ASHLAND — Dave Stultz put it right down the middle with his statement to the Elks about Don Gullett being honored on Sports Day.
“I think you hit the biggest grand slam you’ve ever hit by choosing Don Gullett as the 2014 honoree,” he said. “It’s an honor well deserved and past due.”
Stultz, a contemporary of Gullett, was the speaker for the ceremony. He was two years older and a left-hander, like the honoree, who pitched for rival Greenup High School.
The respect he had for Gullett bubbled over during his speech.
“From beginning about 10 years old he was better than anybody he played with,” Stultz said. “God does not make many athletes like Don Gullett.”
Gullett, who began being followed by major league scouts at the age of 14, was a three-sport star at McKell High School before bursting into the major leagues as a 19-year-old rookie with the Cincinnati Reds.
Gullett could have chosen any direction – football (where he had 35 scholarship offers, including Alabama and Notre Dame), basketball (17 college offers) or baseball.
Needless to say, Gullett is regarded as the best athlete in northeastern Kentucky history.
“I’ve known Don for most of my 65 years,” Stultz said. “I was fortunate enough to play on All-Star teams with him. Obviously, from day one, he was special.”
Gullett was indeed special enough to win 109 games in the major leagues with the Reds and Yankees and he was a part of four consecutive World Series champions from 1975-78.
His teams played in the World Series in six of his nine seasons. A career that was cut short by a shoulder injury at 27 was still full of amazing highlights and even some oddities.
For instance, the first home run he gave up was to Willie Mays. The first strikeout he record was against Mays. And the last home run that Mays hit in his career came off Gullett.