Charles Skipper

Golden Isles Legend

By: Charles Skipper news services

I have only been writing articles for two months now and I do not know how many more opportunities I will have in the future to write others but I feel it is safe to say that this will be the most difficult one I will ever have to compose.

The reason for the level of difficulty in this particular article is that it is about the passing of my best friend Bob Black on April 4th, 2022.

Bob was diagnosed with Cancer in early February and lived six weeks after receiving the news. During those six weeks hundreds of people reached out to Coach Black, as he was known, and let him know how much he meant to them.

The Glynn Academy Baseball Team honored him at their game with Brunswick High School and he was able to stand and throw out the first pitch.

He told me after the event that he had no idea the amount of love and respect that people in the community had for him. He was humbled beyond words and extremely appreciative of everyone’s support.

I could fill volumes of articles with stories and antidotes of my friendship with Bob from the time we first met in 1983 at Georgia Southern but I have chosen another way to honor Coach Black.

I reached out to other Coaches that were fortunate enough to work alongside Bob in his coaching career and asked them to share their thoughts and experiences with Coach Black. These are their own words on what Bob meant to them and the kids they coached together.


Cricket Mobley: To lose a friend like Bob Black would leave a big hole in anyone’s “Friends” list. For me it takes away someone I have shared a lot of experiences with and shown up with.

We Coached the local kids and allowed us to grow up with them. To be a part of athletics and life with Bob was truly a blessing and I will miss him every day.

God bless Bob and his family and may the voices of time speak well of him. Always available. Always A Competitor. Always a friend. Love you Man

Todd Collier: Coach Black was tough on the field but he was always the first one to give them that atta boy hug afterwards. He was a player’s coach and the kids wanted to work hard for him. They worked hard for his respect. They never wanted to disappoint Coach Black.

Ted Wallen: Coach Bob was our backbone. He not only coached kids, he coached coaches. He would send out group texts to all the coaches at some of our worst times and remind us all of what we have to be grateful for and say “it is a great day to be a Terror.”

Our players are deeply saddened by the loss of their Coach. Bob reminded us just how powerful the Human Spirit can be.

Rocky Hidalgo: He will be remembered as the most honest man I ever met.

Coach Black would never sugar coat anything. He was open, direct and honest with every player and coach in our program, whether they liked it or not. He will be missed by all of us associated with the program.

Scott Spence: I knew Coach Black for over 30 years. I had the opportunity to work with him from the perspective of a Coach, Athletic Director, Principal and Superintendent.

He unselfishly gave himself to the student-athletes of the Glynn County School System. I can think of few, if any, who supported our student-athletes during that time frame in the positive manner that Coach Black did.

He was a good man who unselfishly wanted to see all of our young people succeed. Those kinds of people are very rare and we will miss him tremendously. We lost a good man.

The interactions and relationships Bob had with players and Coaches will be forever remembered and cherished by them. He truly was a person that made the world a better place.

Bob, I hope the fish are always biting and the Braves, Bulldogs and Terrors are winning all their games up there where you are my oldest friend.

We miss you and you keep them laughing up there Pal.

Who’s On First

By: Charles Skipper news services

On March 14, 2022 the Atlanta Braves made a trade that shut one door on an era of the team’s history and opened another door on their future.

Alex Anthopoulos sealed a deal with the Oakland A’s that sent 4 prospects to Oakland in return for their starting first baseman Matt Olson.

Matt Olson, like his new teammate Dansby Swanson, played his high school ball in the Metro Atlanta area.

He was drafted by the Oakland A’s in 2012 out of Parkview High School in Lilburn, where he pitched and played first base for the 2011 and 2012 State Champion Panthers. The new Brave still holds the Gwinnett County record for wins and RBI.

Olson made his debut in the Show in 2016 when he got a September call up and appeared in 11 games. The number of games played increased to 59 in 2017. The young slugger saw his name penciled in the starting lineup for every game of the 2018 season.

A broken hand in 2019 and poor results in the Covid shortened 2020 season followed.

A full 2021 season saw Olson rebound to play 156 games and put-up solid numbers in all offensive categories. He hit for a .271 average, 39 HR, and 111 RBI and was selected to participate in the Home Run Derby and was named to the All-Star team.

Further honors for Olson were being named a finalist for both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards.

The natural inclination is to compare Olson to Freeman. The obvious method to compare players is by the statistics they compile. The last 3 years the numbers the 2 players put up are very similar.

