Monday, June 30, 2008

A Lottery You Didn't Want to Win

When we were in school between 1969-1973, if someone mentioned the word "draft" they usually weren't referring to a sudden gush of wind coming into your dorm room.

They were talking about receiving a "Greetings from Uncle Sam" letter and the opportunity you couldn't refuse (unless you went to Canada) to go into the U.S. Armed Forces and see the world (especially a little place called South Vietnam).

For the first year or so we were at Vanderbilt, the draft offered exemptions for those in college full-time. It was called a 2-s deferment. Most of us kept the card granting the deferment in our wallet with our regular draft card.

But the draft began to change December 1, 1969 (see the photo above) when the Selective Service System held a lottery by birth date to determine the order of the draft (induction) into the Armed Services for all eligible men (18 years of age or older) born in 1950 or before. That, of course, included almost every undergraduate or graduate student male on the Vanderbilt campus at that time.

It did, however, exclude from the first lottery most, if not all members of our VU Class of 1973, (our lottery, for men born in 1951, was held July 1,1970). That's 38 years ago now.
Neverthless, I'll bet there is not a male member of our class reading this blog who doesn't remember that day of the first lottery in 1969 and his ultimate lottery number (mine was 151). I also suspect lots of the women remember their boyfriend's lottery number from that time as well (you are all welcome to post your thoughts and memories below!)

None of us were on campus when our 1970 draft lottery was held, but what I remember so clearly about the 1969 lottery was all the folks who descended upon or called WRVU that December day to find out what had happened and, most importantly, what their draft lottery number was!

The station became the place to go or call because it had a United Press International wire machine, and in those days, long before the Internet or the 24-hour, wall to wall news coverage of today on CNN or FOX, it was apparent the radio station was about the only place to quickly learn your fate.

At one point, we had people lined up all the way down two flights of steps coming up to the radio station in the south tower of Neely Auditorim. To be able to continue to operate the station, we finally posted the information down at the foot of stairs leading up to the studio, which helped clear out some of the crowd.

However, it didn't stop the phone from ringing, as our two lines (7424 and 7425) stayed jammed with people demanding to know what date their birthday fell in the lottery pool. Things got so frantic that when I answered the phone, the conversations went something like this:

"Hello, WRVU..."

"February 6"


"Hot damn!" (click)

"Hello, WRVU....

"November 22..."


"Oh my God..."

Class of 1973 member and WRVU Station Manager Steve Womack also relates the story of one student who came by the radio station that day and asked about his birthdate, September 14. It was #1. The student fainted.

I am not sure any future drafts ever went above 125 in calling up inductees and the draft was then suspended in July, 1973, right after we graduated from Vanderbilt and the War in Vietnam ended. But that doesn't mean, we didn't have one more queasy moment about the draft while we were students.

It occured a few months after our 1970 draft lottery. As I remember it (and I could be wrong) if you already had a 2-s deferment you could stay out of the draft as long as you stayed in school and passed your classes.

But in the fall of 1970, some kind of administrative paperwork glitch occurred that resulted in all the men on the Peabody campus (as few as there were in those days) receiving notices from their draft boards that they were about to reclassified 1-A (and then drafted).

Yikes! You can imagine the tumult and angst that resulted when those notices were received and how quickly all the draft-eligible men on campus (including me) descended upon Peabody officials to get that changed. Fortunately, it was. I am also told by Steve Womack of our VU Class of '73 that a similar incident occurred at Vanderbilt that same fall semester.

Monday, June 23, 2008


I noted with some interest the other day a story on THE TENNESSEAN's website (6/5/08) listing recent building permits that had been issued by the City of Nashville's Codes Department.

One permit issued for Vanderbilt particularly caught my eye: $1.3 million for the Orion Building Corporation to renovate the Rand Hall dining area.

Rand Hall: It was in effect our student center while we were at Vanderbilt from 1969-1973 . The Sarratt Student Center was under construction during our last year or so on campus but did not open until the fall semester AFTER we graduated. Lucky us :(

The picture above shows about all the use we got out of the Sarratt Center. Even its construction had its controversy.

