The 1964 Lipscomb Bisons baseball team is celebrating its 50th anniversary this weekend with a number of special events on campus. The team, the fifth for Coach Ken Dugan, was a mix of talented veterans and an outstanding freshmen class. Tony Hopper patrolled right field at Onion Dell and also batted clean-up for the team. They will meet for lunch, take a tour of campus and then throw out the first pitch for Saturday’s 6 p.m. Atlantic Sun game with Northern Kentucky at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium. Hopper spent some time this week reminiscing with lipscombsports.com.
What years did you play baseball at Lipscomb? Who were your coaches?
"I walked on in the fall of 1961 and I played three years. All my life I had played first base but when I got to Lipscomb they moved me to right field for three years. I also batted fourth for three years.
"Ken Dugan was our coach. I look back at those three years as being very special."
Why did you choose Lipscomb?
"It was a Christian school. I was from Jackson, Tenn. I never had been to Lipscomb to visit. I just signed up.
"I transferred to the University of Tennessee after my third year at Lipscomb. I have always wished that I had stayed and played my senior year.
"But I thought I wanted to be an electrical engineer. I stayed out of baseball for a year because of the eligibility rules and then played a year of baseball for Tennessee. We won the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference that year.
"I played right field. I started in about half of the games. The regular right fielder was a senior and four-year scholarship player. I was pleased to start as many games as I did."
Right field at Onion Dell was a challenge in many ways. What was it like to deal with the short fence and the way it sloped?
"The tennis courts were there and the field in right had a slope of about six feet. But anywhere was a challenge for me.
"As a hitter I tried really hard to hit as many as I could over that (short) right field fence. I had a tendency to hit to right field and right center. But I only hit a few over there."
What is your fondest athletic memory at Lipscomb?
"We played in a summer league one year. Most of us stayed over and played in the Nashville City League in 1963. I made the all-star team. We had an all-star game in Sulphur Dell.
"It was an interesting ball park. The only thing I remember about that game was there was a base hit to right field and I threw a man out at home with a perfect throw. Right field at Sulphur Dell also sloped up. It was very similar to Onion Dell.
"We also played a game in Goodlettsville. I can't remember the team but I think it was one of the Nashville City League teams. You only remember the good things. You don't remember striking out with bases loaded. But I remember that Saturday because I hit three homers in one day."
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Lipscomb? How?
"Coach Dugan was tremendous. He was very innovative. He taught us a whole lot about attitude and about the proper techniques. He was a great coach.
"I think the biggest lesson that Coach Dugan taught me was the importance of having the right attitude…getting your mind right.
"He talked about being mentally tough from the get-go. We had a handbook with guidelines from Coach Dugan about how to play and how to act.
"He made every practice interesting. Every practice was chock full of things to do. There wasn't any wasted time."
What is your fondest non-athletic memory from your time at Lipscomb?
"Meeting and dating my wife. I met her in the cafeteria at lunch at the start of winter quarter in 1962. Her name is Iva Kate (Hall) Hopper. She was from Montgomery, Ala.
"She was eating lunch by herself. I was by myself. I just went over and introduced myself. We dated for three-and-a-half years. We will be married 49 years in June.
"I have a lot of good memories. It was a small college atmosphere back then. Things are different now. Those were good times…good years."
Who was your favorite professor? Why?
"Dr. Everett Hunt. He was a physics teacher. He was cool. He was easy going. He was very pleasant.
"He used to throw chalk at us. He would ask us a question that he thought we should know the answer to, but if we didn't, or if we gave him the wrong answer, he would throw a piece of chalk. He wasn’t trying to hurt us. It was all in good taste.
"I remember Dr. Axel Swang. He is another favorite because he came to every baseball game. I had economics under him one year, He came to a ball game and we had a test the next day. One of the questions was `blank' hit a home run in the ball game yesterday.I think I had happened to hit a home run. I got that question- right."
Where do you live now?
"I live in Hope Hull, a little place southwest of Montgomery."
Who is your employer? What is your occupation? What does your position entail?
"I am sort of semi-retired right now. I went to the University of Tennessee and finished my degree in electrical engineering in 1966.
"Then I went to Auburn and got a Master's degree and a Ph.D. in engineering.
"I worked about eight years for Sperry Rand at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Then I worked a couple of years in Florida before moving to Madison, Alabama, where I worked for another corporation for a couple of years.
"I quit that and went into the beef cattle business in 1975. I still have 80 mama cows and five bulls.
"I went into earth moving and made a living for 35 years moving dirt. I cleaned up land. I built roads and ponds. I built a lot of ball fields. I was in site preparation work. I quit that in 2007. I have been sort of semi-retired since then.”
Tell us about your family.
"Iva Kate and I have two children and five grandchildren.
"My daughter is named Lisa Bagents. She lives south of here in Rutledge and has three children. My son is named Lance Hopper. He lives In Moulton and he and his wife have two children."
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.