Freeman hit for a .304 BA/82 HR/142 OPS. Olson registered a .257 BA/89 HR/134 OPS. The two players were almost identical in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) with Freeman at 11.7 and Olson at 11.6.

The glaring difference in the performance numbers of the two first baseman is in the important category of hitting with runners in scoring position or RISP. Freeman ranks number 5 among all active players, while Olson comes in at 127th.

Professional Baseball has become consumed with the analytical side of the game. Many of today’s General Managers are young number crunchers whom have never played the game themselves. Analytics are evident in many of the in-game decisions and the infield shift is one of these type strategies based on numbers.

Another of these new analytical terms being used today is the aging curve. This is a fancy way to say the player is getting old.

The Braves with the trade for Olson are saying to me that the decision they made to let Freddie go was based more on his age at the length of a long-term contract than the money that was being discussed.

Within 24 hours long-term of signing Olson, Atlanta signed him to an 8 year 168 million-dollar contract extension, which is the largest in team history.

Ironically the previous largest contract for a Brave was a 5 year 135 million-dollar contract they gave Freeman.

Alex Anthopoulos has proven up to this point to be a shrewd GM and will be forever linked to the trading deadline deals that propelled Atlanta to the World Series title last season.

Hopefully years from now we will look back on the Olson trade as another smart decision by Anthopoulos.

Matt Olson grew up dreaming of playing for the Braves and fate has granted him his wish. History shows us that some players struggle early when they come to a new team and have a big contract to live up to.

Olson will have to handle the pressure of the big contract along with the ones that come from being a Hometown Kid and having to follow a player of Freeman’s stature.

Braves fans hope Olson can adjust quickly to his new team this season, be productive, and make us proud that he is the answer to the question Who’s On First?


History Lesson

By: Charles Skipper news services

Daytona International Raceway was the site of the 64th running of the Daytona 500 recently.

The mecca of Stock Car Racing held its first 500-mile race on the track built by NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. on February 22, 1959.

The winner’s trophy for the inaugural race went to a fellow with the last name of Petty but not the Petty you might think it was.

Lee Petty, not “The King” Richard Petty was victorious that Sunday afternoon. The driver of the #43 Petty Blue car did manage to take the checkered flag at the iconic racetrack seven times and is the all-time leader in wins in the event.

The Daytona racetrack was the first Superspeedway to be built and the new venue replaced the Daytona Beach Road Course, which included a portion of the race being ran on the beach itself.

Vintage film footage of the cars flying down the beach at breakneck speeds illustrate the love for speed in the early years of automobiles.

The picturesque beach course was not designed just for looks as there were 15 World Land Speed records set there, with speeds reaching a whopping 211 mph during the race.

Races were first held in 1936 on the course and continued until it closed in 1958 after the opening of the new track.

Bill France, a garage owner/operator in Daytona Beach, whom had been a race car driver himself, began managing the road course in 1938. France believed people wanted to watch stock car races and began talks in a motel bar on Daytona Beach that led to the formation of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing. This group is still the governing and operating company for stock car racing today.

The next move France made to lead NASCAR into the future was to plan the building of a new track in Daytona.

The legendary high banked turns in Daytona were utilized to foster more speed and to allow the fans to see the cars better.

The Father of NASCAR patterned the banking on the Florida track after the Ford Motor Company Proving Grounds, which had banking to allow for faster speeds in their test cars. The new banked tri-oval became the fastest track in the series until Talladega opened ten years later.

The Daytona 500 has grown from these roots to the pinnacle race of the NASCAR season.

Every other sport you can think of holds their signature event at the end of their season and the winner of that culminating event is the champion for that season. NASCAR comes right out of the gate with their top event first on the schedule.

The design of the Super Speedway track leads to a style of racing where the cars form long lines of cars at speeds near or at 200 mph in a row usually inches from the bumper of the car in front of them.

This combination has led to many exciting finishes like the Cale Yarborough-Donnie Allison fight after a crash on the last lap of the 1979 race.

These wrecks sometimes though have ended in tragedy such as the one that took the life of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt in 2001.

Through the highs and lows of the track’s fabled history, the Daytona 500 has become the most important and prestigious race on the NASCAR circuit, bringing in the highest television ratings and by far has the largest purse awarded.

The Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing signals the beginning of a new NASCAR season each year and entertains millions of fans along the way.

The brainchild of Bill France Sr. continues to thrive today and live up to the title it was given as The Great American Race.

Peachy Parades

By: Charles Skipper news services

The 2021 sports seasons for fans in the state of Georgia were rewarding, memorable and will be talked about for eternity whenever fans reminisce about their teams’ successful campaigns.

