Today I turn the post over to Blaze, a female American shorthair as sweet as they come. She owns an old friend, Darrell Simmons, retired from the AJC. Here’s Blaze:

You learn by listening. Darrell is an old newspaper war horse who grew up during the Depression. No TV. Not everybody had a radio. Mrs. Floyd had the only phone on the block and let neighbors use it. It was out of the movies, with an earpiece that hung on the hook.

In those days, folks sat on the front porch and talked. Smart young’uns kept their mouths shut and learned about Joe Louis, Max Baer, Red Grange, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Sid Luckman, Wally Butts and Joe DiMaggio, immortalized in song. (“Joe … Joe … DiMaggio / We want him on our team.”)

Between naps, I’ve been educated by listening to Darrell and his son, plus what’s on radio and TV. I heard Freddie Coleman on ESPN Radio ask listeners to pick “the baddest people in sports.” He got votes for John McEnroe (tennis), A-Rod (baseball), Ndamukong Suh (football), Dennis Rodman (basketball) and O.J. Simpson (various activities).

I can’t call in, but Darrell has a nomination. In 1958, University of Florida defensive tackle Velles Heckman was the Gators’ first All-American since 1952. After a game against Mississippi State in Gainesville, the reporters (male only then) went to the locker room and saw Heckman mopping his face. Blood was dripping from his broken nose.

But there were dark spots on the front of his jersey. “Is that blood?” a writer asked.

“Naw,” Heckman said. “Them Mississippi State linemen spit tobacco juice on you.”

That may not sound so bad. But as a cat over 18 who has learned things by listening, I guarantee you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near them Mississippi State players.

I vote them the baddest.

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