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One Sports Fan Left Behind: Foul Me out of the Ball Game

One Sports Fan Left Behind: Foul Me out of the Ball Game

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One Sports Fan Left Behind: Foul Me out of the Ball Game

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Oct 31, 2011


Nearly everyone in America is interested in sports. However, many people are becoming disenchanted. Media coverage is dominated by scandalous stories involving many of Americas best known figures in nearly all major sports. Fans have come to see professional athletes, in general, as being overpaid, immature and obnoxious. Ticket prices have become outrageously exorbitant. Many fans feel that they have been betrayed by something that they once held so dear. One Fan Left Behind, written by a typical, longtime sports fan, speaks to and for those fans.

Some of the issues addressed are controversial and may serve as catalysts for further thought. Many dubious things about sports are blithely taken for granted. For instance, did you ever wonder why it is that if a basketball player is fouled in the act of shooting 25 feet from the basket, (a shot which he was probably going to miss anyway) he gets to move ten feet closer to the hoop to shoot three free throws? But if he is fouled in the act of shooting a lay up, (a shot which he rarely misses) he has to move several feet further from the basket to shoot only two free throws.

One Fan Left Behind is written in a style which is lighthearted, entertaining and at times, tongue-in-cheek. Portions could be used as a stand-up comedy routine. Other segments can be described as nostalgic, poignant and/or deadly serious.

The topic is singularly timely. So many things happen every day that it was difficult for the author to finish writing this book. He had to simply drop the pencil and stop writing. The story is still unfolding.
Oct 31, 2011

Sobre el autor

ABOUT THE AUTHOR William Butler was born in Connersville, Indiana. When Bill was eleven years old, his father was called to pastor the First Baptist Church in Noblesville, Indiana. Bill could not accept this move with equanimity, because he wanted so much to eventually play for the Connersville Spartans. At Noblesville High School, he was the first athlete to earn nine varsity letters; three each in football, basketball and track & field. Butler was named to the Indianapolis Star 1954 All-State football team. All eight of the Butler siblings are into sports. Each year, from 1950 through 1959, there was at least one Butler on the Noblesville High School football and basketball teams. The Boys played football for Ball State (2), Butler U. and Franklin College. The girls were avid tennis players. Unfortunately, by the time Title IX came into being, they had completed their schooling. Bill Butler attended Ball State U. While there, he played football, until a serious injury ended his gridiron days. He played basketball in the Army and then in several leagues for many years. The author’s degree from Ball State is in social science with a minor in English. He earned a masters degree in educational psychology from Temple University. Butler’s forty year career in education, consisted of work as a teacher, counselor and administrator. He established chess clubs in several schools, and coached a team to the Philadelphia Scholastic League Championship. Mr. Butler’s first class, the Sumner High School (Kansas, City Kansas) class of 1960, selected him to be the special honored guest at their fifty year reunion. Bill has been married to Rosemarie for more than forty-seven years. The Butlers have resided in Southern New Jersey since 1972. They have two grown children.

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One Sports Fan Left Behind - William D. Butler




Chapter 1



It would be impossible for me to explain the role that sports have played in my life, without mentioning my father, the Reverend Doctor Ernest D. Butler. Rev. was a singularly unique individual. He was known to everyone as The Rev., or simply, Rev.

Yes, he was known by everyone, but no one can say that they really knew Rev. As soon as one could feel that they were beginning to understand him, Rev would display facets of his personality, talents and skills that were not hitherto known to exist.

In the final years of his life, he received many high honors and accolades. It is important to remember, however, that when I was growing up, and for all of my life, to me, Rev was just my father and my friend. He worked indefatigably, struggling to raise a family, while trying to make Indiana a better place to live and to raise a family.

Whether as a family man, a pastor, a civil rights leader, a township trustee, or simply as a mensch, his life was one of total commitment to helping people. It was not until his complete body of work could be examined, that he became a great man.

