A Personal Tribute to Jim Phillips

by - Correspondent -

Today's article initially was going to be another "woe is Clemson" tale, focusing on the team's struggles with Furman a week ago and looking ahead to what could be a much more difficult time with Middle Tennessee State this Saturday than most fans anticipate.

Then the unthinkable happened.

Early Tuesday morning Jim Phillips, who back on Aug. 30 called his 400th Clemson football game at the beginning of his 36th season behind the microphone, died of an aneurysm. He was 69 years old.

So many thoughts, so many possible things to say about such a living legend - indeed, the dean of ACC SportsCasters - and yet hardly any of them really seemed to capture the true spirit of Jim Phillips. Such often is the case when the great ones go passing into the next life.

And yet, at the same time, it really isn't difficult at all. Because those of us lucky enough to get to know Jim personally, away from the broadcast booth, were able to gain a sense of who he was and what he wanted out of life.

He was, in effect, everyman. Only he held the world's coolest job, at least in my estimation. Doing play-by-play on a major level was always my ultimate goal in life. It hasn't happened yet. Probably won't. But I can live with that, if for no other reason than I've been fortunate to become friendly with two of the very best - Jim, and Hall of Fame baseball announcer Marty Brennaman.

I knew Jim for just over four years. We first began having more than just the courtesy passing conversations about three years ago because we shared one common trait:

Both of us hated gameday traffic around Death Valley.

So, it wasn't unusual to find the two of us sitting at a table in the Bob Bradley Press Box hours before kickoff, Jim's Greenville News scattered around him, talking about everything and nothing for an hour at a time.

He told his war stories, I told him he was full of crap. He poked fun at my weight, I pretended to polish his bald head. He always responded with that gap-toothed grin that let you know he was okay, and so were you in his book.

Jim loved his Tigers. He loved his golf. He dearly adored his granddaughter.

And he had a subtle way of doing things at just the right time, lifting a person's morale when it was needed most.

I close with this story as an example:

In March of this year I was hospitalized with a serious infection that started in my leg and, by the time I finally saw the doctor, had taken a pretty good grip on the rest of me, as well. I missed two weeks of work and, in the process, missed an opportunity to visit Cincinnati on March 31 for the first game ever in brand new Great American Ballpark.

A couple of weeks after I was released and had returned to work, I hobbled over to Doug Kingsmore Stadium for a Clemson baseball game. Jim saw me sitting on press row - we were both early, again - and told me to stop by the radio booth before the game. He wanted to show me something.

When I got there, carefully wrapped in brown paper were a pair of photographs, both lovely shots of old Crosley Field, the Reds' home until 1970.

I thanked Jim and asked why he went through the trouble, and he simply said:

"You couldn't beat old Crosley Field. The old memories are the ones that last the longest."

Thanks, Jim. For all the old memories.

Saturday's in the South will never be the same.

Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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