Remember the big chain-link fence that was erected all the way around Alumni Lawn?

It led to a campus wide protest by students who could no longer play on the Lawn or had to alter their campus walking patterns to and from class or elsewhere (like over to the Divinity School where the food was always better than Rand).

There were also plenty of protest signs placed on the fence and elsewhere around the campus that sought to tell University officials what they could do with their fence. Let's just say it was something that was likely physically impossible or, if it could be done, might be very painful. In a form of secret Vanderbilt pig latin it was: phuck the phence.

I am pretty sure this latest renovation of Rand is hardly its first since we left Vanderbilt 35 years ago. We'll have to drop by and see how he looks during our Reunion weekend October 24-25.

What are your memories of Rand Hall? What about the C-Room, the bookstore or the post office that were also housed there? Please leave your thoughts and memories below.

By the way, I know the Sarratt Center has had its renovations too. That's when you know it's been a while since you graduated. When buildings that were not even open when we were on campus are being redone!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Going Back In Time

When our Class of '73 Reunion Leadership came together for the first time earlier this year (no, that is not our picture above), it was amazing how our conversations kept coming back to the events of Saturday, October 21, 1972.

Anyone remember that day in the fall of our senior year?

That's when the Grateful Dead came to campus and performed a free concert on Alumni Lawn. Remember the Mickey Mouse ears some one put on Kirkland Hall clock that day?

With apologizes to R. Kelly and Tyrone Davis (both whom had hit songs using the words I am about to paraphrase), do you ever wish you could turn back the hands of time and re-live a little bit of that performance?

Well, you can!

Go to this link and you will find streaming audio of several of the songs in the second set from that Grateful Dead performance beginning with "He's Gone."

This appears to be a recording of the actual performance at Vanderbilt. Pretty cool, huh? The site will also give a complete run down of that show, listing every song that was played in the order they were performed. Unfortunately, only a portion of the second set is posted on the site to be played.

Please take a listen, then share your memories below about that special day while we were at Vanderbilt.

As for myself, I have a couple of memories to share from that day. I spent most of it taking the LSAT exam at the Law School (you can be sure that was a lot of fun. :)

Then when I came by WRVU (located right off Alumni Lawn in Neely Auditorium in those days), I spent the rest of the afternoon helping sell concessions out of one of the front windows of the building.

For our hungry disc jockeys and news people, some of us (we called ourselves the News Council) started a operation upstairs outside the studios we called "The News Council's General Store."

We kept it stocked with candy bars, pop tarts and other kinds of junk food (hey, we could eat that stuff in those days) so no one would ever go hungry during their air shift. We used the honor system for people to pay for what they ate, and that worked pretty well most of the time.

Not surprisingly on the day the Grateful Dead came to campus, some of the folks who ran the operation, saw a chance to make a little extra $$$, so we started literally selling stuff out one of the front windows of Neely Auditorium.

I think we did so well we had to run out to the Giant Foods store next to 100 Oaks Mall (our main source of food stuffs) to replenish our supplies a couple of times during the afternoon.

So what our your memories?

Please leave them below.

And be sure to relive the memories of that special day on the Vanderbilt campus, October 21, 1972, by clicking the link above and enjoying the Grateful Dead just like we heard them almost 36 years ago!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Jeff Peeples Still the Greatest 35 Years Later

Vanderbilt has just completed another very successful baseball season under Coach Tim Corbin. While we didn't manage to defend our 2007 SEC title, the team did advance to both the SEC and NCAA tournaments and stayed in the national rankings most of the year.

Certainly the pro baseball scouts like Vanderbilt's talent. In the recently concluded major league draft, eight of Vanderbilt's current players were selected along with ten of our incoming recruits.

Vandy may have also set some kind of record with one of its athletes being the top collegiate baseball player taken in the draft two straight years. This year it was third baseman Pedro Alvarez (selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates), while last year pitcher David Price was the first pick overall.

You could put up a pretty good argument that Price is Vanderbilt's greatest pitcher, and if he puts up the great statistics he's capable of in the pros for the Tampa Bay Rays, it will be hard to argue otherwise, although some will say other former Vandy hurlers now in the major leagues like Jeremy Sowers and Jensen Lewis deserve some consideration, as does Scott Sanderson from years gone by.

