Vin Scully’s kind gesture toward a Kentucky Wildcats sports icon

·5 min read

Quick hitters from the lazy, hazy:

21. Vin Scully. The iconic Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers baseball announcer died last week at age 94. In the 1960s, Scully played a role that may have extended the life of an important Kentucky Wildcats sports figure.

20. Claude Sullivan. The Lexington radio sportscaster built his reputation in the 1950s and ‘60s calling UK football and men’s basketball games on WVLK-AM 590 in Lexington and via the syndicated Standard Oil Radio Network. Yet as much as he loved doing the UK games, Sullivan aspired to be a Major League Baseball announcer.

19. A persistent cough. Starting in 1964, Sullivan got a chance to live his dream with the Cincinnati Reds. However, during a road trip to Los Angeles early in Sullivan’s Reds play-by-play tenure, Scully became concerned over Sullivan’s persistent coughing.

18. The Mayo Clinic. “Vin Scully got Dad with the Dodgers trainer,” Alan Sullivan, one of Claude Sullivan’s two sons, recalled last week. “(The trainer) told Dad, ‘If I was you, I would go to the Mayo Clinic and I would go as soon as possible.’”

17. A distressing diagnosis. At the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Claude Sullivan was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of throat cancer. “They arrested (the cancer) at first, and it disappeared,” Alan Sullivan says. “But it was very aggressive. Within a year, it came back. When it came back, it was pretty debilitating.”

16. A life cut short. On the night of Dec. 6, 1967, Jim Host was substituting for an ailing Claude Sullivan as radio play-by-play announcer for a Kentucky’s men’s basketball contest with Xavier. During the game, Host was handed a note that he ultimately shared with his audience. “One of the greatest announcers of all time, Claude Sullivan, has just died,” Host told the radio listeners.

Claude Sullivan was 42.

15. Grateful to Scully. Alan Sullivan said without that trip to the Mayo Clinic, then the only hospital in the U.S. with a linear accelerator available to treat cancer, “Dad probably wouldn’t have lasted six months. So we were grateful as a family that, through Vin, the Dodgers trainer got him to go to Minnesota.”

14. An interview request. When Alan Sullivan was working on his 2014 book, “Voice of the Wildcats: Claude Sullivan and the Rise of Modern Sportscasting,” he asked through a Dodgers representative to speak with Scully.

13. A polite denial. Alan Sullivan said Scully politely declined, relaying word through the Dodgers that he remembered Claude Sullivan but did not feel comfortable after so many decades with the accuracy of any information he might provide. “They said he was very private, didn’t do a lot of interviews,” Alan Sullivan says. “They said he also wished me good luck on the book.”

12. Deone Walker. Kentucky’s 6-foot-6, 330-pound true freshman defensive lineman took some snaps with the No. 1 defense during UK’s Fan Day open practice. For my money, the Detroit product’s combination of size and athleticism made him Saturday’s most intriguing player.

11. Talking Deone Walker I. Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops says of Walker, “An unbelievable talent. Exactly what we thought when we recruited him.”

10. Talking Deone Walker II. UK super-senior linebacker Jacquez Jones says of Walker, “That’s a different cat right there. ... Nobody that big should be moving like that. He’s a special talent.”

9. UK’s pick party. So did all the interceptions (five by my count, with several others dropped) that were thrown by Kentucky quarterbacks during Saturday’s open practice worry you just a little?

8. Backup QB. In the race to be Kentucky’s No. 2 quarterback behind starter Will Levis, I thought ex-Somerset High School star Kaiya Sheron had some good moments Saturday.

7. John Calipari. Whatever else one might think about the Kentucky men’s basketball coach, the way he uses “the bully pulpit” that accompanies his job to help those in need following natural disasters in our state is beyond impressive.

6. EKU men’s basketball non-conference schedule. Among games of special note, Eastern Kentucky Coach A.W. Hamilton says the Colonels will likely be playing at Cincinnati and at Tennessee in 2022-23.

5. Morehead State? Remember all the talk when EKU left the Ohio Valley Conference after the 2020-21 school year that the Colonels’ traditional rivalry with intrastate foe and OVC member Morehead would be continued? At least in men’s basketball, that has so far proven easier said than done.

4.”It hasn’t worked out.” EKU’s Hamilton says he and Morehead State head man Preston Spradlin have discussed signing a long-term contract to get the Colonels-Eagles rivalry relaunched. “It just hasn’t worked out,” Hamilton says. “But we haven’t closed the door on it. We are still trying. Hopefully, we can get it worked out.”

Morehead State and Coach Preston Spradlin have not faced Eastern Kentucky since the Colonels left the OVC for the ASUN for the 2021-22 school year.
Morehead State and Coach Preston Spradlin have not faced Eastern Kentucky since the Colonels left the OVC for the ASUN for the 2021-22 school year.

3. EKU vs. NKU. Hamilton says the Colonels will play one non-league game vs. an in-state foe in 2022-23 when Eastern visits Northern Kentucky.

2. Cincinnati to visit NKU, too. Northern Kentucky men’s hoops head man Darrin Horn says the University of Cincinnati Bearcats will be playing Northern Kentucky at The Truist Arena on the NKU campus on Nov. 16.

1. An “unbelievable” atmosphere. “I’m assuming (UC) will be pretty good,” Horn says. “We should be pretty good. It should be an unbelievable college basketball atmosphere.”