When I joined the Greenville Piedmont Sports Staff, the rule was button up shirts and ties. I guess I should call it the dress code, but I hated it so much I just called it the tie rule. I hated ties then, and my attitude has not changed.
I had been with the Piedmont about a month when I eased in to talk to the managing editor. I suggested it was a little foolish for a grown man to have to wear a tie while interviewing an 18-year-old high school student coming out of a shower. So they killed the tie rule.
Even these days, if you see me wearing a tie, I am either showing some dearly departed friend deep respect, or someone is paying REAL good money for me wearing all the bells and whistles.
Another rule at the paper was that every story written by a staff writer included a small, half column photo of the author. I was the exception to that rule too.
There was an anonymous story that ran every Thursday during high school football season written by the Piedmont Picker. He made fun of area football and gave schools different nicknames. The Wade Hampton Generals became, simply The Wade Hampton Privates. Berea was ‘The School For The Small’ and The Pickens ‘Blue Flame’ was reduced to the Pickens Pilot Lights.
Coaches would call every week wanting to be picked to lose, to fire up the team. Except for Jay Lunceford at J.L. Mann. Jay always wanted to be picked to win. The suspense was killing me, so I asked. His reply was just music to my ears. ‘You pick about 25 games a week, and you get 8 out of 10 right. I will take an 8-2 season every year.”
The Piedmont Picker was so big that he got a weekly radio show, with Bob Hooper on WESC (forget Hollywood and ESPN, that’s BIG). The Picker would call the station from the darkroom at the paper every week. What followed was mostly screaming.
“YOU’VE HEARD ABOUT ME, YOU’S READ ABOUT ME, AND HERE I AM. I’M NATIONALLY KNOWN, AND LOCALLY OWNED. I AM THE ONE, THE ONLY, THE FABULOUS PIEDMONT PICKER. I AM NEVER WRONG.”
Then I would calm down and talk to Bob and explain that every game that did not come out exactly like I picked was because the players were just too slow to follow simple directions.
Folks loved to hate the Piedmont Picker.
The Piedmont Picker’s mug shot was taken by Jim “Chief” Wilson, who shot the back of my head as I sat at my typewriter. The Piedmont Picker’s identity was a closely guarded as Deep Throat of Watergate fame. Deep Throat was outed years ago, but the Piedmont Picker has been mostly hidden until now.
I was a regular (read that as daily) visitor at the Falls Street Café (a/k/a “The Cat Dive”), right behind the newspaper, where I collected a whole bunch of columns through the years. Practically every other regular customer knew that I was the Picker, so that’s what I mean by “mostly” hidden.
One day a clod who took personal offense at something derogatory said about his high school, was in the Cat Dive. When I walked in the door, he yelled: “Reese, you should know. Who is that blankety-blank Piedmont Picker?”
Everyone in the place laughed, including me. But I had to answer him, so I said, ‘It is against company policy for me to divulge that information. But I will tell you this much, I’ve been fooling around with his wife for years.” (They ought to carve that line in a rock, somewhere.)
Instead of understanding that I was talking about my own wife, he said, “Good! He deserves that!”
I just couldn’t stay and eat that day.
It just goes to prove that some people are educated far beyond their intelligence.