Bob Atkinson Bob was born to Ed Atkinson and Ruby McNatt Atkinson
January 8, 1938. Bob always loved the fact he shared his birth date
with Elvis Presley. Bob attended Garfield Grade School, Longfellow
Junior High, and graduated from Enid High School. Sports have been
a central part of Bob's life. In 1946, he started his sports career
playing little league baseball, football, and basketball, with
baseball being his passion. By the age of 12, Bob began his 52 years
of working with the young people at the ABC Park through coaching
and umpiring. In 1959, Bob met his future wife, Carol Kay Richert, at
ABC Park. Bob's sons, Lance and Garry, as well as his grandchildren,
Lucas, Emily, and Raymond, also played at ABC Park. The ABC baseball
fieldswere renamed the Bob Atkinson Field in honor of Bob. Bob was
a left-handed pitcher and first baseman. He worked out with the
Washington Senators and the Boston Red Sox. The Kansas City Athletics
offered him a baseball contract. Bob pitched batting practice at Enid
Professional Baseball Park, home of the Enid Buffaloes and the Enid
Giants. Baseball legends Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killabrew were among
the players to whom Bob pitched. In the 1970's, Bob scouted for the
Cincinnati Reds profession baseball team. Bob has had a lifetime
association with the YMCA, where he was a childhood member,
volunteer, and later served as sports director. Bob finished his career
at the Enid YMCA where he helped many children and their parents in
difficult times. Of all the coaching, umpiring, the countless hours spent
volunteering for youth and adults in Enid, probably his greatest gift was
his ability to make people better. One of the ways he accomplished this
was by simply giving someone a chance -- a chance to be on a team and,
more importantly, a chance to play. His direction for you would be to
have fun, enjoy your life, work hard, volunteer your time, and when
you have the opportunity -- and you will -- improve yourself and
someone else by giving them a chance. Bob received numerous
awards in his lifetime. He was especially proud of the
Booker T. Washington Award for Appreciation, the Pride of the Plainsmen
Award for Community Involvement, and his induction into the Enid Public
Schools Foundation Hall of Fame. Bob wanted us to remember, "I've had a
great life with my family and the people of Enid and surrounding towns. I
love people, and I've always tried to give them my best."
Dallas, Texas 75225
Stories about the life of Bobby Atkinson.
I remember when everybody first got TV. I would stay at Bobby's house,
which was just north of Garfield. We would play one-on-one basketball
till 12:00, and then we would go in and watch a midnight Frankenstein
movie on Saturday night. Our treat was a quart of Pepsi each, and we
would stuff the bottle with peanuts after we drank some. Can you imagine
if we had seen one of our kids or grandkids now doing that? Oh, how
things have changed. When Bobby got his Cushman Eagle, we went everywhere
on it. The only time I got to drive it was wintertime, as Bobby did not
have a wind-screen as it wouldn't look cool. So guess who served as the
wind-screen. We would drive around singing, and Bobby could carry a tune.
I couldn't sing a lick, but you wouldn't know it as the way we would
belt out "The Great Pretender," and Bobby would sing the high part solo.
I will tell you the most dangerous thing we did was when his parents
got that new 1955 Pontiac. That was the year GM introduced the V-8
into their auto line. It was fast, and you could floorboard it and
it would drop down into passing gear and really accelerate. We would
approach a red light but could see the amber light from the other
direction. Bobby would time it so that he would hit the passing gear
while our light was still amber and hit the intersection just as ours
turned red. How stupid and dangerous, but we had a blast.
One night we were southbound on the street that runs in front of St. Mary's
at the intersection where the old steam engine was. An eastbound Bobtail
fruit truck ran the red light, and we broadsided it in the back wheel
location. I remember the truck going up on two wheels, and I thought it
was going to run in that creek, which was just east of the intersection.
Of course, we totaled the car, but the other guy had run the light.
I remember I had a ball bat and was bouncing the bat on the floorboard.
No seat belts. No air bags. I was not hurt, and the only injury was
Bobby's right knee broke off the key, which was at knee level, and he
received a small cut. We were scared we were going to get in trouble
with his parents, but laughed about how it scared the hell out of that
driver when he went up on two wheels. We were lucky we survived our teenage
years, but what wonderful memories. The last one I would like to share
with you occurred on Halloween night. For some reason, I wasn't out
with Bobby that night. There must have been a hundred of us guys and
girls gathered at the Champlin mansion in the south intersection in front
of mansion. It had been snowing, and we all were having fun: no fights,
no drinking, just fun. I saw Bobby on the far side of the crowd, and I was
on the other side. We were all under a big streetlight that lit
up the whole intersection. I made up a big snow ball, packed it tight,
and then threw it high in the air at Bobby, only hoping it would come close.
Kay, I hit him solid on his chest. As you know, we all had a lot of
testosterone flowing. Bobby yelled out, "Who in the hell did that I'm
going to whip your ass." He started wading through the crowd
trying to find out who hit him. He saw me and said, "Karns, did you
see who threw that?" And I responded, "I haven't seen a thing."
Kay, I didn't have the nerve to tell him until our tenth high school
reunion. If he would have found out that night, I thought I would have
been a dead man. One other thing happened to us.
We used to drive out on the country roads with our lights out bushwhacking.
We were trying to find people parked and drive up beside them, turn on our
lights and honk and yell. Everybody had their windows down as there was no
air conditioning. This one night we did this, and two 30-year-old guys pop
up out of the front and back seats and say, "Are you going to kill us?"
Bobby and I take out, and these two guys start chasing us. We are
going 80 miles per hour down the country roads with our lights out, but, of
course, they can see our brake lights. We finally lose them back in town,
but Bobby and I are afraid we are going to get the hell beat out of us.
