Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Rick Cleveland remembers our heroes.

This is written on Memorial Day morning, the morning after it was announced that both Ole Miss and Mississippi State baseball teams will host NCAA Regionals at once for the first time ever.

It is written on the day after Southern Miss's stirring 3-2 victory over tradition power Rice for the Conference USA Baseball Championship. Has a relay play from the outfield ever been executed more perfectly? I think not.

This is written on a day when we Americans take a day off from work to remember those who sacrificed to keep us free.

We should never forget that most Americans who sacrificed their lives in all the wars were the same ages as the centerfielder, shortstop, first baseman and catcher who executed the perfect 8-6-3-2 relay for the final out of that championship victory in Hattiesburg Sunday. They were kids, forced to grow up fast — and hundreds upon hundreds of thousands never got to finish growing up.

We owe them everything.

That's all. Everything.

The late Charlie “Roach” Conerly, from Clarksdale, was a football and baseball star at Ole Miss in 1941, having just finished his freshman season when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Not long after, Conerly volunteered for the Marines.

A year later, he was on a ship headed for Guadacanal and the Pacific theatre for some of them most intense, bloody fighting of World War II.

I once talked to Conerly and two of his fellow Marines, Paul Fugate and Miller Dent, about the fighting.

What Conerly said will tell you much about one of Mississippi's most humble sports and war heroes. “I was lucky not to be killed,” Conerly said. “I didn't want to go and I was lucky to be able to come back.”

That was Conerly, a many of few words, and none more than necessary about himself.

His two buddies said far more.

Fugate told about one day when all three were on patrol in Guam.

“We were in a mortar platoon,” Fugate said. “One day we were out on a seven-man patrol, and Roach was the point man. He had two guns shot out of his hands that day and he just kept on going. He knew what his job was and he went out and did it.”

Dent went further.

“I don't know exactly how to say it but Roach was like a magnet,” he said. “Roach was a natural leader. You just felt safe as long as you were around him. You felt as long as you were around him, you would be safe.”

Somehow, all three made it back. So many did not. Roach Conerly not only led Ole Miss to its first SEC football championship in 1947 but also led the Rebel baseball team in hitting with a .467 average. He could have played either professional football or baseball. He chose the former. And he was just as modest about his football greatness as he was his bravery in war.

Earlier last week, Gov. William Winter talked about Conerly's greatness as we drove to and from Cleveland for the C Spire Ferriss Trophy banquet. Winter covered Conerly as the editor of the Mississippian at Ole Miss and much admired him.

During the conversation, Gov. Winter, also a World War II veteran, told me that both his predecessor, Frazier Furr, and a successor, Joe Waggoner, as the Mississippian's editor were killed in that war. Three student body presidents from Winter's last two years of college — Gus Gerard, Billy Sam and Herman Baxter — also were all killed in action. They had their whole lives in front of them. And then they didn't.

We remember them especially on Memorial Day. But we should never forget them.

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

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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