The past year’s champions in Major League Baseball, NCAA Division I Football and the National Football League were either from Georgia or had strong ties to the state.

The Atlanta Braves won the World Series to become champions of Major League Baseball. The Georgia Bulldogs won the National Championship Game to bring back the trophy to the Classic City. The Los Angeles Rams are not from the state of Georgia obviously, but they were led by former Bulldogs quarterback Matthew Stafford.

One title in a major sport for a state or city’s faithful following is an achievement in itself but for a group of fans in Georgia that follow all 3 of these teams it was a year that saw unparalleled success.

These teams not only won it all this year but they broke droughts that lasted decades and accomplished one feat that had never been done before.

Braves teams won 14 division championships in a row starting in 1991 but could only muster one World Series crown in 1995 to show for all that regular season success.

The Braves finished on top of the Eastern Division at season’s end to win their fourth consecutive division championship. To say the team struggled in the early going is being nice. The fact that the team did not reach the .500 mark until August 5th illustrates that point.

Savvy front office moves by Alex Anthopoulos at or near the trading deadline brought the pieces to the team that provided the extra spark and firepower to propel them to their first World Series trophy in 26 years.

The 2021 edition of the Georgia Bulldogs Football team brought an even longer drought to a close. Georgia fans have not celebrated a National Championship since the Herschel Walker led squad gained victory over Notre Dame on New Years Day 1981 to bring the prize back to the Empire State of the South.

The Dawgs were undefeated all season until they ran into nemesis Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia was fortunate enough to get another shot at the Crimson Tide in the playoffs. Georgia beat them in the rematch to become winners of the Championship game and become the Top Dawg in College Football.

The immortal Run Lindsey Run play in the historic Gator Bowl, the Junkyard Dog defense and the season long heroics of Herschel Walker are memories forever associated with the 1980 team.

There were memorable plays and circumstances that will be linked to the 2021 Red and Black also. The interception by Kelee Ringo to seal the victory in Indianapolis will be etched in the minds of fans forever.

Great plays were made throughout the year but the hot topic that surrounded the team for most of the season was whom the quarterback should be.

Highly touted, USC transfer J.T. Daniels started the season opener at Clemson but went down early in the year with an injury and that opened the door for Pierce County graduate and former walk on Stetson Bennett to get on the field and he never came off.

Daniels became the modern-day version of Wally Pipp and the Mailman became a folk hero.

We cannot forget the two Brunswick local members of the team who played major roles also. Starting right tackle Warren McClendon and placekicker Jake Podlesny gave solid and consistent performances all year long and represented the Golden Isles in style.

The Los Angeles Rams was special to fans because Matthew Stafford became the first former Bulldogs quarterback to win the Super Bowl.

Fran Tarkenton and Zeke Bratkowski are the only other two former Georgia players with an opportunity to claim that honor. Stafford made history by winning but former Georgia standouts Sony Michel and Leonard Floyd will be sporting a ring also, which adds further pride to Dawg Nation.

Our state’s sports fans may never see results from their teams like this again but 2021 will always be a year that left fans in the Peach State feeling warm and fuzzy.

The New Head Jag

By: Charles Skipper news services

The Jacksonville Jaguars recently announced the hiring of Doug Pederson as their new Head Coach. Pederson will become the seventh Head Coach of the organization.

Pederson’s hiring comes after Urban Meyer was fired with cause during the 2021 season with the team sporting a 2 – 11 record at the time of his firing.

Meyer brought unwanted negative attention to himself and his team with some of his off the field shenanigans. These actions coupled with lack of respect from his players, treating his assistants and other team employees badly plus poor on the field performance led to owner Shahid Khan showing the Golden Boy of College the door. The firing ended his first and probably his last professional coaching job.

The Jaguars have had a total of six head coaches in the 27-year history of the team. The men whom have been at the helm of the ship in chronological order are Tom Coughlin, Jack Del Rio, Mike Mularkey, Gus Bradley, Doug Marrone and Urban Meyer.

Coughlin was the first and by far the most successful hire for the organization. He had almost complete control of team operations even though he never wore the title General Manager. He commandeered the most successful expansion team in league history.

Jacksonville entered the playoffs with a win in the last game of the season and made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game in only its second year of existence.

Coach Coughlin was fired after a 6 – 10 finish in 2002. He finished his career in Duval with a 68 – 60 regular season record and a 4 – 4 slate in the playoffs. After leaving the Jaguars he went on to coach the New York Giants for 12 years securing 2 Super Bowl victories along the way.