Kay, again, what a wonderful friend I had in Bobby. With his passing,
the reunions aren't the same to me. I miss him every time I think of
Enid or EHS. Don.
October 2, 2014 -- To Kay Atkinson, Enid, OK 73701
I have enclosed a photo copy of a team picture that will become the beginning point of
some thoughts of, actually, the beginning of the friendship between Bobby Atkinson and me.
The picture was taken at the very beginning of the summer of 1955 “opening day ceremonies”.
Two things are apparent from this picture. Bobby is on the team, top row left and I am not.
Notice the Ray Gene Robertson is in the picture between my brother, Bob, and Bill Scherich.
At the time this picture was taken I was on the roster of the Exchange Club Little Giants
as a catcher. Ray Gene Robertson was the Legion team’s backup catcher to Alan Livingston,
front row third from the right. Then, after about the Little Giants second or third game,
Ray Gene showed up on the Little Giants team and was given the bulk of the catching duties
and leaving the Legion team without a backup catcher. So, I approached coach Provist to see
if I could join the Legion team’s backup catcher. I guess my thinking was if I wasn’t going
to play regularly, I might as well be on a better, relatively older, team. This “move” is
actually how I became acquainted with Bobby. Why 1955? As you well know, the way that the
Enid school system was set up at that time, a person was well acquainted with the kids in
their neighborhood and they attended the same grade school. Then, Enid was divided at the
junior high level between Emerson and Longfellow, finally funneling into Enid High School.
Most Enid kids, if they were interested in baseball, began playing in the little leagues when
they were in third grade, basically playing for their grade school team. Businesses would
sponsor a team which was pretty much limited to a T-shirt for each player and, sometimes,
a treat after games. Each year, through the sixth grade, I played for the Jefferson grade
School team. I’m pretty sure bobby played for Garfield. Garfield always had a good team,
but, honestly, I do not remember anyone who played for them, by name. Our big rival seemed
to be Adams grade school, and a very good pitcher named Kenny Sparks, also in the picture,
top row, second from right, who had turned into an excellent third baseman. At the grade
school lever, most of the games were either played on the school grounds or at a little
ball park, no longer in existence, that set just east of Boggy Creek on the east side of
Government Springs Park. However, once in Junior High the venue changed predominately to
Exchange Park. Often, my little league team would have an early game there which would
be followed by a game featuring the Exchange Club Little Giants (named after the Enid
Giants, Class D professional “farm” team) and that is when and where I became aware of
Bobby Atkinson. As I recall, when the Little Giants played, Bobby pitched, period. If
they had another pitcher, I can’t remember who he was. Everyone became familiar with
Bob’s parents, who never missed a game, Ed and Ruby Atkinson. Bobby looked older than
his age. It is said that his mother always carried his birth certificate should it
become necessary to prove his age to the opposing team. A necessity when an outstanding
pitcher, of fifteen, sported a five o’clock shadow! An ardent baseball player and fan,
I cannot count the games I saw the Little Giants play the years that Bobby was with
them. Of special interest was their rivalry with the George E. Failing team, of the
same age group. These are games one would not want to miss. Both teams had Enid’s
“elite” players, great coaches and excellent venues to play. About this time, anyone
in Enid, who was a baseball fan, knew who Bobby Atkinson was, even if they had never
personally met him. Of course there was the summer baseball, but, during the school
year, Bobby was an outstanding basketball and football player at Longfellow Junior
High. Those of us at cross-town Emerson Junior High only rarely got to see Emerson
and Longfellow participate in these sports, because , as I recall, the schedules
called form them to play only once per season, unlike the huge schedule of summer
baseball games. Emerson and Longfellow did not play each other in baseball. Now, back
to 1955. My first game with the Legion team found me, as expected, setting on the bench.
Someone else, other than Bobby, was pitching, when suddenly Coach Provist summoned Bobby to
“warm up”. The bullpen area at Phillips-Failing Park for the home team was down the right
field line so Bobby and I proceeded there. After several fastballs Bobby tossed a curve
ball that I was not expecting. It curved from my right sharply to my left and I did not
get a glove on it and it hit me on the top of my left foot. Although my pain was only
temporary, Bobby, I remember well, thought the situation hilarious and about doubled
over with laughter. This would be the time to relate, that every pitch Bobby threw had
movement, even his fastball. I honestly think that his fastball violated the laws of
physics the way it might move one or sometimes two directions on its way to the plate.
I’m not sure why, but this initial hitting me with his curve ball seemed to be the
initial incident that would cement our relationship. That we could both laugh
without blame or ill feelings, showed good humor on both parts. Although my
participation on the field with this team was very limited as I explained
above, my “career” with Bobby was not. This team did go far in American
Legion ball that summer. We swept through the district tournament held in
Guymon, Oklahoma which qualified us for the state tournament, held in
Hobart, Oklahoma. We made it to the championship game undefeated and played
Oklahoma City (basically Capitol Hill High School) for the championship.
Bobby had been suffering from a “high” temperature and sore throat for
several days prior to the game. Coach Provost determined that Bobby, our
“ace”, would be our best chance to win and started him. My recollection
is that Bobby pitched the entire game, even in his condition, however,
we lost a close game as our batters struggled with the OKC pitcher, one
of the McDaniel brothers (Von or Lindy), eventual major leaguers. Each
member of our runner-up team received a nice memento including a picture
of the team. I, along, with Bobby made that picture. Kay, I am sure that
you have that picture among Bobby’s mementos. And, in closing, the future
would provide that I caught thousands more of Bobby’s pitches, and, never
again, did one hit me in the foot! My love to you and your family;
Rick Warren--Longmont, CO 80504