Sunday, March 8, 2009

Why I chose 'Run 10 on 2' for my Blog Title

In trying to come up with at least a temporary name for this Blog, I
decided to give the call for my favorite running play from my days as
a “Pulling Guard” on the Wofford College Terriers football team. “Ten”
was the name of a power play through the strong side tackle position
while “two” was the count upon which the play usually commenced. I was
called upon to pull out from my guard position and team with the other
guard to lead the blocking for the Tailback!

Winning a Football Scholarship at Wofford, and my subsequent four
years at that venerable seat of learning were “Quintessential” events
of my young manhood.

At Wofford, I enjoyed success on the fields of athletic endeavor, as
well as within the hall of academia. I gained confidence in my native
abilities, found the “Love of My Life” and through my sweetheart,
found my religion. These blessings have served as a foundation of my
life and the development of my family - core elements of my existence!

The following essay, slightly edited, is published by the college in
it’s Historical Anthology - “Wofford, Shining with Untarnished Honor
1854-2004, Pgs. 103-105.


The Phil Dickens Years - By One of His Boys Jim “Dasher” Ditty '54

On visits back to Wofford, I sometimes walk from "Old Main" along the
familiar path to Andrews Field House. Tucked away at the northeast
corner of that venerable building is the objective of my lone
pilgrimage. A half century ago, in a pair of nondescript, connected
rooms that once housed a coach’s office and more recently were used as
a laundry, a young boy's life was forever changed. Standing in those
tiny rooms, my mind drifts back to the way we were...

Rattles and creaking wood counter pointed the squeals of metal on
metal as the tired old day coach swayed along uneven ribbons of steel.
On curves the black steam locomotive was seen far ahead, belching
smoke, drivers spinning, powering the long train through Appalachian
highlands. Glued to the stained window was one wide eyed teen-aged
boy. He watched in utter fascination at the rolling panorama of green
mountains, rushing streams and rocky crags. Never before had he seen
such a confusion of land and trees, water and sky; it was grand! A big
city boy from Chicago, he had often wondered how mountains looked. Now
he saw them, and was captivated.

I was that boy, embarked upon the grand adventure of my life. Trying
for a football scholarship, my first stop was to be the University of
South Carolina. But the true journey would be much longer, with many
heights and valleys, rocky crags and swift rivers, even more grand and
fascinating than those portrayed in my window that day.

In Columbia, there was disappointment. Carolina turned me down. But
then, friendly students extolled the virtues of a small college in the
Piedmont region of the state. So, on to Spartanburg!

At first, the city seemed less than impressive as my cab transited an
impoverished section of town known as “Gas Bottom," along present-day
Daniel Morgan Ave. But then, we passed under a railroad track, rounded
a curve, and before my eyes rose one of the most beautiful campuses
that I have ever seen, then or now! Set on a hill, graceful brick
buildings, tree shaded lawns, gently curving streets, an ambiance of
quiet learning amid robust camaraderie. Even today I get a thrill and
a sense of belonging, just walking that campus and meeting other
alumni, acknowledging that I too am a "Wofford Man.”

On the field I was given a welcome chance to show my stuff. The tryout
went well, but trepidation reigned as other boys filed out of the
coach's office, heads hanging. Then, it happened. Coach Phil Dickens
stood framed in his doorway, grinned, and in his grand charismatic
way, announced that my quest was over. "We'll give you a scholarship
right here."

But it was tough! First, I had to pay my dues on Snyder Field. Those
memories are perhaps most vivid. That hot Carolina sun! I lost 10
pounds at the first Two - a - Day practice. Sweaty pads, hitting,
getting hit, hurting, bouncing back,” shaking it off" and going again.
Roaring crowds, trying to catch my breath. Mostly winning, sometimes
losing, but always “Full Speed.”

Over it all stood the tall figure of a man - Coach Dickens. As another
Terrier once said, “A lot of men could have taught us about football,
but Coach Dickens taught us about life.” “Winners do what losers won't
do. They pay the price of victory." "If at first the breaks go against
you, don't give up; put on more steam." These were not just words;
rather they were our way of life.

My favorite photo of Coach Dickens leads off the athletics section of
the 1952 Bohemian. Bundled in overcoat and wide brimmed hat, his
visage looms over Snyder Field. Ever present - overseeing his boys,
teaching, encouraging, cajoling, at times correcting with sharpness.
But not any sort of cruel despot some coaches are colored in later
years. We always knew that Coach Dickens cared about more than winning
football games. He was building men!