Nineteen seasons and five head coaches later the Jaguars have not been able to equal Coughlin’s four trips to the playoffs. Del Rio with 2 and Marrone with 1 represents all the playoff appearances since their initial success.

Quickly achieved success is not foreign to the fifty-four-year-old Pederson. He led the Eagles to a Super Bowl Title in his second season as leader of that squad.

Coach Pederson spent 13 years in the NFL as a backup quarterback although he did make some starts for the Eagles and Browns during his playing career. He won a Super Bowl ring with the Brett Favre led Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXI.

The victory with the Eagles as a Head Coach puts him in the category of only four people to win the ultimate prize as a player and Head Coach.

The new head honcho for Jacksonville and his extensive NFL background is the polar opposite of the College background of Meyer.

Pederson comes to the Jaguars touted as a creative minded offensive play caller. Andy Reid served as mentor to the new Jag leader while he was his assistant at Philadelphia and when he served as his offensive coordinator at Kansas City.

Reid is known as an offensive whiz and Pederson displayed some of those traits while at Philadelphia. The signature play of his team’s Super Bowl victory was run on fourth and goal minutes before halftime. The trick play became known as the Philly Special and will forever be associated with the win.

It remains to be seen if the Jaguars new leader will be able to quickly turn the franchise around like he did the Eagles. I am absolutely certain that they are in better hands than they were heading into the 2021 season.

Who knows? Maybe winning is in the future for the River City gang and the Black, Teal and Gold will become something special to watch.


Freddie, Freddie, Freddie

By: Charles Skipper news services

The scene is Truist Park, home of the World Champion Atlanta Braves.

The Braves have found themselves in the last inning needing a rally to pull out the victory. The lineup card says it is the first baseman due up in the order.

The crowd starts to buzz and then erupts into a stadium wide chant. Freddie!! Freddie!!Freddie!! resonates throughout the park.

Freddie Freeman has been the starting first baseman for the Braves since the 2011 season. He has stepped into the batter’s box countless times over the years with his team needing him to deliver in order for them to come out on top. More times than not the 2020 National League MVP has done just that; he has delivered.

The franchise has added young stars to the roster in the past few years but number 5 has been the man they all followed and modeled their work habits after. Freddie not only excels on the field but he represents the organization with class, dignity and professionalism.

Fans in Braves Nation have been blessed to call a player of Freeman’s stature their own. Blessed as we have been, there is steeped anticipation as we await the players lockout to end and the 2022 season to begin.

The Braves and Freeman did not come to an agreement before the lockout so all talks are halted until the stalemate is over. There seems to be a disagreement between the club and Freeman over the length of the contract according to reports on the matter.

The Braves don’t spend money like they did in the days of the flamboyant owner Ted Turner but fans are hoping that they do know a sound business decision when they see one.

We have seen many Atlanta Braves stars, hometown favorites and even faces of the franchise at the time play in other uniforms towards the end of their careers.

The list includes names such as Glavine, Smoltz, Torre, Justice, Murphy, Neikro and even Mr. Brave himself Hank Aaron. The majority of these players were in the twilight of their careers and weren’t as productive with their new teams as they were with the Braves. This is not the case with Freddie Freeman.

There is no reason not to expect for him to put up MVP contention numbers for several more years to come. Long term contracts in professional sports are risky just by their nature.

Injuries, age, deteriorating skills are all things that contribute to the unknown in the quality of a player’s production. The Braves have reason for concern over any long term contract but please, this is not a standard contract or is this a standard player. This is a generational player whom has been the backbone of your team for nearly a decade.

Decisions in Major League front offices are based on many factors. Money is the number one factor that drives the choice as it does in most all business decisions.

When you attend a Braves game now it is a much different experience than a game at the two previous parks in Atlanta. It is more than a game, it is an event.

The Battery is a small city that is packed before and after the game. The area in front of the big screen is loaded with families on blankets, people playing catch, folks watching highlights on the screen.

All these people are spending money, lots of money due to some of the prices charged. Fans are asking the front office to do what they have been doing. They are asking them to spend their money to support the Braves just as they have.

Fans want the people in charge to take some of that gold mine they are sitting on and do whatever it takes to keep Freddie Freeman an Atlanta Brave for life.

Braves fans everywhere let us keep our fingers crossed and our hopes alive that once again with the game on the line we have the pleasure of hearing the hair raising chant…..Freddie!!Freddie!!Freddie!!