional finals at Unicoi with Happy Valley. There must have been 1,000 fans. As it got heated and went extra innings, Frank came to the plate with a message from Steve Street at first base. He said “Steve said to keep your cool.” Those words stick with me every game.
Frank would be proud of our association now, with Adam Knobloch taking over for Joel Pierce who retired, and his old friend Don Lady coming to games and mentoring new umpires. So if you see two umpires on the field, there’s really five. Frank, Pappy Crowe and Rocky Lewis.