By Jeff Noble / Staff writer
In Corbin, the tradition of excellence in sports runs deep.
Throughout the town, people still relive moments in time when a band of brothers joined others on the field, and on the court, in the pursuit of victory.
Those moments remain seared in our minds, our hearts, in words and in pictures. And at times, those moments brought championship results.
That’s why Gary West is writing a book about those moments. And he already has a title for the book.
West is calling the book, “The Boys of Corbin: America’s Greatest Little Sports Town.” And he’s set to fly to bring the rich, colorful tradition of Corbin’s contributions in sports to the printed page.
“The book will deal with the great sports families and individuals that have come out of Corbin. It will deal with the surroundings that give the city it’s unique identity, like its roots as a railroad center. And while the book will go back as far as the 1920’s to later years, it will concentrate on the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s. Some have referred to that period as the “Golden Age” of Corbin sports,” West said during an interview last Friday.
When asked about some of those athletes who excelled on the gridiron, in the gym and on the field, West immediately mentioned some of Corbin’s finest.
“We’re talking about the Bird brothers. Jerry, Calvin, Billy, Rodger, and Steve Bird, Jerry’s son. There’s the Selvy family. Nine brothers and two sisters. And everyone knows what Frank Selvy did in college when he scored those 100 points for the Furman Paladins in 1954. Nick Denes. Roy Kidd, who went on to be a legend as a football coach at EKU. Fred Rader, Jesse Grant, Ted Meadors, and the Boone Brothers, Winton and Ronnie “Cruiser” Boone. These are the people. Their stories will be unbelievable,” noted West.
A former journalist who was born and raised in Elizabethtown and now a travel writer who lives in Bowling Green, West has written for several publications, including Kentucky Monthly and Kentucky Living magazines. He writes a syndicated column, “Out & About…Kentucky Style,” for several newspapers in the state, and was an athletics administrator for 13 years at Western Kentucky University. Currently retired, he was executive director of the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau from 1993 to 2005.
Most of all, West has connections with several of those from Corbin who went to WKU. He pointed out his book is a way of paying back those friends from college, by showing the reader the close relationship a town has with its hometown athletes.
“The spirit of being a Redhound was more than being on the field, or on the court. It was being in the stands, following the team, and knowing what the team was doing. Here’s an example. Corbin High would take 2,000 fans to Danville to watch the Redhounds play the Admirals. In return, Danville fans would fill up a special train to take them to the game in Corbin. That was before the Interstate Highway system was built,” West said.
He’s put a year into researching, interviewing and writing the book, which West hopes to have finished by next spring. As an experienced writer, West hopes the painstaking care he’s put into his work will make for a fascinating read for the ages.
“First, my goal is to be historically accurate. Second, to be entertaining. And third, that someone younger will enjoy reading it and appreciate the tradition this town has for sports, because it truly is a tradition,” he stated.
To be accurate, West has gone over several pictures of times gone by. But there’s one picture he definitely wants to have for the book. One that he says shows the essence of Corbin’s love affair with their sports heroes.
“It was in the late 50’s, maybe 1958, ‘59. That picture in particular was when Calvin Bird played for UK, and they beat Tennessee. There was a sign or banner on the overpass on what was then Center Street, now Roy Kidd Avenue. The sign said, ‘Bird 20, UT 0,’ If anybody’s got the picture, or knows someone who has a picture, please get in touch with me,” West asked.
When the book comes out next spring, West wants to come back to Corbin for what he called “a blowout book release,” either at Campbell Field or the old Edwards Gymnasium. He says the two locations were special to the players who plied their skills to the game so well. To the fans who witnessed those thrills and left with lasting memories. And above all, to the legacy those individuals and families have left, for the future to build on.
“I’ve been so well received by people in Corbin that I feel like I’ve lived here. I’ve reconnected with people I went to school with, and met people who have filled me in on this town’s rich sports history. It’s a story that needs to be told,” West pointed out.