Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rick Cleveland: Hanging out with The Senator

This was September, 1979. Mississippi State's football team was playing Maryland at College Park, Md. The late, great Orley Hood and I covered the game for the Jackson newspapers.

We spent all day Friday and Saturday morning touring our nation's capital. Orley was — and I am — a history buff. We probably set a record for time spent by sports writers touring the Lincoln Memorial.

Saturday afternoon, we made our way over to Byrd Stadium at College Park and another history lesson we hadn't really expected. In the press box, I found my seat right next to Sen. John C. Stennis, a former State yell leader, and the man who had replaced Theodore Bilbo in the U.S. Senate 32 years earlier. (For the record, and this is the history buff talking, we got a lot better right there.)

I timidly introduced myself to the Senator. He said, in that pronounced Kemper County drawl of his, “Ah read your stuff all the time. You must be Ace Cleveland's boy.”

I was and am.

My dad much admired Sen. Stennis and had sung his praises to me for years and years. I was in awe of Stennis. I couldn't believe I was sitting by him. I mean, I was 27. Stennis had become a U.S. Senator five years before I was born.

The 1979 Mississippi State football season was not one fondly remembered by Bulldog fans. It was my first year at The Clarion-Ledger, the late Emory Bellard's first as head coach at State. Bellard was trying to run the Wishbone offense without a quarterback suited to run the option offense. The results were as predictable as they were dismal. State opened with a 14-13 loss to Memphis. Then came an open date, and then Maryland. The Bulldogs were decided underdogs.

The Senator, nevertheless, was optimistic. I told him I wasn't. He told me he didn't want to interrupt my work, but he wanted to ask me some questions. He scanned the State depth chart and came across the name of Kent Hull, the future NFL great.

“Kent Hull from Greenwood,” Stennis said in that syrupy drawl of his. “That must be ol' Charlie Hull's boy. Is he?”

I told him Kent was, indeed, Charlie Hull's boy. I also told him that Kent, an under-sized freshman who wasn't shaving yet, would make his first start at center that afternoon against Maryland's All-American nose tackle who was five years older and 80 pounds heavier than Kent. I mentioned that it might not be a good matchup for the Bulldogs — or for Kent.

The truth is, Bellard had wanted to red-shirt Hull and give him another year to develop. Injuries forced his hand. Kent had been a basketball star (as was his dad, Charlie) in high school. He had never really concentrated totally on football and was lean and under-sized for Division I football. It would have been hard to predict then that Hull would become one of the greatest centers in the NFL. Hull, whom Bellard would later call “as tough as a rolling bunch of butcher blades” just wasn't big enough — yet.

So the game began and on the first play from scrimmage the Maryland All American bowled Kent over with a vicious forearm to the chin. Both the Senator and I had our binoculars trained on Kent. I looked over at Stennis, just as he peered over his spectacles at me.

Said the Senator, “Ah don’t believe Ah'll mention that play to ol’ Charlie.”

Final score: Maryland 35, State 14. The game was forgettable. My afternoon sitting between Orley Hood and John C. Stennis, watching Charlie Hull's boy make his first college start, was not.

Rick Cleveland is a syndicated columnist and historian at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. His email address is


Anonymous said...

Fun read. Thanks, Kingfish.

Anonymous said...

Good read. I really enjoyed it. Thanks Rick and JJ.

Anonymous said...

More please!

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS