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Making History Today: On the Lighter and Sportier Side

Updated: Feb 16

With the Super Bowl behind us and Baseball Spring Training right in front of us, it might be interesting for some to point out the connection some sports figures have had with the Presbyterian Church in the Southwest. 

Many know that on October 8, 1956 Don Larsen of the New York Yankees pitched a perfect game (facing 27 batters and retiring all of them – no walks, no hits, no one reaching base) in the fifth game of the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The question is, Who was the last pitcher to throw a perfect game before Larsen? The answer is one Charlie Robertson (1896-1984). Born in Dexter, Texas, Robertson attended Austin College where, according to Michael Coffey (27 Men Out: Baseball’s Perfect Games), he planned to study for the ministry. He played three sports at A.C. In 1917 he played for a minor league team from Sherman. The Chicago White Sox took note and signed him to a contract for $2,000. After spending most of 1918 in the Army Air Corps, the White Sox brought him up to Chicago. In 1919 he pitched two innings against the St. Louis Browns and did so poorly that he was sent to Minneapolis “for more seasoning.” After three years of seasoning and the disastrous “Black Sox scandal of 1919-1920” Robertson returned to the big leagues in Chicago. On April 30, 1922 Robertson took the mound in Detroit against Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers. He pitched a perfect game, facing and retiring all 27 hitters. The rest of his career was not quite so stellar. After eight years in the majors, his record was 49 wins and 80 losses. Robertson died in Fort Worth in 1984. He got his start at Austin College. 

Born in 1933 in Corpus Christi, Raymond Emmett Berry, Jr. graduated from Paris High School in Paris, Texas. After attending Schreiner College in 1951 (THAT’S the Presbyterian connection!), Berry went on to SMU (1952-1954). From 1955 to 1967 he played split end for the Baltimore Colts. From 1984 to 1989 he was the head coach of the New England Patriots, winning Super Bowl XX against the Chicago Bears. In 1973 Berry was elected to the National Football Hall of Fame. He is 90 years old and now lives in Tennessee. Berry got his collegiate start at Schreiner, a Presbyterian school in Kerrville, Texas. 

The name Prentice Barnet is, no doubt, a familiar one to many. Born in 1926 in Alvarado, Texas, he was raised on a farm near Valley Mills, Texas. A graduate of Garland High School, Trinity University, and Princeton Theological Seminary, his first call was as associate pastor of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Denton (1953-1955). In 1955 he became associate executive for Education for the Presbyterian Synod. He remained in that position for 36 years, retiring in 1991. However, it’s one of Prentice’s sons, Dave Barnet, who makes the sports connection here not so much as an athlete but as an announcer and commentator. A graduate of the University of North Texas, Barnet announced games for the Dallas Mavericks (1981-1988), the San Antonio Spurs (1988-1996), the Texas Rangers (1990, 2009-2012), and the North Texas Mean Green (2015-Present). Today he lives in Corinth, Texas. 

Darrell Royal was 88 years old when he died in November 2012. He was the head football coach at Mississippi State University (1954-1955) and the University of Washington (1956) before coming to the University of Texas at Austin in 1957 where he stayed as head coach from till 1976. His teams won three national championships (1963, 1969, 1970). For many of those years he and his wife, Edith, were members of University Presbyterian Church in Austin. He died in 2012 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease and is buried at the Texas State Cemetery. 

James Lee was born in Camden, South Carolina on February 28, 1968 and was raised in Denver, Colorado, Richardson, Houston, and Plano, Texas. He graduated from Plano High School. He attended the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in economics. While at UT, James was on the Longhorn football team. Upon graduation he went to work in the Attorney General’s office in the Child Support Division. In 1996 he responded to a call to the ministry and entered Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He graduated form APTS in May 2000. He was ordained in 2002 and served for a year as Director of Racial Ethnic Ministries and Recruitment at Austin Seminary. In 2003 Covenant Presbyterian Church in Austin called James to start a new church. In 2009 New Covenant Fellowship of Austin was chartered where James served until his death in 2016. He served as a member of the board of the Presbyterian Multicultural Network, Mo-Ranch, and Austin Seminary. 

Finally, I have learned that Jordan Spieth, professional golfer, grew up in the Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church in Dallas. Born inn 1993 he is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and joined the PGA tour in 2013. He has won 13 PGA tour wins and two international championships. He won the Masters in 2015 and the U.S. Open in the same year. 

Many people in a variety of vocations fulfilled by Presbyterians could be highlighted, and the Presbyterian Church  and all the good that it represents has played a role in the lives of many, many people – whether it’s through an educational institution, worship, the influence of certain persons, or growing up in a Presbyterian family. It is not presumed that the Presbyterian Church played a primary role in the lives of all of those cited in this column. But in one way or another,  however large or small, it can be said the Presbyterian Church was a part of those lives. 

Reminder: The annual meeting of the PHSSW will be held Friday and Saturday, March 22 and 23, at First Presbyterian Church in Galveston, Texas. All are welcome. There is no charge. If you plan to come, please let the Society know (by way of the email on this column), and especially if you plan to be at the Friday evening dinner. 

The Presbyterian Historical Society of the Southwest exists to “stimulate and encourage interest in the collection, preservation, and presentation of the Presbyterian and Reformed heritage” in the Southwest. If you are not a participating member of the Society and would like to become one, the annual dues are $20 per individual and $25 per couple. Annual institutional and church membership dues are $100. Checks may be made out to PHSSW and sent to: 

PHSSW – 5525 Traviston Ct., Austin, TX 78738.

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How could you leave out Doak Walker?

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