-This is the fourth in a series of stories on Elks Sports Day honoree Don Gullett.
-When: June 20-21, 7 each night
-How: Tickets can be reserved by calling Sports Day chairman George Stout at 232-1187. They are also available at the Elks Lodge, The Frame Up Gallery and Ashland Sporting Goods.
Don Gullett is best remembered for his baseball playing and coaching.
His football exploits are well-documented too, especially the game when he scored 72 points — every one of them — in McKell’s 72-7 rout over Wurtland.
But did you know he once scored 47 points in a basketball game?
Fred Simpson, a former Elks Sports Day honoree himself, remembered games where he was the referee when Gullett played for McKell.
One game, in particular, was a battle against Russell where both teams scored in triple digits.
“(Former Russell coach) Marv Meredith liked to get me as an official,” Simpson said. “I guess he thought I was going to give him a break or something. I had the Russell game with McKell his (Gullett’s) senior year.”
Simpson said like everyone else he had followed Gullett’s exploits since he burst onto the area scene as a hard-throwing pitcher at Wurtland.
Of course, he later transferred to McKell where his amazing high school career unfolded.
“I was so impressed with him,” Simpson said. “My Lord, you should have seen this guy play basketball.”
Russell had an outstanding team in 1969 but McKell was matching them basket for basket.
Simpson said Gullett would go above the bucket and finger-roll it in.
“I probably refereed five or six games and watched him closely,” Simpson said. “He wasn’t that tall; it was pushing it to say he was 6-foot. He really would take it to the rim. He was so fast.”
Also, Simpson said Gullett had a running left-handed shot that was nearly impossible to defend.
“I’m telling you, the guy could play basketball. He was a natural athlete who could do anything.”
Simpson had moved to northern Kentucky by the time Gullett came up with the Reds in 1970.
“I saw him the first game he ever played with the Reds at Crosley Field,” Simpson said. “He came in to pitch in a relief effort.”
But it was at the plate where Simpson and the field who had come to the game that day were most impressed by Gullett.
“The Reds were struggling on offense,” Simpson said. “He comes up and hits a triple off the (Longines) clock. He slid into third and got a standing ovation. I said, ‘Look at this guy! He can handle the bat.’ I also watched him single and stretch it into a double. He had the wheels.”
Gullett was often used as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner during his days with the Reds. He was a lifetime .194 hitter.
His only home run came during the 1975 National League Championship Series against the Pirates.
“I swung the bat well in high school but there’s a big difference in high school and the major league level,” Gullett said. “I’d try to make contact and try to get the runners over.”
Gullett had 36 sacrifice bunts in his nine seasons in the big leagues, including 10 in 1974. That includes two seasons with the Yankees when he didn’t hit because of the designated hitter rule.
What Simpson remembered, though, was the all-around athlete that Gullett was at McKell and how that translated well when he became part of the Reds.
“One of the greatest athletes I’ve ever seen,” he said.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.