Did I Tell You About The Time?
This guy’s got more stories than Uncle Remus. He’s traveled all over the world, met most of your sports heroes and mine, and is still going strong at 84 years old. He has also become a dear friend. I once accused him of being the spitting image of Red Sox Hall-of-Fame infielder Bobby Doerr and he said, “How did you know I used his model bat?” Known as a teacher, an excellent writer, and a fine speaker, he does not know the meaning of the word “shy.” This fellow owns a quick wit, a mind as sharp as a tack, and he’s such a pleasure to spend time with. He has served his country and has been decorated; a true honorable patriot. Dotson G. Lewis, Jr. was born in Gunner, Texas, but grew up in Northwest Arkansas. His hero was his father. Dotson Lewis and I share a sports page in the Island Moon each week. It was his idea. He also writes a weekly column called “Senior Moments.” Dotson has earned two college degrees from the University of Texas at El Paso, in Education and Kinesiology, but it doesn’t take long to know his heart belongs to sports and officiating. Dotson was the head of the Southwest Officials Association from 1977-1995. From 2002-present, Dotson has taught many different classes at Del Mar College and continues to do so. His most prized publications include the annual CCA Football Mechanics Manuals and the NCAA Football Rules Illustrated Manuals, both written from 1987-1995. His achievements are many. I will list a few to highlight his incredible journey. In 1950-51, Dotson received the Korean Service Medal with 5 Battle Stars. He was also chosen as the European Sportsman of the Year in 1967 and received the U.S. Army Legion of Merit in 1968. Dotson is a member of several Halls of Fame including the College Football Officiating Hall of Fame in 1995, the El Paso Texas Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999, and the Japanese-American Football Hall of Fame. He also received the Corpus Christi, Texas, Greatest Generation Award in 2008. Along the way, I made it a point to meet with him on Fridays at Beamer’s Sports Grill in Corpus Christi. Little did he know I was taking notes, so this article is supposed to be a surprise. Dotson also spends two hours each Thursday afternoon (4-6 PM) on the radio air waves with the sports talk radio show known as “The Benchwarmers” on ESPN 1440 KEYS. One of his favorite things to say is “Did I tell you about the time?” Dotson knows I’m a baseball fan, especially concerning the history of the game, including the Negro Leagues. I have quite a few stories of my own, but here are a few of the stories Dotson has shared with me. “I met Satchel Paige on three or four different occasions,” said Dotson Lewis. “Around 1942, I was playing in the old Ban Johnson League and we were barnstorming. During one game against a Negro League Team of All Stars, after watching Paige warm up, I said to my teammates, ‘I can hit this guy; I’ll just wait for his curveball.’ Well, when it came my turn to bat, old Satch threw that curveball and it was unbelievable how much it broke. I bailed out of the batter’s box and catcher Josh Gibson said, ‘You better stand in there, son.’ I was also learning to chew tobacco at the time and had just placed a wad of “Brown Mule” between my cheek and gum. As I leaned over the plate closer, the next pitch was not a curve and it didn’t break. Being a right-handed hitter, the ball hit me behind my left ear above my jaw. I swallowed that chaw of tobacco and it made me sick for two or three days afterward. Not only was I lucky I didn’t get hurt badly, but I never chewed tobacco again,” laughed Dotson. “I was signed by Freddy Haun of the St. Louis Cardinals,” said Dotson. “I attended Spring Training with the Columbus Redbirds. Shortstop Marty Marion kept me out of Sportsman’s Park,” said Dotson. “I could hit as well as him, but he could really go in the hole and catch those ground balls.” Dotson ended up playing Minor League ball against a team from Joplin, Missouri, who had a kid named Mickey Mantle. “During practice, Mantle threw the best knuckleball I’ve ever seen,” said Dotson. “One time in Memphis, during a Texas League game, a low-flying Cessna plane was circling the field when a pop fly lodged in the airplane’s landing gear. The umpire ruled it a home run, because when the ball was last seen, it was in fair territory,” laughed Dotson. “It was 1955 and I had just returned from overseas. I was stationed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts,” said Dotson. Fort Devens is located about 32 miles west of Boston. Curt Gowdy was the radio voice of the Red Sox at that time, and this was also where Dotson met Red Auerbach, the coach of the Boston Celtics. “A fellow by the name of Karl Benson called and said he needed a referee for a football game. I think a good friend of mine named Dallas Shirley suggested me to Benson,” said Dotson. Shirley had officiated over 2,000 basketball games during his 33-year career, including the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy. “Dallas was one of the first NBA officials and was inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980. He was buried with a whistle in his hand,” said Dotson. “The game turned out to be Syracuse at Holy Cross. I noticed that Syracuse had a kid that could really run the football, but he didn’t block all that well. I think he scored two or three times on long runs. I do remember it was not a very tough game to officiate. I thought to myself, if this kid ever learns to block, he is going to be a great football player. That fellow turned out to be Jim Brown,” exclaimed Dotson. Syracuse won 49-9 over #13-ranked Holy Cross. I asked Dotson who was the greatest high school player he had ever officiated. “One night, I refereed a high school game in Tyler, Texas. They had a kid named Earl Campbell,” said Dotson. “I thought he was the best linebacker in the State of Texas.” “I’ll tell you a little known story,” said Dotson. “Basketball Coach Hank Iba had his wallet stolen after the USA team lost to Russia in the 1972 Olympics. He figured there was nothing he could do about it.” “Oh, I’ve run Bobby Knight five or six times over the years,” said Dotson smiling. “I fired NFL official Red Cashion and trained current NFL official Ed Hochuli, otherwise known as ‘Papa Touchdown,’” said Dotson. Dotson once officiated a Globetrotters game in Japan. “There were 103,000 people in the stands and no one clapped,” said Dotson. “Curly Neal asked me, ‘What’s wrong with these people?’” I’ve tried to imagine what a poker game would look like at Dotson’s house, if he could invite his dearest friends. They are as follows: General Douglas MacArthur, who presented Dotson with an award (gold watch) in 1948; Audie Murphy--“He and I were in the same outfit in the Army, but not at the same time,” said Dotson. They met when Murphy was shooting a movie in France and Germany. “Joe Paterno was a good friend and a great guy; what a sad ending,” exclaimed Dotson. Darrell Royal and Bill Clinton would round out the group. “Darrell Royal was a great teacher and coach; there was nothing phony about him,” said Dotson. Bill Clinton--Dotson was on a committee with him when he was the Governor of Arkansas. “He was a pain in the neck,” laughed Dotson. You can add names like Don Haskins, Charlie O. Finley, and Gil Brandt. “I once helped Tex Schramm with the overtime rules of the NFL,” stated Dotson. I believe we all take a little bit of everyone with us, with whom we come in contact, and in return, they take a piece of us with them. If we surround ourselves with good people, we can’t help but become a good person. So, next time you read the sports page in the Island Moon or find your radio dial on 1440 KEYS, check out my friend Dotson Lewis. They don’t make guys like this anymore. I have been blessed to be able to move in his circles. Andy Purvis is a local author. His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc. They are also available in e-reader format. Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or [email protected]