Billy Carr's life touched generations of Little Leaguers
Billy Howard Carr's career at The Lebanon Democrat bridged the era when newspapers were put together by hand and today's world in which everything short of the pressroom is done on the computer.
We lost Billy H. earlier this week after he spent some 65 of his 83 years watching this community change from his work place at this newspaper. Stories of his life have reflected on his career here and his military career, of which he was extremely proud.
Not noted as much, but just as important to Billy H., was his love of sports in general and baseball in particular. Some two generations of Lebanon youth played for his teams in the Kiwanis Little League.
And just as he saw changes in the newspaper industry, his 27 years in the Baird Park dugouts were during a different era. Whereas most of today's youth coaches are parents, Billy, who never married or had children, was part of a bygone era of coaches such as the late George Baines, Bobby Jewell and Tom Anderson [in the Lions Babe Ruth League] who may have coached their sons, but remained in the dugout even after their kids had outgrown the league. Baines' son, Jeff, later assisted him and coached the Kiwanis to its first Little League State Tournament, in 1985.
After that '85 group moved on to Babe Ruth, Carr's Lebanon Bank team began to rule the league. Before playing for the legendary Woody Hunt at Cumberland University and going on to a high school coaching career, Jody Atwood was a Little League star as he and future Lebanon High basketball star Leon Love led Lebanon Bank, which was also coached by Larry Montgomery, to several championships. Another future Blue Devil hoops star, Jamie Shannon, played for Carr on an all-star team.
"He just always had a smile on his face," Love, now a Watertown High basketball assistant coach, told me a day after Billy's death. "He was always very positive and smiling. No matter what was going on, he was always encouraging."
"He was such an inspiration to so many young men who played Kiwanis Little League," Atwood told me outside the Friendship Christian dugout before his Lady Commander softball team took on Watertown two days ago. "I can remember him coming in with his old '64 white beat-up car."
I never rode in that car, which may still be parked outside his house even though he upgraded to a more modern-looking vehicle years ago, but I did stick my head inside once and could see the pavement through the floorboard.
"Oh, my goodness. It was like Fred Flintstone, he had to stop it with his feet," Atwood said while I was laughing. "He impacted a lot of young people.
"He did it for the love of the game, and more importantly, for the love of the kids.
"He and Larry Montgomery, Lebanon Bank, we had some unbelievable teams and some great times and wonderful memories. He had a great impact on my life as he did lots and lots of young men... We were fortunate enough when we played for Lebanon Bank, I think we lost one game in four years. We had some really, really good teams and really, really good times."
Billy H. was from the generation which idolized Joe DiMaggio. Like many, he didn't like the way big money came to impact baseball.
But he still followed the game. When umpire John McSherry collapsed and died behind home plate in Cincinnati on opening day in 1996, I told Billy about it.
"He was one of the good umpires," Billy said.
His love of sports wasn't limited to baseball. When Bud Adams brought the Houston Oilers to Tennessee some 15 years ago, Billy H. did his part to fund what is now called LP Field by buying a PSL. A big Titans fan during the team's early glory years complete with the car flag and team memorabilia around his work area, he still had his season tickets, though I'm told he often sold them in recent seasons.
The Titans have lost a big fan.
Our loss is even bigger. We, and that includes his co-workers [past and present] and his hundreds of former Little Leaguers, lost a dear friend.