Friday, November 19, 2010
The Legend of Harry Billie~Star of the Seminole Nation
I was all set to begin my basketball work tomorrow Noon at Lincolnview High School, outside of Van Wert....instead, after a call yesterday, I will begin tonight on the other side of Van Wert County at Crestview High School in Convoy, Ohio. Seems the Athletic Director had a scheduled official cancel, to do a college game, and he needed somebody else to work the threeway Varsity/Junior Varsity scrimmage tonight between Crestview, Antwerp, and Fort Recovery. So off to work I will go this evening, and give my legs, lungs, and back, a workout, and if my 61 year 8 month old body and parts survive that, I will head to Lincolnview tomorrow morning, and do it all over again. Basketball Season, for me at least, if officially here.
Harry Billie, Everglades City and Naples, Florida_____
Over the past 50 years or so, I have seen more sporting events, and participated in as many as a player, coach, and official, than I could ever count. On occasion you work with or view a player that sticks out in your mind for the rest of your life. I have been on the sidelines at NFL games, in the press box for Major League Baseball contests, pro Hockey in the stands, and thousands of college, high school, and youth sporting events...coaching, playing, officiating, or just a fan in the stands. I've seen some great ones, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Walter Peyton, and hundreds of others, some hall of fame types, some close, and thousands of everyday players.
The first "star" I can ever recall seeing in person, was a young full blooded Seminole Indian, named Harry Billie. I had not thought much about Harry in the nearly 50 years since I watched him work his magic on the Venice Indians that night during the 1961-62 season in south Florida.
I was in 7th grade at Venice Junior High that year, and we had all heard of Harry Billie, and he was on his way to take on our Venice Indians as they hosted Naples High School that winter night in Venice. Harry turned out to be everything that was advertised...I don't remember the final score, but I do remember Harry Billie hitting a half court shot to end the first half...he was something else, that something was an athlete the likes of which I had never seen in my 12 years on earth...at least not in person, I have seen few as good as he was to this day.
I lost track of what had happened to him until this Wednesday....
I was reading some posts on our Vietnam Security Police Bulletin Board and noticed a post from a man named Thomas Billie, likewise a Seminole Indian...he, was from the Oklahoma Nation, and not the Seminole Nation of Florida, but the correspondent I had with him, and with Glenn Miller, the man who wrote the following piece, that got me to thinking about and researching, "Harry Billie":
My family, after a decade in south Florida, moved back to Ohio late in 1962, while Harry was signed by the Florida State Seminoles to play football....after a year, he switched to baseball, signed a pro contract, playing a few years in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system. A broken hand, alcohol, and the system at the time, ended the sports career of this man, who was the greatest athlete I had seen in my first dozen years on this earth. Harry Billie was not a big man...5' 11" and 180 pounds were his playing stats(about the same size I am today), but he was a giant of a man among boys in his time at Everglades City and Naples.
Harry it turns out moved on, got sober, and works as a Director at the Miccosukee Indian Reservation...located between Everglades City and Miami, on the old Tamiami Trail, Highway 41. The last article I found on him was from 2005 in the Seminole Tribune....he was making his 12th appearence at the Seminole Wellness and Conference Center...and talking about life and soberness, not about his glory days in sports. Here is a link to Harry's minor league baseball stats:
Thanks to Glenn Miller, the Seminole Tribune, and Thomas Billie of the Oklahoma Seminole Nation, for helping me revive the old memories, the material, and photo for today's blog.
This weekend another Harry, Mr Potter, and his gang will be on the big screen in the newest release of their latest adventures....if we get the time, Patricia and I will head to the local theater Sunday and take this installment in....meanwhile, enjoy the weekend.
Photos-Harry Billie in 2005 and Harry Potter's new adventure starts in theaters today, with part 2 of the Deathly Hallows coming in 2011