Al Thomy has died at age 87……He was one of the all-time greats and I would have to say, he was the best sports writer that I have ever met….There are a few, that may one day surpass Al Thomy, but they will have to be writing on their deathbed if they do it….
I could write or talk for about a week, or maybe even two weeks about this ‘Giant’ of the sports writers….Al did not come at you with a lot of baggage….He just brought it all, as it was….Solid piece about Al, from Jeff Mills, at today’s News and Record.com and you can check it out when you CLICK HERE…..
Jeff talks about Al being one of the pallbearers at Ty Cobb’s funeral and his work at the old Greensboro Daily News and at the Greensboro Record…..Al had told me those stories over the years, about having every high school football score from the state of North Carolina, in his Saturday morning sports section…..He went state-wide when nobody else could handle the state-wide scene….Al helped make the Greensboro newspaper, the best in the state…..
Al covered the Atlanta Falcons for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and he also covered the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and he wrote the book on Pepper Rogers, the Tech football coach….Al also was the only sports writer that famed boxer Rocky Marciano would talk to, when Al went up to interview Marciano at his log cabin, in the mountains of Georgia….
Al was on the beat and he was the first regular sports writer to cover the Houston Colt 45’s, now known as the Houston Astros….Al was on the major league baseball beat, while working sports for the Houston Chronicle….
Al did a Sunday night TV show in Atlanta, where they would have a roundtable discussion and talk about all of the NFL pro games from that Sunday, with the highlights/lowlights coming from the Atlanta Falcons…..Norm Van Brocklin was the man in charge of the Falcons at the time and Al knew him well….Furman Bisher also sat in on those Sunday night shows and Wilt Browning(former sports editor of the News and Record), he might have sat in on those shows too….
Before I forget to tell you about it, another keynote in Al’s career, he was the man that hired Lewis Grizzard to work at the Atlanta Journal Constitution…..I believe Grizzard got his start in sports over at the Journal Contitution….Al gave Grizzard his first job at the Atlanta paper…
I used to have Al on my radio show, at the old WKEW AM1400 every year at the start of the college football season and in the process, I sort of became on of Al’s confidants….He told me many a story over the years and we talked about his sports career for countless hours over the years….
The Ty Cobb story, the Rocky Marciano story, the Lewis Grizzard story, the high school football stories, the book on Bill Elliot, talking about ‘Awesome Bill from Dawsonville’/”The Fastest Man Alive” and Bill Elliot’s dad was Ernie Elliot if I remember correctly(Al knew him too) and then the book on Pepper Rogers, from Georgia Tech….Al Thomy was the man…..
The first time I saw any of Al’s works might have been when I saw his book on Pepper Rogers, on the book shelves at the local News and Novels bookstore…That Pepper Rogers was quite a character(crazy sports coats and hats)….Then a little later on, I began to see his work as a writer for the local ad paper, the Greensboro Adventurer….The Adventurer was pretty much just a local weekly, that was chocked full of ads and they had a few stories mixed in, to give the readers just a taste of journalistic appeal….Al was the man and I think it was about this time, that he had just returned from his second stint, with the Atlanta Journal Constitution….
Al migrated over from The Adventurer to The Sports Page and that was about the time, that I was actually able to meet him….This had to be around the Summer of 1985 and I began doing a stint that Summer, with The Sports Page….Al had a column in the weekly paper and Al’s photo always had him with his trademark pipe in his mouth…..Al and that pipe were a standard when you read any of his local articles from that point on….The Sports Page also had Charlie Harville, Gene Overby, Ad Penfield, Ogi Overman(Jamestown News), Kevin Reid(‘Country Hardball’/Enos Slaughter author), Harry Stevens, Bob Licht and few more notables, leaving marks on their pages…..I would say without a doubt, and no disrespect to the others, Al was the best writer at that publication….The man could flat-out tell a story…..
Al moved/followed Ogi Overman to the ESP newspaper/magazine that was owned and operated by Ogi and Bill Kennedy and this paper showcased entertainment and sports from the Triad…This paper was sort of a forerunner for today’s YES! Weekly…..At ESP, Al had his weekly column(with the photo of Al smoking his pipe, kind of like a minature Sherlock Holmes) and Al did all/any of the key NASCAR coverage, for the ESP newspaper/magazine…
Al also joined David ‘Ogi’ Overman, when Ogi started up the GGO paper along with Mike Barber and the GGO was going with the carry-on, of the Greater Greensboro Observer…..
I used to see Al on occasion when I was shooting basketball, over at Latham Park on Sunday mornings and that area was really Al’s stomping grounds…..Latham Park and that basketball court was called Johnson Park, if I remember right and there was this kid that Al sort of adopted and his name was Charlie and Al would do anything he could to help that kid and his family….Al even gave Charlie a car when the kid got old enough to drive and by that time, Charlie had moved away to Tennessee……
The Al Thomy stories could go on and on and as you can probably tell by now, he made a major impact on our Greensboro and Guilford County sports world/community….I have always tried to tell people Al’s story and have driven home how influential this man was in the world of sports….He is a Guilford College-grad and he needs to be in their Hall of Fame, the Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame and maybe even the state of North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame….
This man Al Thomy and it is pronounced Al Tommy or Tommie and not like Jim Thomy, but I am telling you, this man Al Thomy did as much to cover sports as anyone that ever lived in this county and I will be preaching that sermon until the day I die….
Al Thomy dead and gone, but this man’s memories will live on and he touched/helped people all over the United States….A very good man/sports writer and even a better human being….
(Now hanging out at the Front Desk, at the ‘Pipe Smokers Hall of Fame’.)….I will never forget that picture of Al smoking his pipe, in the annals of The Sports Page and ESP.