A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Billy Reed: Proud of military service, however miniscule, where life lessons were learned

On the Fourth of July weekend in 1967, I was in U.S. Army basic training at Fort Ord, CA, a picturesque place hard by the Pacific Ocean just south of Monterey, home of a famed music festival. I didn’t know why I was there instead of Fort Knox near my home in Kentucky, and when I asked an officer, the only response I got was, “Reed, you have a bad attitude.” I’ve been thinking a lot about that...

Billy Reed: Dream worth pursuing is black athletes with good education, fully part of whole society

For as long as I can remember, and that’s longer than most, people in the sports world, including myself, have been proud of our history of integration. We point to the likes of Jesse Owens, the African-American star of the 1936 Olympics, held in Hitler’s Nazi Germany; Joe Louis, the heavyweight boxing champion in the 1930s and ‘40s; and Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier in...

Billy Reed: As COVID-19 invades college football, can’t we just say health is more important than playing?

The latest information from the sports coronavirus front was a stunner: National runner-up Clemson announced that 23 football players had tested positive of the for the cunning disease. As fate would have it, the Louisville Cardinals are scheduled to play at Clemson on Saturday, Sept. 12. That would be the Cards’ second game of the season, following their season opener on Thursday, Sept. 3, against...

Billy Reed: Finally, at long last, Jefferson Davis’ statue out of Rotunda. Bring on Muhammad Ali

So the statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, finally is being removed from the rotunda of the Kentucky state capital building. Gov. Andy Beshear made the announcement on Thursday, June 12, giving credit to the Historic Properties Advisory Commission for acting “pursuant to my request.” I had to smile because on June 6, 2016, in a column for a Louisville television website, I...

Billy Reed: Remembering the great Wes Unseld, a big fella with a stellar career, dead at age 74

The last time I saw Wes Unseld, we were at a cocktail party in Louisville, participating in an event called “Louisville’s Legends.” The big fella was still massive, and I seem to recall a walker or cane nearby. I knew he had been suffering from some physical ailments. When he saw me, he smiled and motioned me to come sit with him. After the usual greetings, he said, “I need to get you up to...

Billy Reed: Racism has to stop now. What’s wrong with us? What can we cure this insidious disease?

“…I have a dream that the day will come when my four little children will live in a nation where they are judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character…” The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. August 28, 1963 It sounded as simple and right then as it still does now....

Billy Reed: College athletics directors need to think outside box in this brave new world of coronavirus

So here we are at Memorial Day weekend, and there’s no baseball being played in the major leagues because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Not only that, but the sleek racing cars won’t be vroom-vrooming around the Indiana Motor Speedway in the classic Indy 500, a Memorial Day staple since Ray Harroun dove something called a Marmon Wasp into victory lane. As actor William Bendix would have put in “The...

Billy Reed: Can’t wait for ‘Play Ball!’ even for half a season and dreaming of Reds fulfilling their potential

When last we heard from the Cincinnati Reds – you remember them, right? – they were playing spring-training games, working to put together what promised to be the most exciting Reds team in a decade or so. But then they had to pack up their bats and gloves and go home because of the Coronavirus pandemic, which forced the opening of the baseball season to be canceled, the same fate as suffered by...

Billy Reed: Good and bad news for sports, but the coronavirus rules — and the rules are changing

A few weeks ago, the National Football League conducted its first virtual draft, and the Cincinnati Bengals, surprising absolutely nobody, used its No. 1 pick to take Joe Burrow, who won the Heisman Trophy while leading LSU to the national collegiate championship. Ordinarily, that would have been a huge story in these parts, with arguments raging on the sports radio talk shows about whether Burrow...

Billy Reed: The Turtle Derby has a nice, slow ring to it — how about another one with a political twist?

In my 56 years on the Kentucky Derby trail, I had never heard the Turtle Derby story. It sounds preposterous, I know, but it is true. On May 9, 1945, turtles raced in Louisville instead of horses. I swear I am not making this up. At the first of that year, World War II still was raging and the government canceled horse racing. It looked as if the Derby would be canceled for the first time since the...

