CHERRYVILLE–Whatever success I had as a smalltown sports editor, I owe to three people.
One was my high school English teacher at Cherryville High School, Vera B. Hoyle. She taught me a love of the written word.
The second was Smack Proctor, sports editor at the Lincoln-Times News, whom I succeeded in 1980. Proctor was my mentor, and I was proud to accept the challenge of continuing the tradition he started.
And the third was Ronald “Scoop” Kiser, a sportswriter for 50 years at The Eagle in Cherryville, where he was an icon of the community, a local legend.
Kiser, 74, died Tuesday evening at Cleveland Regional Medical Center after two years of declining health.
I knew Kiser personally for about 25 years. But I had heard of him, and read his columns and stories, for many years before that.
If you grew up in Cherryville, as I did, you knew Kiser. Anyone who played sports in Cherryville, or cared about the communnity`s sports teams, knew the man whose nickname was synonomous with his profession.
In his prime, Kiser was a dapper little man who wore a bow-tie, a vest and a sports coat to cover basketball games at Nixon Gym. Armed with a scorebook and a pen, he would dutifully record game after game, season upon season.
Kiser had a gravely voice and a hearty laugh. He was always good for a joke or a funny story. He enjoyed the social aspects of sportswriting as much as any journalist I have evern known.
Kiser`s memory was crammed with statistics and facts from a career that began in the early 1950s. He was a walking encyclopedia of Cherryville sports knowledge and trivia. If you asked him a question about a player, a coach, or a game, he could usually answer it.
Whenever there was a sports argument to be settled, someone would always say, “call Scoop.” How much trivia did he know? Enough to supply countless radio broadcasts of Cherryville High School and Cheryville Post 100 legion games with a “sports trivia question.”
And it was never the same question.
And not only did Kiser cover and write about Cherryville sports, he was a one-man sports information department for the town.
I cannot count the number of times I called Kiser`s house on a frantic press morning looking for scores and details about a baseball game or a basketball game. He would always oblige me, often dictating a six-inch story over the phone while I typed into the computer.
What I liked about Kiser was his generosity, his engaging personality and his old-school journalism charm.
His writing style, marked by colorful phrases and a jargon that was popularlized in the post World War II years, never varied. He wrote the same way at the end of his career as he did at the beginning. For Kiser, a third baseman was a “third sacker,” a home run was a “four bagger”, a football player was a “gridder,” a strikeout was a “KO.”
Nobody wrote like Kiser, but for me that was part of his charm.
I remember a fine spring day three years ago when I ate breakfast at Home Folks Cafe and then strolled down the street to The Eagle office. I opened the door and peered in.
In the bare front cubicle I found the bespectacled Kiser, seated behind a desk and pounding the keys on a battered old Royal manual typewriter.
You see, Kiser never learned how to use a computer word processor. Oh, he talked about making the change, but he never actually did it. He said he would miss the clackety-clack of keys hitting paper.
He was my kind of sportswriter, the real deal. I am going to miss my friend.
by Mike Powell