From today's Times and News-Star
Scott Boatright – we call him “Boat” -- wondered where his friend and co-worker Buddy Davis, Ruston Daily Leader sportswriter and man about town, was on that Saturday morning this past July.
The reason Boat missed him was because Buddy was here most every Saturday for the past 40-plus years, including the few years Boat had worked at the Leader. Unless he was on the road, Buddy, a one-man sports staff since pre-Watergate, was in the office to get the Sunday sports pages out.
But not this Saturday.
Long and tough story short: Buddy had suffered a stroke. Early Friday afternoon after work, he’d come home to the house he’s lived in since his parents died a decade ago. He had the stroke in the kitchen, struck his head on a counter falling and was flat on the floor, immobile and in and out of consciousness, for almost a calendar day when Boat arrived. The paramedics were there shortly after.
No one missed Buddy until Saturday because this happened on one of maybe three Friday nights a year when Buddy didn’t have to be somewhere covering something.
He’d had better nights off.
It’s been a battle for Buddy, these past four months. But this past Saturday was different than that one in July. On Nov. 9 on the Louisiana Tech campus, Orville Kince (O.K.) “Buddy” Davis (Class of 1969) and four others were inducted into the University’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
This is notable because all across the state, especially in North Louisiana and Lincoln Parish, thousands of people have pieces of Buddy’s stories in their scrapbooks, in their wallets or displayed with magnets on their refrigerators. Before the stroke, Buddy had admirers like Fort Knox has gold bars. Since this setback, he’s been elevated to rock star.
Cards. Visits. Calls. Facebook likes. (Buddy didn’t know Facebook from phone book in the spring, but now he’s constantly asking Tech’s athletics media relations director Malcolm Butler, Buddy’s personal Facebook manager, how many “likes” he has. It’s a bit embarrassing.)
Before he could take calls himself, we’d play the messages off his cell phone in his hospital room. One day I played him Doug Williams/Terry Bradshaw/Archie Manning back-to-back-to-back, each wondering how Buddy was and wishing him well. The late Eddie Robinson once told Sports Illustrated that Buddy was “like a son to me,” and if the rest of us were older, maybe we’d feel the same way. As things are, Buddy is like a friend you don’t want to go to the game without, even with the bad puns and name-dropping and his constant losing battle with Twitter operations.
Saturday’s induction offered Lincoln Parish’s version of a Big Foot photo op: Buddy, owner of a T-shirt/polo collection that reaches into the thousands, in a borrowed suit and tie. Wow. He came into the room in his motorized chair, his first public appearance since going on the disabled list. People beamed, asked him where his hair had gone, then talked with others behind his back about how great it was to see their friend again, and outside a hospital for a change.
Buddy, who struck out in Little League every time he faced classmate and fellow inductee George Stone, hit a homer with his speech. The highlight around the jokes might have been his comment that while his legs and left hand were still feeling numb due to the stroke, his whole body was feeling numb because of the day’s honor.
He’s writing his Sunday column, “O.K.’s Corral,” again. He scribbles them on a legal pad from the assisted living center, and Boat types them in. Baby steps. It’s good for us to see him in person again, but it’s good to see him on the page, too.
For his career, his calling, Buddy has always been the perfect guy in the perfect place at the perfect time. The perfect name is just icing on the cake.