Billy Reed: Hard to take, but coronavirus is victor on first Saturday in May; there’s an at-home party

The Kentucky Derby has been a big part of life ever since I covered my first one on May 7, 1966. The winner on that warm, breezy afternoon was Kauai King, who went wire-to-wire for owner Mike Ford and trainer Henry Forrest. In the jockeys’ room after the race, I heard winning rider Don Brumfield of Nicholasville, Ky., proclaim himself to be the “happiest hillbilly hardboot in the world.” I was...

Billy Reed: I first met Mitch when we were the hapless Giants of the Pony League; what happened to him?

My relationship with Mitch McConnell began, oddly enough, on the baseball field at the Naval Ordnance Plant in South Louisville. It was the summer of 1956, and we were teammates on the hapless Giants of the Beechmont Pony League. Before Little League came along with its uniforms, equipment, and crazed parents, I learned to play the game on the empty lots and open spaces near my home in the cheap duplexes...

Billy Reed: About Americans, Ugly Americans, and a world needing first responders more than sports

Fairly early in my career, I made it a point to get to know A.B. “Happy” Chandler, the former two-time Kentucky governor who was elected to the baseball. Hall of Fame for what he did during his term as the game’s commissioner from 1946 to ’51. At that time, there were 16 teams in the major leagues, none west of the Mississippi River, and when Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn (now Los Angles) Dodgers...

Billy Reed: Remembering Al Michaels and other icons of sports broadcasting (including Claude Sullivan)

During a recent Facetime conversation with my granddaughters Caroline and Lucy, they surprised me by asking if I knew Al Michaels. They had recently watched the movie about the U.S. hockey team’s historic upset of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics, the game for which Al always will be remembered. Hockey was hardly his main sport. In fact, ABC gave him the job only because he was their...

Billy Reed: Through coronavirus lens, still seeing that compensation for college coaches is way out of line

As I’ve followed the scary Coronavirus story on TV and the internet, I’ve been looking for stories about how football and basketball coaches, both college and professional, and pro athletes have been stepping up to help fight the crisis. After all, entertainers in America – and I’m including rock musicians, movie stars, and TV personalities with the sports-world folks – are among the wealthiest...

Billy Reed: In times like these, we really need baseball to lift our spirits — and there is a precedent

I am well aware that during this Coronavirus catastrophe, sports journalists are high on the list of unnecessary workers. Many of our most hallowed sporting events have been canceled or postponed. Without sports, who needs sports journalists? However, I am holding out hope that our government and major-league baseball can work out something soon to let the games on in, even in near-empty stadiums....

Billy Reed: We have no choice but to make best of it and hope that, in the end, coronavirus does not win

Broadway has gone dark, a couple of Disney theme parks have shut down, and professional sports leagues have ended their seasons prematurely. Even more concerning, hospitals are being overwhelmed, the airlines industry is on life support, the Stock Market is tanking, and our government seems completely befuddled by what to do about this worldwide scourge known as the Coronavirus. To the shock and dismay...

Billy Reed: After the most unconventional of college basketball seasons, I’m backing the Bears. Maybe…

This has been the most confounding college basketball season ever, a Las Vegas casino sort of thing in which Duke was stunned by Stephen F. Austin in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Kentucky found a way to lose to lowly Evansville in Rupp Arena, and Indiana stumbled on the historic day when Bob Knight put aside his animosity toward Indiana and appeared in Assembly Hall for the first time since the university...

Billy Reed: Covington’s Tom Thacker earned his place in basketball history; UC was just the beginning

In the late 1950s, a lot of young black athletes in and around Cincinnati were excited by the exploits of baseball player Frank Robinson, the Cincinnati Reds’ first African-American superstar, and basketball player Oscar “The Big O” Robertson, the 6-foot-5 star of the University of Cincinnati Bearcats who was considered the best player in the nation. Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball...

Billy Reed: Don’t underestimate the Dayton Flyers — and keep your eye on Obi; could be a great story

I was there the night in 1967 when Dayton’s Dan Obravac jumped center against 7-foot-2 UCLA sophomore Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in the NCAA tournament championship game in Louisville’s Freedom Hall. Nobody expected the Flyers to win, unless left-handed forward Donnie May scored 50 or so. He didn’t, of course, but had a respectable 21 in UCLA’s 79-64 victory. Everybody was happy...