Rebel With a Cause is a PBS documentary about Rev. It was produced by Dr. Alan Backler and David Gudaitis of Indiana University. The cover reads:

The late Reverend Ernest D. Butler was a crusader for civil rights during its most tumultuous era in Bloomington. Beginning with his arrival in 1959 to become pastor of the Second Baptist Church, Butler became a focal point in African Americans’ struggle for equal employment, housing and education.

Complicated, bold, and shrewd, Butler worked with other community leaders to enact legislation that helped integrate Bloomington neighborhoods and guarantee equal rights.

For his devotion and his tenacity, Butler, his endlessly supportive wife Mary, and their eight children faced harassment and death threats from the Ku Klux Klan.

Rev. Butler’s transformation from fiery rebel to respected elder leader was hard fought and decades in the making.

They named a park in honor of Reverend and Mary Butler in Bloomington, Indiana. There is also a Rev. Ernest Butler Housing Project in that same community. I find it interesting that this project of approximately 2,000 residents is predominantly white.

When he retired as pastor of The Second Baptist Church of Bloomington, in 2002, at the age of 89, Rev. was granted the Sagamore of the Wabash award by the Governor of Indiana. This was the greatest distinction the state of Indiana could bestow upon a private citizen. It can be taken as proof that Rev accomplished a lot. In other words, he was a busy man.

Additionally, besides pastoring his own church, Rev was heavily involved in District, State and National Baptist activities. He attended conventions on a regular basis. He held high offices at all levels and took a leadership role in National educational programs. Rev. served on a great number of boards. He was always on the go.

On the one hand, when I was young, it was a rare pleasure to get to play a game with him. On the other hand, he found time to attend nearly every home and away high school and college game that his five sons participated in.

Although Rev. was rather small in stature when he was a student at Connersville (IN) High School, he played football and basketball and ran the half mile in track. He had a speech impediment when he was young. When the football coach told him that he could not play football until he overcame his articulation problem, he quit school. That is an indication as to how much the sport meant to him.

He got a job and worked for several weeks before his parents found out that he had dropped out. His father took him back to school and made him apologize to all of his teachers. With the help of a very caring teacher, Mary Reiman, young Ernest overcame his articulation issue, and by the next semester had earned a spot on the debate team.

After finishing high school, Rev did not confine his sports activities to the games that blacks usually gravitated toward. He participated in rodeo events, and was a riding mechanic in automobile races throughout the Midwest. His cousin, Gene Thurmond was usually the driver. Rev also drove in hill climbs.

When I was growing up, Rev would occasionally play baseball or basketball with us. He was a good baseball player and seemed to really enjoy participating. On the baseball diamond, he was a non-stop chatterbox. I never heard him curse, but during these games, he could come up with some expressions that were so close to profanity that he might as well have said the real thing. Rev. could hit and field, and was an outstanding base runner.

One summer, he was the manager of our little league baseball team. He allowed me to try to pitch. I started only one game as a pitcher. I had good stuff, but had trouble locating the small strike zone that little leaguers presented. So, for me, it was back to watching the daisies grow in right field.

Basketball was changing rapidly and Rev.’s quixotic style of play was anachronistic by the time I started to play. In Rev.’s day, there were set shots, push shots, big sweeping windmill hook shots and of course, lay ups. Hank Lusetti had not yet invented the jump shot when Rev. was a youngster. Dunking was extremely rare.

Rev. had the strangest shot that I have ever seen. The ball was released underhanded. He would place his right hand under the basketball, and his left hand on top of the ball. When the basketball was released, his hands would fly in opposite, outward, upward directions. The ball rotated on a vertical axis. He demonstrated amazing accuracy, considering the fact that it was such an unorthodox shot. It certainly looked strange.

