Clemson Says Goodbye to Mr. B -- Dan Scott Column


by - Correspondent -
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Bob Bradley worked for 35 years as Clemson’s sports information director.

CLEMSON, SC -- They came from all over.

Danny Ford was there. Bill Wilhelm was one of the pall bearers.

Sports writers, radio talk show hosts, co-workers, family and friends all showed up to pay their respects. All struggling with emotions, trying to balance tears of grief with the inevitable laughter that comes when a story is told, or a fond memory recalled.

Regardless of backgrounds, ages aside, all those in attendance Wednesday afternoon at Clemson United Methodist Church had one thing in common.

Everyone, it seemed, wanted a chance to say one last goodbye to Clemson's Mr. B - Bob Bradley.

Bradley, 75, who died Monday afternoon following a three-year battle with bone cancer, was laid to rest Wednesday in Cemetery Hill, just a stone's throw from Death Valley. The very idea that somehow, someway, Bradley will forever oversee the stadium where he spent so many of his Saturday afternoons over the past 45 years - the stadium which holds the press box that bears his name - is poetic justice for those who bleed orange.


SYMPATHY CARD


And make no mistake, Bob Bradley bled probably the deepest, purest orange of anyone in this or any other lifetime.

By now the facts are well known.

Bradley, hired by legendary football coach Frank Howard to be Clemson's sports information director in 1955, supposedly retired in 1989. But his streak of consecutive football games worked reached 502 Oct. 14 when Clemson hosted Maryland, and ended when he missed the North Carolina game Oct. 21, nearly 45 years to the day after the streak began.

He worked 313 consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament games, and kept hand-written records on Clemson baseball through and including the 2000 season. He won every award possible for someone in his field, some more than once. He made a lifetime of doing what a good SID does - making others look good.

And Wednesday, the thing he probably hated most happened because he wasn't around to protest. People spent the afternoon making a fuss over him.

Story after story was told, first by the officiating minister and later by anyone and everyone, whether walking the path to Cemetery Hill or mingling afterwards at the reception in his press box.

They spoke of Bradley's fondness for yardwork, always done in the same overalls issued to him over 50 years ago when he was in the military. They spoke of his love for fishing, and how one year at the ACC media retreat he won the prize for biggest fish. The joke, as it turned out, was Bradley was the only one to go fishing.

They spoke of his love for his grandchildren, and his propensity for eating catfish. They spoke of his friendship with Howard, and his ability to quote the coach without even talking to him.

And when they spoke, they all did so with a knowing smile or the slightest of laughs. Either way, each was followed with a sigh and a sad shake of the head.

Bob Bradley, forever more known as Legend II - behind only Howard in the annals of Clemson University history - is gone.

His work in promotion of Clemson University and its athletes will be his legacy. His status as an icon has been secured.

But it is the commonality of Bob Bradley which will be missed most - his ability to make even the most green reporter feel important, or strike up a conversation with a total stranger and immediately make a life-long friend.

Or, as his granddaughter shared through tears at Wednesday's service, his Santa hat and tomato sandwiches.

That is the Bob Bradley which will be missed most.

And if you still don't understand what he meant to Clemson University and the surrounding community, here's one last story.

Wednesday, at the completion of the interment at Cemetery Hill, Bradley's wife of 47 years, Louise, was presented the American Flag, a tradition upheld for every Veteran who passes away.

As the family began its departure, the three band members present struck up a familiar tune. But instead of Taps, commonplace at the funeral of a Veteran, the trio played a scaled-down version of the song which stirs the heart of Clemson fans everywhere. A song Bob Bradley likely heard more than any other person in the history of Clemson University.

They played "Tiger Rag."

How beautifully, wonderfully appropriate.

Near the press box or not, even Bob Bradley would have allowed himself a quiet cheer.

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