There are characters and there are fans.
And then there are men like Chuck Ross.
Ross — a man who loved the Lipscomb Bisons, the Nashville Sounds and pretty much every group of people in Nashville who threw some kind of ball and loved them with a passion that, in this cynical age, is almost hard to fathom — has passed away.
How many people do you know when you say their first name everybody knows who your talking about? Chuck is such a person. He's a Nashville living legend, my hero, and my friend. Chuck is also mentally challenged.
Chuck and I have known each other for over 30 years. He is one of the first people I encountered when I came to Nashville In 1971 to work for Channel 5. It was a phone call from Chuck that began our relationship, and our conversations have lasted all these years.
Let me point out that once Chuck gets your phone number you will never be without someone to talk to, because Chuck will reach out and touch you morning, afternoon or night. Makes no difference to Chuck. But he won't talk about just any subject. His expertise is sports.
Chuck has long been recognized as Nashville's No. 1 sports fan, nobody else is even close. Chuck's first love is David Lipscomb High School and University. He is purple (school color) through and through. Chuck's attire is always the same. Purple Lipscomb jacket, winter or summer, Lipscomb baseball cap, and brown pants.
There's not one story about Chuck — there's thousands of them. He started following Lipscomb sports sometime in the early 1980s and in the three decades since has missed nary a contest. Former coach Don Meyer would let Chuck give the pre-game speeches, usually penned by one of the Bisons players.
In one instance, Chuck got so fired up, he improvised the speech's ending and exclaimed what became his signature phrase.
"Beat 'em and beat 'em bad!"
Chuck used to call local TV and radio stations and newsrooms to get score updates.
Former City Paper staffer Pierce Greenburg, writing for Midmajority.com, related this story from his time manning the sports desk phones at The Tennessean:
Once billed as "Nashville's biggest sports fan," Chuck would call the Tennessean, on average, every half hour. He'd ask about his David Lipscomb Mustangs (Lipscomb University's adjoined high school).
C: "Hey, who is this?" he'd say in a muffled voice.
P: "It's Pierce, Chuck, how's it going?"
C: "Pierce buddy, you got that David Lipscomb score?"
P: "No, Chuck, it's only 7:30... the game just started..."
There would then be a subsequent call every half hour until the game was over.
Greenburg said he once needled Chuck about basketball — Pierce went to Belmont — and Chuck threatened to have him fired.
There are so many stories like this one that, in 2003, local sportswriting legend Jimmy Davy compiled (a few of) them into a book called, of course, Beat 'Em and Beat 'Em Bad. As a demonstration of the kind of affection people had for Chuck, check out this list of attendees at a "roast" held in conjunction with the book's release:
Some of the local sports personalities scheduled to attend are Lipscomb coaches Scott Sanderson and Frank Bennett, former Lipscomb athletes Reggie Whittemore, Beth Stewart Stark, university president Dr. Steve Flatt, Alan Banks, Philip Hutcheson, Ricky Bowers, John Pierce and Cheryl Smith.
Television sports anchors John Dwyer, Hope Hines and Rudy Kalis are scheduled to be joined by radio sports personalities Joe Biddle, Blake Fulton, Howard Gentry Jr., Bill King, George Plaster, Greg Pogue and Pete Weber, along with newspaper reporter Larry Woody and others.
Belmont Coach Rick Byrd, former coach and radio talk show host Wimp Sanderson, and former Lipscomb coach Don Meyer will also attend. Former Nashville Sounds owner Larry Schmittou and Diane Dugan McCarthy, widow of Ken Dugan, former athletics director and baseball coach at Lipscomb, are also on the guest list.
It wasn't just sportswriters who'd get calls from Chuck — WKRN's Justin Bruce tells me that weathermen knew Chuck, too:
Every weather person in Nashville knew Chuck. He called us directly for forecasts almost daily. Nice man. Kind heart. Sad to hear.
It'd be impossible to relate every story about Chuck — about the time Don Meyer needed to change his tire, but couldn't jack up the car because Chuck was sitting on it or the legion of sports media people he's "fired" like Greenburg — but if you have stories to share, please leave them in the comments.
And this weekend, if you're out at a ball game, yell "Beat 'em and beat 'em bad" for Chuck.