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Saturday, September 14, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Telephones are a little bit quieter around Nashville today. Despite the bright sunshine the world is a little bit gloomier.
Around 3 a.m. Friday Chuck Ross, Lipscomb’s super fan, passed away quietly at Lakeshore Heartland. He was 68.
Chuck was a fixture at Lipscomb sporting events for over six decades. During the summers he could be found at Greer Stadium wearing a Nashville Sounds jacket buttoned to the top of his neck and his Sounds hat on his head.
He also attended Maplewood High School and Goodpasture High School games when he wasn’t at a Lipscomb event. His mother, Corinne, was at his side until her death.
Chuck was known for his daily calls to anyone who would answer and for his infectious smile. He dealt with extraordinary circumstances in his life, but to all who met him he was an even more extraordinary person.
Former Lipscomb coach Don Meyer once had a business card embossed with the question, “Have you called Chuck today?” To be more accurate it should have read, “Has Chuck called you today?” because he wasn’t going to wait around for the phone to ring.
Few sports media members or sports personalities failed to receive numerous phone calls from Chuck. Often he would call and ask questions that he knew the answers to already.
As a member of the media, if Chuck called with a scoop, it was advisable to follow-up on it because he always knew what was going on around the Nashville sports world.
“In my early years at Channel 5 and before the internet, Chuck Ross was my internet,” said Mark Howard, a co-host on 104.5 The Zone’s morning sports talk show. “I could count on him for a Lipscomb score or scoop, with all of the necessary details seconds after a baseball or basketball game. He was never wrong.”
Like everyone who knew Chuck, Howard was amazed at how loyal he was to his favorite teams.
“I admired his unconditional love for Bisons Athletics. For so many years, aside from Don Meyer, Chuck Ross was the identity and the ambassador of Lipscomb Bisons basketball,” Howard said. “That distinctive voice could be heard in every corner of McQuiddy Gym.
“I remember thinking at first how nice and charitable it was for Coach Meyer to show Chuck how important he was to the program. Shows you what I know. Chuck was important to the program. They were lucky to have him on their side.”
The list of telephone numbers Chuck had at his fingertips was incredible. Athletes, media and sports executives were all in his files.
“Chuck knew everyone's phone numbers,” said April Ezell, a former Lipscomb women’s basketball player. “One bus ride we got him a triple XL shirt and everyone wrote their phone number or extension on his shirt. On the front of it was written "Chuck knows phones."
Buster Olney, Senior Writer/Baseball Analyst, ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com, first came in contact with Chuck when he covered Lipscomb games and Sounds games for the now-defunct “Nashville Banner”. He recognized Chuck as a fan in the purist sense of the word.
“I wish we could all watch sports the way that Chuck did -- with unbridled passion and complete devotion, without worrying about contract disputes and clubhouse and locker room politics,” Olney said. “This is part of the reason why he was the best fan, because his view was unfettered by all the sideshows, all the stuff that really shouldn't matter.
“I had the same relationship that many athletes and reporters had with Chuck -- when I walked into a building and Chuck saw me, he would call out, 'Hey, Buddy.' Or, "I see you, Buster Olney." I heard him shout that from everybody from Skeeter Barnes to George Plaster to Philip Hutcheson to Coach Meyer, and I loved to hear his voice during the Sounds' games, no matter how bleak it looked for the home team.”
Olney, almost two decades later after his coverage of the Sounds had the opportunity to renew his relationship with Chuck.
“About 20 years after I covered the Sounds, I went back to Nashville with my family and wanted to take my 5-year-old son to the game on July 4, and on a whim, I called the team and hoped to buy a couple of tickets last minute,” Olney said. "Well, we've got two tickets left in the area behind home plate," the person on the other end of the line said, and I could hear some hesitancy in her voice. But I jumped at the opportunity to buy them, without even asking where they were -- or even exploring why she sounded hesitant.
“I walked in with my son, and the first thing I heard was, ‘Hey Buddy! I see you, Buster Olney!’
“For nine innings, my son and I sat directly in front of Chuck Ross, the best fan ever.”
The sports landscape in Nashville expanded greatly during Chuck’s lifetime. The Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators came on the scene, but Chuck stayed loyal to his roots supporting Lipscomb, the Sounds, Belmont and Vanderbilt.
“With the passing of Chuck Ross Lipscomb has sustained a big loss with the example he set for having a passion for life,” Meyer said. “He was my friend. I can tell a million funny stories.
“It’s not funny losing a guy like Chuck. He loved everybody and knew everybody. He’s probably the most well-known guy in Nashville.”
Meyer, who choked up during his interview, knows that the players who knew Chuck through the years will be mourning his loss.
“The players were really great to him,” Meyer said. “They really brought him in to be a part of the group. His pregame speeches were great. I really appreciate how they brought him in and devoted a large part of their lives to Chuck.”
When coach Meyer left in 1999, Chuck started doing pregame speeches for the Lady Bisons for about the next 10 or so years. Assistant Coach Billy Snell was the speech writer.
“The speeches were very interactive with the players and coaches yelling out things to Chuck during the speech,” said Frank Bennett, associate athletic director of internal affairs and former Lady Bisons basketball coach. “As with his speeches for the Bisons the speeches always ended with "Ad lib Chuck Ross".
Chuck’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Hillsboro Church of Christ. Visitation will be Monday night from 4-8 p.m. at Phillips-Robinson Funeral Home.
“He was peaceful and appeared not to be in any pain,” Richard Taylor former Bisons basketball player said. “For that we are thankful.
“He will be incredibly missed by the many who love him. His impact was great. As we remember Chuck, let’s smile and celebrate his homecoming. I can only imagine the joy and peace and relief he feels as he stands, runs and jumps in the presence of our Lord! There is so much to look forward too when we all make it to heaven. Now the thought of Chuck Ross welcoming us all is yet one more thing to rejoice!"
A memorial service is planned for Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. in Allen Arena. The public is invited to attend.
Everyone has great stories of Chuck. Please share yours with us to be published on LipscombSports.com here.