Today, AllOnGeorgia releases the second installment of “You Tell Me, MP” featuring legendary Glynn County-based sports writer Murray Poole. In this weekly summer series, current AOG writer Kevin Price will ask Poole a series of questions and the longtime Brunswick News sports editor and 2016 Glynn County Sports Hall of Fame inductee will answer them. Price’s goal is to capture the opinions, thoughts and especially the memories that Poole has from yesteryear in local athletics. This week, the county’s unoffficial sports historian answers questions about his relationship with some coaches and also his memories of his father in this weekly Q and A with the man who used to write his regular Poole Shots column for the local newspaper.
The Robert Sapp baseball camp is returning to our area next week. You’ve sent your son to the camp and also your grandson. Sapp, of course, is from Brunswick, so it makes sense for him to host a camp here. But, how fortunate have we been to have generations of youth in our community exposed to Sapp’s baseball knowledge and expertise for several decades now?
I think Glynn County is very fortunate to have Robert Sapp bring his youth baseball camp here for the past 38 years. Robert learned the game here under youth coach Frog Horton and then was a superb infielder for both Glynn Academy and the University of Georgia. And then he really excelled on the coaching front, making Middle Georgia Junior College a perennial national power while guiding the Warriors to four national championships and 890 wins during his 20 years at the MGC helm.
Robert, then of course, went on to assume the head coaching reins at Georgia. So, I don’t think there’s anybody, anywhere, that knows more baseball than Robert Sapp and again, we’re very lucky that he’s returned to his home town for nearly four decades to impart the fundamentals of the game to the young ballplayers of Brunswick and St. Simons Island.
My son Chris attended the Sapp camp every year he was eligible and was able to take the knowledge he learned from Robert and his excellent assistant staff on to Brunswick High School, where he was a three-year starting pitcher.
Speaking of Sapp, you actually got to know him when both of you were undergrads at the University of Georgia. Then, you came to Glynn County and he returned to Glynn County to coach, so you two crossed paths again. And, you covered his camps each summer all those years at the newspaper. But, I never will forget the day we were sitting in the news room and he called you to tell you he was leaving Middle Georgia to take the Georgia job. So, you had the story before it hit the AP wire. That had to make you feel good that he called you and you got an exclusive interview?
Yes, I first got to know Robert in a University of Georgia journalism class as he was first a journalism major before then switching his primary major to physical education, knowing he wanted to enter the coaching profession. Little did I know at the time, I would be later going to Robert’s hometown to write for The Brunswick News.
I guess it was because of our close relationship — I first covered him as Brunswick High’s first head basketball coach — that I was one of the first sports writers he called to say he was taking the Georgia head coaching job. I was certainly surprised at the time because I thought Robert might just retire as the ultra-successful head coach at Middle Georgia, where he had produced so many state and national championships and sent many players on into professional baseball.
But he was certainly deserving of the Bulldog baseball coaching job and I felt happy and honored when he called to tell me of his new opportunity.
Also, you were on a first-name basis with another Georgia coach, Vince Dooley. I never will forget going to a game in the mid 80s with you and your sons and we saw Coach Dooley just hanging out outside the Holiday Inn early Saturday afternoon in Madison where he used to take the team on Friday nights to get them out of Athens. I was in hog heaven, and he mentioned reading your “Poole Shots” column that summer, I think, when he was down on St. Simons Island for a quick visit. He used to poor-mouth a lot, but it seems he was pretty good with the media. Is that accurate?
I still remember that day when you and my sons Jeffrey and Chris were swimming in that motel pool in Madison. We were of course aware Vince Dooley brought his Georgia team to the Holiday Inn there on home game weekends, but were a bit taken back when he strolled into the pool area and asked y’all, “How’s the water, boys?”
And yes, having covered almost all of Dooley’s football teams in his 25 years at Georgia, I had a pretty close association with Vince, that is, as close an association as is possible for a college head football coach and a media person. And every time he saw me down through the years, his first words weren’t “Hey Murray,” but were “Poole Shots!,” alluding to the title of my column at The News. But I think Vince Dooley always relished his association with reporters, treated us with great respect and also gave us entertaining interviews, often dipping back into the history he loved so much to make his point.
Also, you ended up being on a first-name basis with Mark Richt toward the end of his tenure with the Bulldogs. He knew you from working with Bulldawg Illustrated. But, there is a funny story that developed on his Sunday evening teleconferences with the media during the season. Will you elaborate on that?
Those Sunday evening teleconferences with Coach Richt were pretty humorous, not because of the questions the UGA beat media threw at him each week concerning the past Bulldog game or the upcoming opponent but because somehow I would always open the conference with the first question to Mark and both the Georgia coach and the rest of the guys on the phone knew it was coming.
Georgia’s hall of fame sports information director, Claude Felton, would always begin the teleconference by saying, “OK, Coach Richt is here and ready to take your questions. Be sure to identify yourself and your affiliation.” So after a few weeks straight of Richt hearing me lead off with “Coach, this is Murray Poole of Bulldawg Illustrated, what do you think ……,” his first words when he joined the teleconference from then on would be, “Whatcha got, Murray?” or “Hello, Murray,” before I had even said a word.
And feeding off that, once when I entered Coach Richt’s office in the Butts-Mehre athletic building for a personal interview, he walked in while I was waiting and simply said the word, “First.” We both knew he was referring to the Sunday teleconferences. But Mark Richt and the Georgia media always had a very accommodating relationship and I imagine he’s the same way now with the Hurricane media down in Miami.
Murray, Father’s Day is this weekend. Tell us about your father and his relationship with sports. Was there a sport he was once best at? What were his favorite sports to watch on TV or listen to on radio? Who were his favorite teams and players? Feel free to share anything else in that regard.
I think, as a small child, my daddy took me to every possible ball game that was being held in Moultrie, Ga. And I pretty much grew up in the Moultrie parks where the local professional team played in the old Georgia-Florida League. While it was the Brunswick Pirates, Brunswick Phillies and Cardinals over here at Edo Miller Park, the Moultrie team was affiliated with many major league teams. They were the Moultrie A’s, Moultrie Colt .22s, Moultrie Cubs, Moultrie Giants, Reds and Phillies and yes, even the Packers (same as the high school team), back in the 1940s.
But dad worked the P.A. system for some of those early pro teams and attending the games with him, even as a 5- or 6-year old, I became pretty proficient at spelling some of those ballplayers’ names … such as Columbato. Guess even then the seeds for becoming a sportswriter one day were being planted in my mind, though as just a small, naive kid, I hardly had any thoughts of such.
Daddy was a pretty good athlete himself, running the 100-yard dash in 10 seconds flat and playing running back for both Sylvester High School and Gordon Military Junior College and having the chance for a scholarship to Vanderbilt University before a career-ending knee injury. I remember when he was 55 years old he challenged his three sons and others to a foot race out in the vacant lot in front of our home and yes, nipped all of us at the finish line. That told me something of the speed he owned some 35 years earlier.
Daddy’s teams, of course, were always the Atlanta Braves and Georgia Bulldogs. He never missed a Braves game on television even though when he watched, the Braves were often among the worst teams in baseball. But he always liked Dale Murphy and Bob Horner and in football of course Herschel Walker, among other Bulldogs, and attended a number of games with me.
I still miss Daddy to this day, and on this Father’s Day 2018 coming up Sunday, I hope everyone can have a special day with their dad, or if he’s passed on, recall the great memories you enjoyed with him growing up.