In February of 1998, baseball icon Ted Williams was fading fast, but he was still four long years away from entombment in a frozen cryonics chamber in Scottsdale, AZ. I was a Red Sox fan getting ready to relocate from Boston to Asheville, N.C., but before I left I wanted to make one final trip to Sportsworld, Inc., the largest and most complete sports memorabilia store in the Boston area. When I arrived there, Phil Castinetti, the prosperous owner, was decidedly holding court about the Splendid Splinter’s prodigal son, the much-maligned and widely criticized John Henry Williams.
Two months earlier, Castinetti had been the unwitting victim of an FBI sting operation initiated by John Henry, Continue reading
The (1909-1911) T206 baseball card, with its sturdy frame and colorful history, packs a powerful punch and fights well above its weight class. It belongs to one of the most iconic baseball sets ever produced – a venerable behemoth totaling 524 lithographed cards. Hundreds of thousands of these dead-ball era relics have survived the devastating rigors of two world wars, the Great Depression, and countless decades filled with careless abuse and benign neglect. But regardless of the long years of wear and tear, it is nearly impossible to resist their classic portraiture and compelling design every time you hold one in the palm of your hand.
I was formally introduced to this monster baseball set at Sportsworld, Inc., the legendary sports memorabilia shop Continue reading
Ensign Lyman W. Keele, Jr. with his wife Cathleen
CD: Ron, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today about your good friend Lyman W. Keele, Jr. and the events surrounding his death after the crash of Southern Airways Flight 242. You worked together at Southern, and you both flew out of Dobbins Air Force Base. To start, briefly describe how you became an A-7 attack pilot aboard the USS Oriskany during the last year of the war in Vietnam.
RC: “I finished four years at Auburn in August of 1968, and the day I graduated I took a bus to Pensacola, Florida. So I graduated on Saturday, and by Monday I had started flight school in Pensacola. It took me six weeks to finish my primary training on T-34’s at Saufley Field–these are Continue reading
The fans at Altamont Speedway
December of 1969 was a fitting end to a turbulent decade in American history: the Black Panthers were under attack in L.A.; The Jackson 5 made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show; John Lennon was offered the lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar; Arlo Guthrie released Alice’s Restaurant; and on Sunday, December the 6th, more then 300,000 overly indulgent fans attended the Rolling Stones free concert at the Altamont Speedway in California. Four people died that on tragic day, and countless more were injured. Some critics claimed it was the final death knell for the “Age of Aquarius”–a total knockout blow to the abiding myth of rock & roll innocence. Continue reading
Jimmy Johnson with Ronee Blakley
Back in the day when the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was firing on all cylinders, co-founder Jimmy Johnson bragged that they recorded a new album every week, rarely taking any time off. He stayed busy as both a music producer and sound engineer, but he was also the versatile guitar player for their legendary house band known as “The Swampers.” I caught up with him recently, and we spoke about Annette Snell, the R&B singer who died in a terrible plane crash on April 4, 1977, just hours after completing her first recording session at MSSS. Johnson remembered her well, recalling her enormous drive and big talent. We also talked about his younger brother Earl, who tragically lost his life in the same plane crash. Continue reading
Jimmy at Earl’s graduation from Auburn
Jimmy Johnson has scaled musical heights that most musicians can only dream about. He was the killer guitar player for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (aka “The Swampers”), and he was also an integral part of two legendary hit factories: Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in nearby Sheffield. Johnson has had a storied career–the Swampers’ indelible discography is awe inspiring in its length, depth and breadth, boldly stretching from R&B to rock and roll, from folk, to soul, to country, and beyond.
Critics and musicologists alike sing the group’s infinite praises, trying to define the vision that allowed them to shine so brightly. Almost five Continue reading
Paul John Knowles
Paul John Knowles was a nasty piece of work. He met his violent end on December 18, 1974, sprawled across the backseat of a sheriff’s sedan after making his final bid for freedom. He failed spectacularly, taking three bullets to the chest, but not before he had secured his coveted spot on the All-America hit list as one of the most twisted and unpredictable rampage killers of his generation. He never had a chance to display the courtroom swagger of a Ted Bundy, nor did he dine out with the savage voracity of a Jeffrey Dahmer. His was a more immediate cruelty, one that favored the intimate feel of a nylon stocking as it slowly tightened around a woman’s neck. Still, he was not averse to the coldly plunging knife, or even a swift bullet to the back of his victim’s head. Continue reading