Random ruminations while wondering whatever happened to James “Little Man'' Stewart. …
- Former Tennessee All-American and NFL veteran Darris McCord died last week. He was 80 years old.
McCord grew up in the Burwood farming community in Williamson County. His family moved to Detroit when Darris was young, but returned to Franklin where he played high school football for J.B. Aiken at Battle Ground Academy.
Franklin's Ralph Brown was a football coach who got to know and see McCord play in high school. Tennessee and Vanderbilt were two of the two schools recruiting him.
Brown said Vanderbilt assistant Steve Belichick (father of Patriots coach) came to see McCord play, but Belichick told the Vandy coaches he thought McCord was “a little slow for Vanderbilt.''
Aiken talked to the Tennessee coaches, calling McCord a “diamond in the rough.'' Aiken's endorsement was enough for the Vols, Brown said.
“Darris was a real quiet, unassuming farm boy,'' Brown said. “Darris said later that if it had not been for J.B. Aiken, he doubted he would have gone to college.''
Not only was McCord an All-American and captain at Tennessee, he graduated with an engineering degree.
He was a third-round draft pick by the Detroit Lions and from 1955-67, missed only two games, as he became a part of the Lions' Fearsome Foursome with Roger Brown, Sam Williams and Alex Karras.
“Darris is the most successful pro football player ever from Williamson County,'' Brown said.
When Brown asked former NFL player and coach Ed Khayat what kind of NFL player McCord was, Khayat told Brown that McCord was “a lot of man.''
McCord made his home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March.
- It was nice to see four former Vanderbilt make the baseball playoffs.
David Price of Tampa Bay, Mike Minor of the Braves, Sonny Gray of the Oakland A's and Pirates third baseman, Pedro Alvarez, all played big roles in their team's postseason play.
Alvarez, who hit for power this season, carried a hot stick into the playoffs for the Pirates who had not made the playoffs in years.
Unfortunately none of the four will advance past their division series.
- Alvarez had three home runs in the five games he played in the NLDS. He was 6 for 20 with 16 total bases and a slugging percentage of .941. He led the Pirates in home runs in the regular season.
He also had a fielding gem from third base, charging a slow roller, bare-handing it and throwing the runner out on a bang-bang play.
- Price lost in his only start in the AL Division Series against Boston, giving up 9 hits, 7 earned runs during his 7 innings.
“Absolutely, I'm disappointed,'' he said later. “I don't know what my stat line was, but I know I gave up quite a few earned runs. It stinks, especially in the offseason when you want to go out there and pitch your best.''
Veteran Red Sox slugger David Ortiz touched Price for two round trippers. He thought Price was tired after pitching a complete game against the Rangers to get the Rays into the playoffs.
“The thing I noticed about him, his fastball wasn't the way it used to be,'' Ortiz said. “Of course, he pitched (a complete game) four or five days ago.
“A complete game will catch up with you a little bit this time of the season.'' Ortiz said.
Price thinks he will be traded in the off-season. He could end up with the Dodgers or Yankees.
- Minor pitched a strong 6.1 innings against the Dodgers in a 4-3 win. He gave up eight hits, struck out five and walked one for a 1.42 ERA. In regular season, Minor was 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA.
- Gray became the story of the playoffs as he dueled former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander in Games 2 and 5 in the ALDS. Gray pitched eight innings of shutout baseball in Game 2. He gave up four hits, striking out 9. That gave the A's the confidence to start the right-handed rookie from Smyrna the ball for the decisive Game 5, again matching him against Verlander.
Gray made a believer out of GM Billy Beane. Beane was working out before Gray pitched Game 2. The Arizona State-Notre Dame football game was on the TV when Gray appeared.
“Beyond his physical talent, Sonny has a great mental makeup,'' Beane said. “”He walked in and calmly sat down and watched.''
Verlander pitched a 3-0 shutout in Game 5. Miguel Cabrera lifted a Gray pitch over the left field fence in the fourth inning and that was all the offense the Tigers needed. Verlander didn't allow a runner past second base, taking a no-hitter into the seventh.
- What if. … former Bears Coach Mike Ditka had decided to run for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004?
He was seriously contemplating running as a Republican and his Democratic opponent would have been none other than Barack Obama.
The Republicans did not put up a candidate and the rest is history.
“Biggest mistake I've ever made,'' Ditka said recently. “Not that I would have won, but I probably would have and (Obama) wouldn't be in the White House.''
- It is hard to believe it has been 16 years since Coach Dean Smith stepped aside after being the face of North Carolina basketball after 36 years. Smith was diagnosed with the onset of dementia.
Smith named his longtime assistant Bill Guthridge to be his successor, but Guthridge proved to not be the answer to uphold the high standards Smith set during his career.
- Ravenwood High School tennis player Vivian Hao will receive the 2013 ANNIKA Inspiration Award for her passion for tennis and her numerous volunteering efforts like SPEAK: A Movement to End the World's Worst Atrocities.
Hao lost her father at an early age and turned to tennis as an outlet. Realizing how much the sport had meant to her, she began volunteering to teach tennis to special needs children.
She will receive the award at the Women's Sports Foundation's 34th annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards on Wednesday in New York City.
- Longtime defensive coordinator for Vince Dooley at Georgia, Erk Russell, left to be the head coach at Georgia Southern after the program had been dormant for 40 years.
Russell, now deceased, had a way with words.
“We don't cheat at Georgia Southern,'' Russell once said. “It takes money to cheat, and we don't have any.''
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.