ATHENS — Vince Dooley, who should require no introduction here, turns 85 on Monday. I want to be like Vince Dooley when I’m 85, even though it’s a little late to start working on a national championship ring.
Said the man who just released a book on a Confederate cavalry commander from Athens named William Gaston Delony: “I’ve had a great curiosity in things and still do. One of these days it will cease, but I don’t know when.”
What more might any octogenarian ask?
Dooley hardly will be spending his birthday week on the front porch, wrapped in a shawl. Before accompanying the Bulldogs to South Bend for their game next Saturday against Notre Dame, he has a speaking engagement in Chicago that Thursday, then a commitment at Wrigley Field the next day. The venerable coach is scheduled to throw out the first pitch before a Cubs-Brewers game.
At 85, mindful of the time he bounced one to the catcher before a Braves game many years ago, Dooley has been throwing to one of his former football managers to ready for the moment.
“I’ll be a little bit better prepared than when I threw out the first pitch over in Atlanta after I retired,” he said. “I hope I can get it there, let’s put it that way.”
You know, he was told, you probably have the option of throwing from in front of the mound to cut down the distance to the catcher. Age should come with some concessions.
“I think you ought to throw from the mound. Regardless of what happens, I’ll throw from the mound,” he declared.
When I’m 85, I’d be happy just to climb to the top of the mound without breaking a hip.
Then, of course, he’ll make the short trip to Notre Dame to watch the Bulldogs play.
His history with the Irish dates to the Sugar Bowl that closed out the 1980 season, and a 17-10 victory over Notre Dame sealing the Bulldogs national championship.
As someone who went through Catholic school throughout his youth in Mobile, Ala., it was particularly meaningful climax to the best season ever. Here was the coach who grew up on Notre Dame listening parties at school, who became smitten with the legend of that program, conquering the Fighting Irish to claim a title. Could it get any better?
You reach a certain age, you build up quite a repository of stories.
We leave you with one from Dooley to prepare for Georgia-Notre Dame, nearly 37 years later:
“When it was finally determined we were going to play Notre Dame in New Orleans I got a call from the nuns – The Daughters of Charity – who taught me in grammar school. ‘Vincent, we’re so proud of you, so proud,’ they said. ‘Can you get us some tickets to the game?’
“Well, what are you going to do, tell them, no?
“They come over to the hotel that morning of the game, four of them. They saw me. They hugged me said they were so proud. I gave them the tickets. So, on the way out I said, ‘Now, sisters, don’t forget, say a little prayer for the Bulldogs.’
“‘Oh, no, Vincent,’ they said, ‘we’re praying for Notre Dame.’
“They took my daggone tickets and they’re out there praying for Notre Dame.”
Those prayers, as history will note, landed just a bit short.