New U-B series to focus on legends of past

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WALLA WALLA - When I decided to shift gears in January of 2010 and become a part-time member of the Union-Bulletin sports staff, I did so with several goals in mind.

And one of the projects I promised myself that I would achieve was to cobble together an on-going series of feature stories that would focus on individuals who had made their mark in this valley as athletes or coaches in the past and who no longer lived in the area.

This is not, by the way, a new idea. In fact, several members of the U-B sports staff were assigned similar tasks during my 27 years as the U-B sports editor.

Each and every time, we called it the Where Are They Now? series. And for a variety reasons, we were never successful in sustaining it for any meaningful length of time.

So now it's my turn.

And the plan - my plan - is to generate a minimum of three of these features each year. Four if I can manage it, which would amount to one feature per calendar quarter.

This seems to be a reasonable goal. But as I found out in my first year as a part-timer - as if I didn't already know - stuff happens.

Column ideas materialize. Other more timely feature stories require attention. And sometimes staff limitations encroach upon one's available hours.

And then, of course, there are all those vacation plans. That is what retirement is supposed to be all about in the first place, right?

But I can honestly report that I have no qualms about taking on this project. I view it not so much as a self-imposed work assignment but rather as an exciting opportunity.

Because as someone who has been on the sports beat in Walla Walla since September of 1968, I have a lot of history to fall back on. And revisiting the past is an invitation that I gladly accept.

And even though their seems to be unlimited subject matter just waiting to be rediscovered, I don't proclaim to have total recall. So to that end I will gladly consider any and all suggestions.

Call me superstitious, but the first thing I determined was that Where Are They Now? is not the most suitable name for this feature series. And there's more to this than the simple fear of bad luck.

While these feature stories will certainly enlighten readers as to where specific subjects now reside, how they got there and what became of them, there will be an equal focus on what they did to earn notoriety on the U-B sports pages in the first place.

I've considered several identifying tag lines - Blast From the Past! Oldies But Goodies! Rewind! U-B Files Revisited! - and finally settled on U-B Flashbacks!

So without further adieu, here's a brief introduction to my first feature subject - Larry Spencer, Mac-Hi Class of 1970.

I selected Larry for a variety of reasons:

* I covered a lot of Larry's games during his high school career and was always impressed not only with his skill level but also his unabashed love of athletic competition.

* Larry was the subject of my very first U-B feature story, which I wrote during his junior basketball season in Milton-Freewater.

* I happened to bump into Larry last summer when he was in the process of teaching his old coach and mentor, Don Parker, a lesson or two in the art of striking the golf ball.

* I knew very little of Larry's life after he left Mac-Hi, but I had a hunch that it would be an interesting story.

And I was right.

So here's hoping that you enjoy reading Larry Spencer's story as much as I did writing it. And also that future subjects in this feature series will be equally interesting.

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