Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

June 12, 2014

Gullett’s rival Stultz to speak at Sports Day

ASHLAND — Dave Stultz was two years older than Don Gullett during an era when northeastern Kentucky had some of the best baseball players in the state.

While much of the attention was on Gullett, even as he was coming up through the ranks, a pitcher who could rival him almost pitch for pitch in his own county was Stultz.

Stultz was a strapping left-handed pitcher for Greenup High School, a team that had a lot of talent to go with him, including his younger brother Tom, a catcher.

The Gullett brothers — Don and Bill — were formidable siblings too for McKell High School.

Dave Stultz graduated in 1967, two years ahead of Gullett, but the two were “good acquaintances and friends.”

“Most of the time he was on the opposite team,” Stultz said. “He was special, one of those guys that just stands out. He was a man among boys even when he was young. He had what it took. The rest of us were pretty decent ballplayers.”

Stultz, who went on to pitch at Morehead State, chose a career path of pharmacy medicine and owned and operated Stultz Pharmacy in Greenup County for 35 years. He handed the reins of the pharmacy franchise to his son, Brad, who still operates the two pharmacies in Flatwoods and South Shore.

Stultz will be the speaker on June 21 when Gullett is celebrated on Elks Sports Day.

Stultz is sure to have some good stories on Gullett, who went on to fame as a pitcher for the Reds and Yankees before a shoulder injury curtailed his career at the tender age of 27. Gullett still won 109 games and baseball observers say he was headed for Cooperstown had he not been hurt.

“From the top, when he whipped that ball, it had to be traumatic to the shoulder,” Stultz said. “It wasn’t always smooth but there was a reason it went 97 miles an hour. It moved, it would rise, it would tail ... we played against him a lot.”

Even when Stultz was a senior and Gullett a sophomore, he said his teammates “would rather see someone else other than Don Gullett” on the mound.

“I played a lot of Little League and Senior League with him,” Stultz said. “We knew what he could do. Both of those teams were filled with guys who could play baseball.”

Stultz took Greenup to the region championship game his senior year but ran out of gas against an Ashland team that was in the midst of a state dynasty. The Tomcats won their second of three state championships in ‘67. McKell didn’t make it to the regional tournament; back then only one team from each district advanced to the region.

Ashland had some great pitchers during that era too with Cleveland Indian draft choice Billy Lynch, his brother Bobby Lynch and Tim Huff.

Stultz remembered that during his senior year South Portsmouth had merged with McKell. That brought Billy Kouns and Bobby Austin to go along with the Gulletts at McKell. However, Greenup was able to get Reese Stephenson, and Stultz said “Reese is the reason we were competitive. He had offense, plus defense.”

Raceland had a strong team too and McKell pitched Gullett to knock them off. But that meant he didn’t face Greenup in the district finals.

“We ended up beating them like 7-2 but if Gullett had been pitching, it would have been a different ball game,” Stultz said.

Stultz remembered how fruitless it was to face Gullett when he was on his game.

“If he had his control, he was unhittable,” he said. “He was throwing harder than anybody else.”

Stultz said he faced Gullett in a Senior League game when he was 15. “I had a cousin come in and I wanted to impress her. The first three times he strikes me out. The next time I did get a hit but I don’t know how impressed she was.”

Stultz said Don’s brother, Bill, was “one of the best hitters I ever saw” and that Don carried a good bat, too.

“I’ve always said Don Gullett could have been a great (major league) outfielder if they let him do it. He could have hit .300 and hit for power. It was amazing what he could do. It was just natural. The guy could not pick up a baseball for a week and pitch like he’s been throwing every day. He was gifted. God gave him some talent, a body and he was smart enough to use it.”

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

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