Wayne Minshew spent a painful season writing about the local team, and late in the year the general manager of the ball club offered the sportswriter a challenge.
"If you think you can do any better, then put on a uniform," he said.
So he did. One sweltering night in Florida, Minshew put aside his typewriter and was the starting pitcher for the Jacksonville Jets, one of the worst teams in all of baseball that season.
Minshew worked for the Jacksonville Journal and the management of the Jets thought he should have shown mercy to a team on its way to nowhere.
Never miss a local story.
But this beat writer knew how to put on a jock strap. Minshew was the captain of the 1958 University of Georgia baseball team. He pitched and played shortstop. His career won-loss record was 10-4 and his 2.50 earned run average is fifth on the all-time list. In 1957, his ERA was 1.02, which is still a Bulldog record.
The 1961 Jets couldn't turn a double play but they were smart enough to know that having a sportswriter pitch would sell a few tickets in a Minor League park that was more empty than full.
Minshew was 25 years old and it had been awhile since he pitched in anger. The club didn't take it seriously, but he did.
For five scoreless innings, he kept the Los Angeles Dodger farmhands at bay and his only mistake was getting on base. Rounding second, he pulled a muscle and his comeback came to a merciful end. Then he went to the press box and wrote the game story for the next day's Journal.
Five years later he made the big leagues. He was there when the Atlanta Braves made their debut in 1966. Minshew covered the team for the Atlanta Constitution for 12 years.
Later he worked in the Braves front office and then went into corporate public relations. He retired to Calhoun, Ga., in 2000 and since then has been active in recreation and literacy organizations.
Minshew died last week. He was 78. I heard him tell this story many nights as we edited copy and wrote headlines. He was a guy whose dreams came true. He loved playing baseball, writing about it, watching it and telling stories about it.
And with a new audience, he's probably telling them again.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.