Baseball's Billy Griggs: Where Are They Now?
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Baseball's Billy Griggs: Where Are They Now?

Billy "The Kid" Griggs chose baseball over basketball as his sport in college serving as team captain of the Lipscomb Bisons his senior season. After graduation from Lipscomb he remained close to the game as one of the original owners of the Nashville Sounds baseball team as well as the Greensboro Hornets. He spent his business career working with the Lentz Public Health Center in the environmental control area. He spent some time this week talking with about his experiences at Lipscomb.

What years did you play baseball at Lipscomb? Who were your coaches?

"I played from 1962-65. I was a shortstop and pitcher.

"Ken Dugan was the only coach. He didn't have any assistants."

Why did you choose to play baseball at Lipscomb?

"Coach Dugan offered me a scholarship in the summer of 1961. He really liked my pitching better than he did my play at shortstop.

"He told me if I was one of his top three pitchers my freshman year he would give me more money. I thought it would be easy, but then I saw the seniors on the team. But I did break into the top three because one of the seniors hurt his arm. He had to give me more scholarship money the following year.

"I had an offer at Austin Peay to play basketball but I didn't think I was good enough or big enough. When Coach Dugan made me the offer was when I decided to go to Lipscomb. I wasn't really interested in Lipscomb except for the fact my girlfriend was going to Lipscomb and that made it easier for me."

What is your fondest athletic memory at Lipscomb?

"I made All-Conference shortstop my sophomore year. There are some plays I made that stick in my mind.

"I remember a game with Union. I went into the hole at shortstop. They had a guy on second base in the eighth inning which was the winning run. They hit the ball to me. There was no way I was going to throw the guy out at first so I faked that I was going to throw it there.

"The coach on third was bringing the guy around from second. When that runner went home I made the play and stopped what would have been the winning run. That play has always stood out in my mind.

"Belmont was our biggest rival. We had a lot of fun playing Belmont.

"Back in those days we played on some of the worst fields I have ever seen. We went to McKenzie, Tennessee to play Bethel. We got out there and Coach Dugan told Bethel's coach this mound is not right. All of the bases were off. There was a big ditch in left field in fair territory.

"We played at UT-Martin. I was pitching as a freshman. There was no grass in the infield or outfield. It was just red clay. And it was hot. I pitched a pretty good game, but we got beat 3-0. It turned out their ROTC sergeant was behind home plate as the umpire. And Coach Dugan measured the plate and said it was a softball plate, not a baseball plate.

"At Sewanee there wouldn't be a leaf on a tree. The flowers were blooming around Nashville. But on the mountain at Sewanee the temperature was in the 40s. When you looked at the outfield you could only see the top of the center fielder."

Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Lipscomb? How?

"Coach Dugan. I think Coach Dugan was a little ahead of his time in baseball in the 60s. He knew a lot of baseball and he got it over to his players. He had more knowledge about baseball than anybody I had ever played with.

"He was a detail man. That was what I liked about him. He gave me the best compliment I probably ever had in sports. He was speaking at a banquet and he told everyone there I gave 100 percent in every game and in every practice. I did play hard and I practiced hard. He required that and I liked that.

"I never ran so much in my life as I did at Lipscomb. He ran us to death. At the end of practice he would get out in center field. We would start at the right field foul pole and run past him to the left field foul pole. He would throw a ball in the air then and if you could catch it you could go inside. But he always threw the ball where you couldn't catch it."

What is your fondest non-athletic memory from your time at Lipscomb?

"Being a freshman it was hard to fit in, but I became lifelong friends with my teammates. I talked with one in Montgomery, Alabama a few days ago.

"They were raised like I was. It made it fun to be around those guys."

What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Lipscomb?

"Lipscomb guided me in the right direction. I was a Christian before I went to Lipscomb. But being at Lipscomb kept me on the straight and narrow."

Who was your favorite professor? Why?

"Dr. Robert Hooper. I liked his style of teaching.

"I also liked Dr. Lewis Maiden. He was a lot of fun.

"They were both history teachers. I majored in health and physical education and minored in history."

Where do you live now?

"I live in Nashville in the Goodlettsville area."

Who was your employer? What was your occupation? What did your position entail?

"I worked for the Lentz Public Health Center. Our neighbor knew Dr. Lentz. I went to see him and he hired me.

"I worked there for 40 years. I worked in environmental protection. I was one of the first ones here to go into that area through the Environmental Protection Agency. I dealt with pollution control. We dealt with all kinds of industries."

Talk about your involvement with the Nashville Sounds?

"I was one of the owners when the team started out in 1978. Farrell Owens got me involved with that. I was also a part owner of the Greensboro Hornets in North Carolina.

"It was fun to be an owner. We had so many players who went to the majors. Willie McGee was one of the best people I have ever known. He was just a great guy.

"I never will forget opening night. There was a Caterpillar still on the field. The field wasn't ready. I think we were playing Jacksonville and they refused to play on the field. The umpires made them do it."

Tell us about your family.

"I married my girlfriend from high school - Carol Draper. We both graduated from Cumberland High School. We both graduated from Lipscomb. She taught school for 35 years.

"My son, Curt, graduated from Tennessee Tech with a degree in mechanical engineering and went to Belmont and got his M.B.A.

"My daughter, Julie, started at Lipscomb and graduated from Western Kentucky. She is a teacher in Hendersonville, Tennessee."

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