- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The Bishops, Fred and Inez, of Pineville, Kentucky possess all the best American graces—faith and diligence, loyalty, sacrifice and hard work. For most of their lives the Bishops were dirt poor, but there was bounty in what they bred, seven magnificent children, all of whom earned honors, scholarships and college degrees. The Bishop children were bright and popular and so healthy that, in the aggregate, they didn't miss so much as a month of school days. This was a family blessed.
The three sons were all extraordinary athletes, though Fred and Inez never cared much about sports and certainly never pushed the boys to participate. Indeed, when Fred Jr., the middle son, scored 54 points for Pineville High in a basketball game, Inez told the coach it was "ridiculous" that any boy should get so many points at the expense of his teammates. He may have been the best of the sons, excelling at both football and basketball. Athletics came the most naturally to him, but his baby brother, Eddie, was nearly as good—some folks in Pineville would even say better. The first time Eddie ever batted in a baseball game, he hit the longest home run anyone in the county had ever seen.
Indisputably, Eddie came across as the most natural person among the sons. He was always the happiest child, laughing, beloved, well-balanced—until one sweet green evening in April 1981 when, without warning, all the pressures of sport that we place upon our best boys suddenly swelled within his lithe young body and the dam burst, and Eddie Bishop went suddenly berserk, utterly mad. He tore away from his family and friends, and with that same facility he'd shown Pineville upon the playing fields, he dashed away as fast as he could, outdistancing them all, charging down the road, broken-field, gliding into the lingering twilight.
It was two years earlier that Eddie had decided to return to Pineville. He'd graduated from Morehead State the spring before and he was studying for his master's degree in health and physical education, but he had a wife and a son. If he took the job teaching at Pineville High, he could make some money. There were a lot of people who had misgivings. Lee, the oldest brother, was against it, and he best realized the special pressures because, when he'd started teaching and coaching, that's exactly what he'd done: gone back to Pineville High for a year. But then Lee had left quickly for Fort Knox, across the state. Still, he says, "How could I tell Eddie not to do what I'd done myself?"
Jerry Woolum, a doctor at Pineville Community Hospital, knew the Bishops well, and he knew football. Woolum had been a starting quarterback in 1962 at the University of Kentucky. He was a member of the Pineville school board that hired Eddie to become the football coach a few months after Eddie had joined the high school faculty. "It's obvious now we made a mistake," Woolum says. "But it was an honest mistake."
Even up at Morehead, Eddie had been warned before he left. The Morehead coaches came down to Pineville after what everybody in town still calls "the accident." They dropped by Flocoe Drugstore, and Mason Combs, the pharmacist, remembers that one of the assistants repeated what he'd told Eddie: that he shouldn't go back to his hometown.
Even at that time, some people probably quoted Thomas Wolfe. They certainly do now.
But Eddie wasn't just another guy named Joe going home again. He was a bona fide, certified hero going home again. "Pineville's Star of Stars" is what the local weekly. The Sun-Courier, called him. You see, in situations like this, folks think: If we can only bring the old hero back, it's going to be jake again: he'll get it back for us. Pineville isn't alone in such thinking. Just look over at Cincinnati, where a few months ago they brought Pete Rose back. Same thing. Remember when they gave Bart Starr the job in Green Bay? Or when they brought Willis Reed home to New York? New York or Green Bay, the Big Apple or Podunk: same thing. Of course, it almost never works, but people keep trying.
As D.C. Cloud, one of Eddie's best friends, says: "I was even awed myself. And Pineville...everyone was thinking: We're bringing one of the Bishop boys back, and so all our kids are going to be good, too. You've got to understand that for years, whenever the Pineville team came to a town, the people actually thought 'Bishop.' "
All over the state, whenever Retha, Eddie's wife, was introduced, someone would say: "You any kin to the Pineville Bishops?" Eddie after Fred, Fred after Lee. They all won athletic scholarships. They weren't just recruited; they were pursued. Lee went to Cumberland College, Fred to Kentucky, Eddie to More-head. Lee, at 6'6" the tallest, was primarily a basketball specialist, but Fred Jr. and Eddie starred in both basketball and football, winning various and sundry all-state and All-America honors—and. more important for a town the size of Pineville, pop. 2,599, winning what's commonly known as "immortality." Jimmy Roan, the father of Robert Roan, the quarterback when Eddie starred for Pineville. jabs a plug of snuff into his left cheek and says it best: "Every small town has a great athlete everybody remembers. Every town has somebody. And sometime around here, 30, 40 years from now, some kid will come along, and he'll be real good. And people will start to say he must be the best ever, and somebody will say, 'Yeah, he's good all right—he's almost as good as Fred or Eddie Bishop was.' "