Rev. often used the expression, If you are going to foul him, foul him good. It sort of went along with another of his favorite adages: If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Rev. was born in Connersville, Indiana in 1913. Connersville is a small town situated half way between Indianapolis, Indiana and Cincinnati, Ohio. In the early part of the 20th century, Connersville was known as Little Detroit. The Duesenberg, Auburn, Cord and Ansted-Lexington were among the cars manufactured in Connersville at one time or another. After those marques went out of production, several auto parts manufacturers, including McQuay Norris, remained.

A casket factory was located in Connersville. One of Rev.’s many simultaneous jobs was to clean the factory and the offices every evening.. Rev. seized this opportunity to provide work experience for his sons. The offices were well equipped with comfortable expensive furniture and tasteful art work decorating the walls.

I enjoyed emptying the waste baskets, it gave me a feeling of importance, but I did not like to dust. I was afraid I might miss a spot or would perhaps drop a fine crystal ashtray on a glass desk top. Rev. would usually inspect my finished work and allow me to have a chance to do it over if something failed to meet his exacting standards.

The main production area was a huge, dimly lit one-room structure. There were caskets in all stages of the production process. Some were in the beginning stage, and barely recognizable as future caskets. Some were in ovens, where layers of paint were applied. I still remember the aroma of the paint. If I spent much time in that area, I would become a little woozy, I wondered how people could work there all day and not get sick.

Some of the caskets were finished and lay open. The exquisite cloths were of the finest fabrics that I had ever seen. My job was to empty the waste baskets and sweep the vast floor. I must confess that as a nine or ten year old, I was frightened. Sometimes I was so eager to get out of there that I just gave the floor a ‘lick and a promise’.

When I was growing up, Connersville was a slow-paced, quiet town with very few exciting events taking place. For me, the highlight of the year was the Fayette County Free Fair. It was advertised as the greatest free fair in America. I once saw a 1948 Tucker on display at the fair grounds. Preston Tucker explained many of the innovative features. I did no see how it would ever be possible to make a prettier car. That was more than 60 years ago, and in my eyes, it remains a thing of singular beauty.

There was an occasional donkey basketball game at the high school gymnasium. The House of David, a barnstorming basketball team that wore long hair and beards, played in Connersville annually. They sometimes provided the opposition for the Harlem Globetrotters. The great Jesse Owens once attended a House of David game at the high school gym. He was seated in the press box and I sat behind him, slightly to his right. I paid as much attention to Jesse Owens as I did to the game. The Philadelphia SPHAs provided the opposition, and it was a very good game. Both teams shot the lights out.

One Sunday, as I was walking home from church, I saw Guy Lombardo getting off of his bus as he was about to enter the high school for a concert. It was a thrilling experience for me. As a ten year old, I did not care much for his music, but I was excited to get to see a speedboat racing champion from point-blank range. When I told my friends about this sighting, they were not at all impressed.

Rev.’s sport was tennis. When I was growing up in Connersville, Rev. was the best black tennis player in town. He was the only black, serious tennis player in town. At least one summer, he was in charge of the Frazee Recreation Center. There were tennis courts and baseball diamonds on the vast premises. Rev. would take on all comers in tennis. He was very good at putting a lot of English on the ball. It was hard for novices to deal with his trick shots.

I was quite satisfied playing football, basketball, baseball, hopscotch, hide and go seek and softball (softball had not, as yet, become a girl’s sport). Nevertheless, Rev. tried to teach me how to play tennis. His instructional philosophy was not congruent with my learning style. He reckoned that if the learner keeps getting beat, he will quickly become aware of his shortcomings, and through playing, will automatically correct his faults, and in the process, will improve. In my case, the desired outcome did not come about. I found consolation in the rationalization that I was a fairly good football player, and that was all I really cared about.

Rev. continued to play tennis throughout his life. When he was seventy-five years old, I asked him if he still played tennis. His response was, I have not played in a long time, at least two weeks.

