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From My View For Feb. 7

A Chat With Al Oliver

February 7, 2018
BY BRUCE CRAWFORD - Staff Writer (bcrawford@wetzelchronicle.com) , Wetzel Chronicle

After covering the two girls games in the 10th Annual New Martinsville Rotary Challenge, I had the pleasure to have a nice one-on-one chat with Al Oliver. He is a former Pittsburgh Pirate that helped the team win the 1971 championship.

Most people call him "Scoops" as he played first base and all three positions in the outfield during his 18 years of professional baseball.

He was in town at Parkersburg to help Ohio Valley University kick-off their baseball season, that starts this weekend in Alabama, for a fundraiser.

Article Photos

Photo by Bruce Crawford
Al Oliver speaks at a baseball fundraiser at Ohio Valley University.

While chatting, he told numerous stories about some of the Pirates family like Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillen, Roberto Clementee, Doc Ellis and others, including a story about Muhammad Ali. He still had time to read my sports section in the Wetzel Chronicle, and he told me I did a pretty good job on covering as many teams and sports in the sports section, so I took a picture of him reading intently.

My younger brother Bob is a former coach and a teacher at the University, and he asked me to come meet and greet "Scoops," while taking some pictures of the event. I did and was glad I did. Mr. Oliver was a gentlemen and an outstanding human being.

Besides his playing days with the Pirates, he is an average Joe that likes to watch Jeopardy and westerns, as well as serve as a Deacon at his church in Portsmith, Ohio, where Roy Rogers was also from.

Oliver stated that Stargell told him that his gift would be public speaking, because he never had notes and always spoke from the heart. He told me how life dealt him some serious blows, but he stood in the midst of them with confidence and steadfastness.

He said simply, "Give me a bat, and I will deliver."

Oliver had an all-time batting average of .303 in 18 seasons, that included leading the Pirates to a World Championship. He was a five-time All-Star, three times with the Pirates and twice with the Expos.

He should be an authority on getting hits, and he hit one out of the ballpark on this night. He brought positive messages to over 1,300 on hand at the OVU fundraiser, bringing in people from all different areas of the country, as well as former OVU graduates and boosters.

Being a university that encourages spiritual upbringing from many different religions, I was in awe at the variety in attendance and their messages - from my brother, to the head coach of the Fighting Scots (Chad Porter), to the players and to "Scoops' Oliver. Of course the food was outstanding as well as the desserts made by my niece Paige, and sister in-law Celeste.

Not to start on religion, but if your kid is serious about college, and you want them to be surrounded by good people, this is the place. Not only to they have baseball, they have everything almost - except for football - if they want to play sports.

This fundraiser was a success, I'm sure, if not by the funds that were raised, then by the spiritual message that Mr. Oliver delivered.

I also had the pleasure of taking in a middle school boys game last week at New Martinsville School. I missed the seventh grade game, and I have been told we have a pretty good bunch, that if they stay with it, could help Magnolia in the future.

My nephew Drew is the Pleasants County seventh grade coach and assisted with the eighth grade team that shot the lights out against New Martinsville. They have a good bunch of nice players, and I'm sure we will see them at St. Marys in the future. The NMS boys did an exceptional job, and a few of them, I'm sure, will help at Magnolia in the future, for sure.

I was proud that Drew went into education and coaching. It's a wonderful profession, and we need young men and women in education to coach. I wish I had gone to college and had become a teacher and a coach, but I would have never went if it would have changed my life from what I have.

Here is a sermon for you: Just do what your heart tells you, because if you stay the course and keep your nose clean and do what is right, life will be good.

Just use myself as an example. I was a C-student that worked hard to be able to play sports. I surrounded myself around good Christian people and married the girl of my dreams. I felt in my heart that was what I wanted, and to start with that right lady was a blessing.

I worked hard in a profession as a coal miner before losing my job - because of high sulfur coal. I came into this reporter's job. I stayed in sports, as a long-time commissioner of little league baseball and grasshopper basketball in New Martinsville. I also served as a referee and umpire in basketball and softball, before coaching girls and boys high school soccer and girls high school basketball.

And now I report these things, taking pictures and writing stories and keeping my mind healthy, while meeting so many people like Al Oliver. Lord willing, I can't wait to meet and chat with another outstanding person that truly wants to change people's lives in a good way.

 
 
 

 

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