But in terms of what they accomplished while at Vanderbilt, there's not much question in my mind that the late Jeff Peeples (pictured above), a member of our Vanderbilt Class of 1973, is the greatest Commodore hurler ever.

It been 35 years since he last took the mound for the Black & Gold, yet he still holds the school record in many pitching categories including most wins in a season with 12 in 1973 (when we won our first SEC title), most career wins 29 and lowest earned run average for a career (1970-73) at 1.68.

In addition, Jeff was one of only two pitchers in SEC history to lead the conference in ERA two years in a row (1971 & '72). He was an All-American his senior season and a three-time All-SEC selection.

And believe it or not, he may have been even better than we fully appreciated at the time.

Here's a story I found on the sports website. It's an interview conducted by Bill Traghber with then-Vandy baseball Larry "Smokey" Schmittou.

Schmittou recounts a game our senior season on the road with then-national baseball power Southern Cal.

" Rod Dedeaux (the USC coach) was such an icon in college baseball...He had won five consecutive national championships when we went to Riverside (CA). Before the game they would get on the dugout and bug you unmercifully. I had a third baseman named Bill Hardin. He asked me, "Coach, what's a grummet?" I said I think it's a desert bug. I asked him why and he said that's what the USC players were calling him. My assistant, Roy Carter, asked me what I was going to say to the team before the USC game. I walked down there and you could tell everyone was nervous. I said, "Fellows, we'll win. Peeples is pitching. Let's go." Peeples struck out Fred Lynn four times. (Note: Lynn was later AL MVP for the Boston Red Sox and had a long near-Hall of Fame career in the Majors).

Schmittou concluded: "We beat them (USC) 5-4 and were ahead the whole game."

Vanderbilt certainly remembers and appreciate Jeff's contributions. Since 2001, the annual team MVP Award bears his name.

I knew what a great athlete Jeff Peeples was long before we got to Vanderbilt. He played high school sports for my school's (Father Ryan) arch-rival in Nashville, Montgomery BellAcademy. Peeples helped MBA beat us very regularly.

In high school he was actually better known and honored numerous times as an All-State football player. He actually signed a football scholarship to play at Vanderbilt. Of course, the football recruiter for VU in those days was also Larry Schmittou and he, being no fool, often signed athletes he thought could be successful in multiple sports (especially baseball :)

A few years before we went to Vanderbilt, I once saw Jeff Peeples do something I stilll don't believe I actually witnessed. A local radio station had a contest to see if anyone could throw a 45 RPM record (remember those?) across the Cumberland River. I think the competition was trying to emulate what George Washington once did in throwing a stone or some kind of item across the Potomac River. Well, Jeff stepped up and he did it! What an athlete!

Unfortunately, Jeff did not enjoy the same success in pro baseball as he did at Vanderbilt. A career-ending car wreck, resulting in major damage to his shoulder, ended his career after pitching only briefly in the St. Louis Cardinals' minor league system. But the sportswriters and others in Tennessee never forgot his career at Vanderbilt and he was named a member of The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

As we prepare to remember so many great things about Vanderbilt as a part of our 35th Class Reunion, please feel free to share your thoughts and memories of Jeff and of Vanderbilt baseball below.

Monday, June 2, 2008

To Get You Ready For Reunion Weekend

I know after hearing about the fabulous opportunity we have at 4:00 PM Friday afternoon of Reunion weekend (October 24) to hear Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor David Williams and his presentation on the history of Motown, you might be thinking you need a little help to get ready for the big day.

You know, remembering Motown....remembering the '60s. After all, those of us who lived through the '60s (and early '70s) aren't supposed to remember it, right? Maybe too many funny cigarettes for some (like in the photo above), or fading memories for others.

Regardless, to help you bone up for our big "education session" on Reunion Friday afternoon, check out this website. It's really cool.

After you had a chance to refresh your memory, come back and leave your thoughts about the impact of Motown and other forms of music on your life while at Vanderbilt and after we graduated.