One memorable Christmas Day, the Butler family somehow came into possession of a coconut. As there were several people in the family, and only one coconut, it was determined that we would play a game of touch football. The winning team was to be awarded the coconut. I had never seen a coconut, (they don’t grow very well in Indiana) and I was curious as to what was inside.

In today’s world, it would probably be named the Lexmark-Southwest Airlines-Goodyear-GEICO-Toyota-Target-Domino’s-Verizon-Wells Fargo Coconut Bowl, or something along those lines. The game would go down in history simply as The Coconut Bowl. Virginia Avenue was the playing field. Traffic was always light on Christmas Day.

Rev. and my brother, Bobby, made up one team. My eldest brother, Ernie, and I, provided their opposition. Other sibs filled out the rosters. It was a very good game. My side happened to prevail, but that was of little consequence. The important thing was that Rev. took part, and we all had a lot of fun. It was an event that was talked about among family members for a long time. It seemed a shame to open the coconut. Much to my chagrin, the taste was very disappointing. One might say that the victory was bitter sweet.

My father had four sons who played football and basketball in high school and college. Some also participated in baseball, track& field, tennis, and golf. Rev attended nearly every game; missing only when there was a conflict in schedules.

In each of the ten years that we lived in Noblesville, at least one Butler was on the NHS football and basketball teams. There was also a ten year span in which Rev had at least one son playing football for Ball State Teachers College, Butler University or Franklin College.

When I was in high school, I had several friends whose fathers would not permit them to play sports. They believed that young men should spend their free time working. Many were farmers, and counted on the boys to help out on the farm. For Rev, nothing took precedence over sports, when it concerned his sons. He made us work, but he allowed nothing to interfere with our participation in sports. He was the ideal sports dad.

The final football game of my sophomore year at Noblesville High School was played on a very cold, November night. It took place at Lawrence Central High School, near Indianapolis. In that era, football was still a macho game. No football player would wear gloves in a game. Hours prior to the contest, I mentioned to Rev. that I would like to have a pair of gloves to wear for the pre-game warm-ups. I had envisioned a pair of simple work gloves. Rev. went out and bought a beautiful pair of very expensive, chic, black leather gloves for me.

My initial reaction was one of gratitude, but I was not certain that I should wear these nice gloves to the game. Finally, I reasoned that if Rev. bought them for me, it would be an insult to him if I did not wear them. Immediately prior to the start of the game, I removed the gloves and carefully placed them on the ground, near the end of the bench.

The contest turned out to be a thriller. The beginning of the fourth quarter found us on the wrong end of a 21-14 score. To make it even more daunting, Lawrence Central had the ball on our nine yard line. I don’t recall how we did it, but we won by the score of 35-21.

To be honest, I did not make any spectacular contributions to the scintillating finish. However, in the excitement of the smashing come-from-behind victory, I forgot all about the gloves. I did not think of them until we were on the bus and heading back to Noblesville. Rev. did not ever mention the gloves, and I surely was not going to say anything about them. I am certain that he realized that they were never seen again, but he never said a word about the incident. Even as I grew older, I was never able to admit to him what I had so carelessly done, and carried the sense of guilt for the rest of my life.

As mentioned above, I could count on Rev. to be present at every football and basketball game. He was very proud that his sons were good athletes, and I did not want to disappoint him. On those occasions when I did not perform at my usual level, he would never say anything negative.

The only thing that mattered to him was that I had done my best. This expectation was present in areas other than sports. It was stressed that we were to always do our best. My mother subscribed to the same philosophy. I am certain that race had a lot to do with this. They recognized that the world was not going to be fair, or just, due to the racial climate of that era. Therefore, all we could do was to put forth maximum effort and hope for the best, and whenever any doors opened, we were to be prepared to sashay through them, kick them down, or do whatever was necessary to take full advantage of the situation.

