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The legacy of a really big man

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You may not know Lloyd Redman, but to one little boy, he's a man worth remembering.

By Steve Doyle

I was maybe 10 or 12 when I first met Lloyd Redman. On warm, sunny afternoons in the spring and summer, he sometimes would show up at our farm near Simpsonville with my Uncle Pat, and they would, with my Granddaddy’s advice, traipse among our four large lakes and couple of small ponds until they found a fish or two who were interested in their bait.

It wasn’t unusual for Uncle Pat to bring friends to the farm to fish, but when Mr. Redman, as I always called him, showed up one day, it was a bit different. He treated me like a person rather than just some kid who might make too much noise and scare away those seemingly very selective bass and bluegill.

Let me go on record as admitting that when I was around fishermen, I seldom was doing any fishing. I tried that a few times and caught a few fish here and there, but I never was captivated by its idleness and the fact that I had to deal with the fish. I was more inclined toward sports that required balls and some level of motion, although, soul lay bare, I probably was more adept at fishing for a fast bass than fishing for a slow curve.

But a shared love of sports made me a fan of Mr. Redman. He was a sports guy, too, though in my Shelby-centric view of the world, I only understood that he was the athletic director for Jefferson County schools, and I had very little idea what that really meant or what that had to do with the teams I watched play.

It’s about here that you are scratching your head and wondering why, other than the location of a fishing hole, Mr. Redman’s story might ring of any familiarity and why he has moved to the front of my consciousness after several decades of having served as a fond footnote from my childhood.

To answer the second question first, Mr. Redman died late last week. He was 89, and there was a nice obit in The Courier-Journal. It  praised his roles and accomplishments, including having coached Durrett High School to the county football title in 1957.

Why you might know him is that his offspring became renowned. His son, Bob, who as a high school student came along to fish as well, is a pretty good country football coach. And his grandson, Chris, has suited up as a quarterback often enough to have earned an NFL pension. Oh, and he holds a few passing records at UofL.

So back in those fishing days, it was quite lively, our conversations around the lake, with Mr. Redman, Uncle Pat and Bob trying to fish, and me, walking around behind them and chatting about high school sports.

Bob was then an up-and-coming star at old Thomas Jefferson High School, a starter in three sports, and his team had played Shelby County in basketball a few times, including in a state semifinal in 1966, when Mike Casey and Bill Busey pulled out a 79-72 victory en route to a title.

Lloyd Redman, though, was a 2-sport college athlete in his day, too, and I learned he was accomplished in a skill that is lost on most men these days: He could fling a softball underhanded pretty darn fast. He was such a powerful pitcher that the old Shelby County Jets, a talented, touring fast-pitch team, recruited him to play for them in a league at the Eastwood Recreation Center.

My Granddaddy would take me to watch the games – I can envision those dark jerseys with Jets scripted across the front – and I, in passing, knew a few of the players (including Casey, in later years). But when Mr. Redman joined the team, I was transformed from a timid observer to a guy who sort of hung out with the players like I belonged. And Mr. Redman made me feel that way.

He knew I was a catcher in our summer baseball leagues, so the first night he was with the team, he asked me if I would warm him up.

See this image clearly: Here’s a big, broad-shouldered, grown-up tossing a softball about 80 miles per hour (it seemed) to a scrawny kid who strangely was trying to catch it in a fielder’s glove, a far cry (as in cry of pain) from the padded mitt I used for baseball.

He had this unorthodox style that befuddled me, too, because he didn’t rotate his arm in a windmill fashion, as I had seen iconic Eddie “The King” Feigner employ on CBS Sports Spectacular or Wide World of Sports. He brought his arm back about three-quarters above his shoulder and whipped it past his waist, and that ball was on me in a split second, smacking into my glove or, too often, zipping off or past it.

I have no idea if Mr. Redman was a dominant pitcher – or even how long he played for the Jets – but in the games I saw, he seemed to get people out. And the Jets won often.

Frankly, I didn’t care. I just knew he had me as a fan for life.

That life sadly is gone after 89 years, but those memories remain in my mental scrapbook. I don’t know what they said about Mr. Redman at his funeral, but if it were up to me, I would say this:

He was a large man who made a small boy feel mighty big at times.