Fielder’s Choice

Autographs from 1979

On the recent trip to see Uncle Jim in Dallas, Texas, I came back with more than just a 2005 Ford F-150.

As we were walking through his house looking at lots of memorabilia and listenings to him relive many memories, he remembered I was an Alabama fan.

He went and found a biography of Paul “Bear” Bryant. It’s entitled “Bear, The Hard Life and Good Times of Alabama’s Coach Bryant.” Authors are Paul W. Bryant and John Underwood.

“Would you like to have this?” he asked.

Come to find out, this was much more than just a book about perhaps the greatest college football coach of all time.

First and foremost, it was signed by Coach Bryant.

Uncle Jim and his son Jeff attended a big event on Friday, April 27, 1979. The Sports Committee of the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce was recognizing a hometown boy, Gene Stallings, in the Paris High School Auditorium, Paris, Texas.

Inside the biography was a program from the ceremony.

And on the cover of the program were even more signatures – including Tom Landry, Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris.

Growing up in rural Marion County, Ala., my favorite team was the Crimson Tide and needless to say, my favorite coach was Bear Bryant. My second favorite team was the Dallas Cowboys and second favorite coach Tom Landry.

My wife jokes all the time about my “shrine” to Coach Bryant downstairs at our house. And I have collected a lot of “stuff” over the years.

But this sudden gift from Uncle Jim suddenly topped my cherished memorabilia.

At the time of the banquet (almost 39 years ago), Stallings was an assistant coach, under Landry, in the Cowboys organization.

Those on hand to help honor Stallings were Coach Bryant, Waters and Harris (defensive players for the Cowboys) Landry and several others.

Also inside the “Bear” book was an article from the Sunday, April 29, 1979, Dallas Morning News about the event recognizing Stallings.

The news clipping, turned pretty yellow, was headlined “Stallings can go home again.”

It said the event was held in a packed auditorium at Paris High School, on the same stage Stallings walked across to receive his diploma before going off to play college ball for Texas A&M.

The article said Coach Bryant took the podium and set the tone for the evening.

“Gene Stallings,” Bryant said, “was never an All-American-type football player, but he never knew that. From the first time I met him I knew he had a lot of class. He’s still wearing that class today.”

Bear Bryant died about four years later (on January 26, 1983), a month after his last game as coach in the Liberty Bowl at Memphis, Tenn., and I was at the game, at age 21, with a group of friends from Hamilton, Ala.

And, of course, Stallings went on to be the head coach at Alabama from 1990 to 1996.

I left Dallas excited about my 2005 truck, but even more excited about the addition to my sports memorabilia.

Holly Springs South Reporter

P.O. Box 278
Holly Springs, MS 38635
PH: (662) 252-4261
FAX: (662) 252-3388
www.southreporter.com

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