Rev. was a big fan of Indiana University sports. He moved to Bloomington, Indiana in 1959, at the same time that I graduated from Ball State and moved to Kansas City, Kansas. He was an IU fan long before that. When I was growing up, there were only two kinds of people in the state of Indiana; Purdue Boilermaker fans and Indiana Hoosier fans. Notre Dame, in the 1940’s and 50’s was a national team and mysteriously, somehow did not seem to really belong to Indiana.

I always assumed that Rev was a fan of the Cream and Crimson because they tended to have many more African Americans on their teams than did Purdue. Bill Garrett, of Shelbyville, Indiana, was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball of 1947. The Purdue University basketball coach, Mel Taube, was asked if he would be willing to offer a scholarship to Garrett. He explained that he would offer the scholarship, but would not let Garrett play.

He would do this so that his Purdue team would not have to face Garrett as an Indiana Hoosier. Bill Garrett was the first black basketball player at IU and the first in the Big Ten. He was the first black player drafted by the Boston Celtics.

Rev. was always for the team that had more black players. In a boxing match you can guess for whom he would root. Remember, there were many all-white teams in all sports at every level at that time. An African American was often a rarity in this no black quarterbacks allowed era. For Rev, it was not a matter of racial prejudice, but rather, a matter of racial pride; just as every black person stood a little taller when Jackie Robinson or Joe Louis got a hit.

When Rev. was called to pastor the Second Baptist Church, in Bloomington, he was elated. It was a larger church, with a larger, more progressive congregation than that in Noblesville. Important to him was the fact that he would be quite near to the campus of Indiana University. He did a lot of work on the campus. He did a lot to help students, both black and white. He continues to do so.

An IU Foundation Scholarship has been established in his honor. The Dr. Ernest Butler Humanitarian Scholarship is awarded to students who show an interest in religion and are active in the community. I have been involved in the selection process. It has been an interesting learning experience for me.

Largely because of the Indiana University students, Rev.’s church was a tremendously interesting one. Nearly all of the African American students who went to church, chose to go to Second Baptist. Many of the musical groups that performed at the Sunday morning services contained a large number of very talented Indiana University music majors.

Attending that church was often like attending a very good jazz, gospel or rock concert. The admission charge went into the collection plate. Booker T. Jones, of Booker T. and the MG’s, was one of those musicians. Naturally, he played the organ.

Many of the great IU athletes attended the church. I once stepped to the entrance, and future NBA great, 6’11" Walt Bellamy and another similar sized IU basketball player were standing guard as ushers. It was an awesome sight. Isiah Thomas attended services regularly. My mother thought that he was such a nice young man.

Rev. was sometimes invited to give the pre-game prayer in several sports at IU. He was personally involved with the teams, so his fanaticism when it came to his beloved Hoosiers, was understandable.

In the years 1961 and 1962, I was stationed in Germany, playing my part on the NATO team, making the world safe for democracy. On the day that I returned home, in January, 1963, Rev was not at home. I asked my mother where he was. She told me that he was in his glory, out on campus, having lunch with the new university president, Elvis Stahr.

The timing involved was incredibly inopportune. During my time in the US military, that same Elvis Stahr had been the Secretary of the Army. Now that I was out of the army, my father was hobnobbing with my Secretary of the Army; bad timing, indeed, all the way around.

In 2002, the IU basketball team played against the Oklahoma Sooners in an NCAA final four game. I happened to be driving from New Jersey to my parents’ home in Bloomington. As I drove, I listened to the game on the radio.

It was a very exciting, nip and tuck thriller, with numerous lead changes. As the game was drawing to a close, I was nearing Bloomington. The final two minutes of playing time took approximately twenty miles. As the outcome was very much up-in-the-air, it suddenly dawned on me that there was a possibility that the Hoosiers might not win.

I was quite exhausted, as I was in the homestretch of a twelve hour solo drive, but I suddenly realized that if IU did not win, I would have to turn around and drive right back to New Jersey. There was no way I could have walked into the parsonage, if the Hoosiers had just lost a big game by an agonizingly narrow margin..