My freshman year, one incident indelibly taught the meaning of
discipline and honor. Some players began testing training rules that
forbade eating between meals, or even frequenting hamburger stands. In
mid-season, seven players were suspended before the game with a
traditional rival, Presbyterian College. Those seven, included four
starters and all three tailbacks on the team. (In our single wing,
this group represented the entire corps of passers and primary running
backs, including one whom Coach Dickens years later described as the
best natural athlete he ever coached) PC had been favored anyway, and
now the Terriers were given little chance. But the coaches cobbled
together an offense. Other players stepped up, and you know what,
Wofford won that game! The next week, seven well chastened players
rejoined the team.

In Wofford's classrooms, similar values were absorbed by budding
"student- athletes." Here were great challenges of the intellect. But
while I was struggling to survive academically, a funny thing
happened. I found that not only could I learn, but that it was really
great fun! Thus, from the twin venues of athletics and academics was
born a lifelong respect for excellence and a mighty thirst for

More value came from dormitory living, new friends, twice-weekly
chapel sessions, visiting various Spartanburg churches, social events
dates, etc. Of course, not all of it was golden for this "Yankee" from
the industrial north. New cultural and religious currents presented
formidable social barriers and very difficult personal adjustments,
not always well handled. Still, on balance, I made good friends and
experienced much personal growth.

This was the heyday of the segregationist "Jim Crow" laws. A
remembered bright spot was an incident wherein my Southern teammates
were visibly upset because two black athletes of the Fort Jackson team
were not allowed to participate in a scrimmage against us. One
teammate, from North Carolina gave it voice, stating, "If they are
good enough to play for Fort Jackson, they are good enough to play
against me." Incidentally, Fort Jackson was loaded with college and
NFL stars drafted into the Army during the Korean War. They pretty
well "turned us every way but loose."

These days, I treasure misty images of days gone by. The green, tree
shaded campus, musty classrooms, camaraderie with hearty young men
just tasting life. Minds being opened to vistas of knowledge in art,
music, literature, history and the wonders of science. Dormitory bull
sessions, where we came to understand one another’s views on life and
hopes for the future. Smiling girls from town, woman’s colleges and
nursing schools, dances, parties, dates - and finally, a dark haired
beauty, - my "Soul Mate"-The Girl!

For this Wofford Terrier, Homecomings have been an odyssey of renewal
and affirmation of roots. Old memories and strong feelings come
flooding back. Faces from long ago appear with firm handshakes and
warm welcomes. And this is good, for we share strong bonds from our
young manhood in a sort of Camelot that was Wofford College in those
days. My friends have done well; strong men who married well, raised
sound families. They have made significant contributions to their
communities and our nation. I am reminded of General MacArther's quote
placed on the athletic building at West Point: “On the fields of
friendly strife, are sown the seeds that on other fields, in other
days, bring forth the fruits of victory.”

So, what does Wofford mean to me? It was only four years! Many other
experiences have shaped my life! Even most of my knowledge has been
gained elsewhere! But without Wofford, for better or worse, I would
not be the man that I am. It was there that I found the destiny that
shaped the course of my life. At Wofford I learned to pay the price of
victory, not only on the football field but also in the classroom, in
my personal, family, religious, and professional life. I gained
confidence in myself, and came to treasure the excitement and joy of
learning. Finally, it was in Spartanburg that I courted and married my
eternal companion, and through her, investigated and found my
religion. And there is a family legacy. Both of my sons were dedicated
Football Players. This past season, five grandsons were found playing
the game - and playing it well, I might brag...

Half a century has now passed since last we ran onto Snyder Field, the
cool night air on our faces and the roar of the crowd in our ears - or
since we answered the peal of the tower bell, to climb stairs of "Old
Main" as "Young Gentlemen," partakers of "Ben I ficent" wisdom in
class and chapel. Ethereal scenes now in the far reaches of our
distant memory; another Time - another life... Yet, these values
endure! Dedication to excellence, a love of learning, and a
determination to live our lives honorably, to always be counted among
those who will "Get the Job Done."

So, Go Terriers
And when the going gets tough, and we need a few yards
Run - "Ten on Two"

Jim (Dasher) Ditty - Wofford Class of ‘54

1 comment:

  1. Dad
    This is wonderful. I'm so excited you are keeping a blog now. I love to read what you write. We may be far apart, you in California and me in Arkansas, but blogging will give us another connection to enjoy!