Kingsport Times News Saturday, August 29, 2015

Memory Lane: Don Flick

April 29th, 2007 11:39 pm by Staff Report

Don Flick

Born: July 28, 1939

Where: Dante, Va.

High School/Colleges: Lynn View/Lincoln Memorial, Tusculum, East Tennessee State

Residence: Weber City

Then: As a youngster, Don Flick acquired a passion for baseball that would never fade.

He spent hours swinging a broomstick at pebbles and soft drink lids. Agnes, his mother, tossed walnuts for him to swat.

"I hit objects until my hands bled,'' he said. "If I had a dollar for every one I hit, I'd be a multimillionaire.''

Flick had an impressive career in the high school, college and semipro ranks.

A three-year starter and all-conference player at Lynn View, he batted .414 as a junior and .477 as a senior.

"I had the good fortune to play for Carl Matherly,'' Flick said. "He had a positive influence. Carl was an excellent coach at conditioning and teaching fundamentals.''

Lewis "Lefty'' Flick, his father, had been a major league player with the Philadelphia Athletics and gave him helpful tips. "You get three swings. Don't get cheated out of any of them,'' he told Don. "The first good pitch you see, hit it. That might be the only one you get.''

With sniper's vision, Don could pick up the spin on a curveball instantly. "At least four times I saw the ball spring off the bat and pancake,'' he said. "I've always considered 85 to 88 miles per hour good hitting speed.''

Flick, an all-conference first baseman, had quite a college run. He played every inning for four years at Tusculum and had batting averages of .307, .358, .340 and .423.

He turned down a $10,000 offer from the Chicago Cubs in 1960.

"Coming out of high school, I would have paid them $10,000 to let me play. I wanted an $800-a-month salary,'' Flick said, "and they were only paying $330. I had a wife and two kids and another year of college.

"My dad told me, ‘You're like a piece of furniture. (The pros) can buy, sell or throw you away.'''

Flick, appearing in various semipro leagues, continued to play until he was 58 years old. With Kingsport's Bennett & Edwards semipro team in 1964, he was the third-leading hitter (.429) in the National Baseball Congress World Series at Wichita, Kan. Players in the event were future major leaguers Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Clyde Wright, Rick Monday and Dave Boswell.

Flick played nine years in a row in the Over-40 World Series, getting selected four times to the All-Series team. He is in that organization's Hall of Fame at New Orleans.

"I wish they had Over-65 baseball,'' he said.

He was the recipient of an impressive legacy. Lefty Flick batted .418 for the Elizabethton Sox in 1941 and won the Louisville Slugger Silver Bat for highest average in the minor leagues. That same year, Ted Williams won it for the American League with a .406 average. The bat, still in mint condition, highlights Don's roomful of trophies.

In a Southern League doubleheader at Little Rock, Ark., the elder Flick collected 12 hits. He later played under manager Connie Mack at Philadelphia.

He had a .344 lifetime average. Asked by a sports writer how he would fare against modern-day pitchers, Lefty answered: "About .310.''

"Why just .310?' the writer queried, to which Lefty replied: "I'm 68 years old.''

Don also stood out in basketball at Lynn View and Tusculum, even though an automobile accident just about did him in.

After receiving all-state honorable mention as a junior, he was critically injured. Doctors informed the Flick family he probably wouldn't live. Even if he did, Flick could be paralyzed. After five hours of surgery, his condition improved.

"When I saw my toes twitching,'' Flick said, "I began to think about the next game.''

The 6-foot-1, 162-pound forward/center became one of Lynn View's early 1,000-point scorers. He got 26 points against Surgoinsville and 21 points and 20 rebounds against Mary Hughes.

He averaged 15.3 points as a junior and 15.7 as a senior. He learned the art of rebounding and averaged 13.2 over two seasons. His career rebound record of 776 stood at the school for 21 years.

"I got a lot of putbacks,'' he said. "I could smell two points.''

A three-year Tusculum starter at guard/forward, Flick had scoring clips of 13.9, 10.1 and 16.4 points. He scored 30 against College of Charleston. In an independent game at Lynchburg, Va., he hit 67.

Flick's love of sports guided him into coaching. He has coached in junior high, high school, junior college and college as well as the pro ranks. Flick has held positions at 12 venues.

He had the most success at Nickelsville, Cocoa Beach, Fla., Floyd County, Church Hill and DeKalb, Miss. He assisted Henry Bibby at Oklahoma City in the Continental Basketball Association. As head coach at Hickory, N.C., in the X-Treme Basketball Association, his team won regular-season and playoff championships.

He was a college assistant in North Carolina and South Carolina. He started women's basketball - getting 90 wins in four years - and also baseball at Virginia Intermont College. Flick was Bristol University's first women's basketball coach, going 32-3 in the 1993-94 season.

All told, he's coached 821 basketball and baseball wins.

When one college inquired about hiring him as pitching coach, Flick said: "The only thing I know about pitching is how to hit it.''

Flick's helping hand has enabled 140 youngsters to receive scholarship offers.

Now: Don and his wife, Kathy, are members of First Baptist Church in Weber City. They have two daughters, Donna France and LuAnn Kirk; a granddaughter, Stacie; three grandsons, Derrick, Jordan and Luke; and two great-grandchildren, Carson and Mallorie.

If the right offer presents itself, he's interested in coaching again.

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