Just as I got to the campus, hordes of jubilant students poured out of dorms and halls, screaming into the streets. The celebration was on! When I got to the house, Rev. was busy in the kitchen, frying chicken like nobody’s business. I shall never forget the smile on his face when he informed me that his Hoosiers had won. The sports God was in his heaven, and all was right with the world.


My mother, Mary Louise Jones Butler, was born at the wrong time. She would have loved to have been a basketball player. She was tall and athletic, and had a love for the game. In those days, there was little opportunity for girls in sports. Unfortunately, her playing days ended long before the 1972 Title IX legislation was enacted.

The women’s game was quite different from the game played by men. As I understand, players were not allowed to move very much. Each player was permitted only on a small area on the court, and had to pass the ball to someone in another area.

Quite honestly, I have never been able to conjure up a perspicuous mental picture of this game. Mom tried to explain it to me several times, but I never quite got it. Obviously, I have never seen it in person, nor have I seen it on film. I think that it would be interesting to see.

In Mom’s day, girl’s basketball was a rather obscure activity; generally confined to gym class. However, I understand it was always big in Iowa. The participants wore unflattering uniforms; almost as aesthetically unbecoming as those worn today by both men and women.

Mom often lamented the fact that she did not get to play the modern game of basketball. I never saw her with a basketball in her hands. I have never seen her with a baseball bat in her hands, but I can assure you, she wielded a powerful razor strop.

Mary L. Butler claimed to have been an excellent free throw shooter, and could not understand why so many of today’s players struggle at the line. In her opinion, anyone could become a good free throw shooter. All that it takes is to practice, practice, practice.

Mom always followed sports to the extent that time permitted. She had eight children and a very limited amount of discretionary time. When I was about eight or nine years of age, she and I would wager small bets on college football games. The amount at stake was usually five or ten cents. We knew nothing about point spreads or over/under.

One game stands out in my mind. I was a fan of the Army football team. This was the era of Heisman Trophy winners, Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard. At that age, whenever I played football, or throw up and run, I was always either Doc Blanchard or the great Cleveland Browns fullback, Marion Motley.

Throw up and Run was a game that we invented. (For all I know, there may have been hundreds of other inventors all over America). Someone would throw a football, or some other object, when we had no football, high into the air. Everyone would try to catch it. Whoever caught the ball, or picked it up off the ground, would run with it and stay on his feet as long as possible, while everyone else tried to tackle him.

There were, of course, boundaries that had to be honored. When the ball carrier was tackled, he would get up and throw the ball up into the air for someone else to catch, and the chase was on again. I know it sounds very primitive, but we loved it and it was an excellent activity for developing ball carrying and catching skills.

The college football game in question was between the mighty Army Cadets and the Villanova Wildcats. Army was in the middle of a three year unbeaten streak. Villanova was not a major college powerhouse at the time. I informed Mom that Villanova had a very strong team, and that Army was due for a letdown. She took Villanova.

It came as a surprise to no one when the Black Knights of the Hudson won in a romp. My mother often reminded me of the incident, through the years. It took a little growing up before I fully comprehended that Mom had not been at all bamboozled, but had simply given me a dime, and had hoodwinked me into thinking that I had somehow earned it.

In 1944, 1945, and 1946 Army did not lose a game, but did play Notre Dame to a scoreless tie on my birthday in 1946. My eldest brother, Ernie, was a big fan of the Irish. He had actually seen Notre Dame play, in the shadow of the Golden Dome. He could sing several verses of The Notre Dame Fight Song.

My mother, Ernie and I listened intently to the game on the radio, hanging on every word. Army had won the previous two contests between these teams, by a combined score of 107-0. There was no way we could lose.

When it was over, I was crestfallen. To me, a tie was the same as a loss. In my mind, it was Ernie vs. me, and

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