By Bill Lane
NET NEWS SERVICE
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an article written by Bill Lane from our sister paper, the Kingsport Times News. The article appeared in the May 30 edition of the newspaper. It is part of Bill's Memory Lane series that features area sports icons of the past.
Born: April 14, 1921
Where: Mountain City
Residence: Mountain City
High School/Colleges: Johnson County/Lincoln Memorial University, Elgin Watchmakers College
Then: Ralph Stout has worn many hats in his time and all seemed to be a perfect fit.
Stout played football and basketball at Johnson County, where he graduated in 1939.
It was at LMU that he coached legendary basketball coach Buck Van Huss on the freshman squad. It was there that he called some scrimmages and got the itch to pursue a second career in officiating.
He charged nothing in 1946 for his first appearance, an independent mens game at Crumpler, N.C. But he was handed a five-dollar bill as he left the gym.
Stout went on to officiate for 55 years, doing basketball and football at both the high school and college levels, and became one of the nations most respected men in stripes.
After he worked the VSAC tournament at Nashville, Stouts services were in demand. He officiated basketball in the Ohio Valley, Atlantic Coast, Southeastern and Southern conferences. Many of his games, including the Duke/Syracuse Elite Eight matchup in 1966, were televised.
Stout turned down a contract to call in the NBA.
I was just an ol country boy who didnt want to fly in a plane every night, he said. I did work 37 games in the ABA but came home puzzled. They wanted the refs to allow players an extra step. I didnt understand their definition of traveling.
Stout served as supervisor of OVC officials for 37 years, answering to four different commissioners. Seven of his officials advanced to the NBA.
He regularly called games at Clemson, whose coach was Press Maravich. Pistol Pete, his teenage son, was Clemsons ballboy.
Pete came to practices dribbling an old ball with a knot on it, Stout said. It would occasionally go sideways.
The elder Maravich moved to LSU and took Pete in a package deal. There, the Pistol broke the NCAA record for total career points. Stout was officiating in the game the night he did it.
Stout recalls a couple of confrontations he had with Press Maravich. Stout, youre No. 1 on my list but weve never won a game that you called! the coach blurted out after a defeat. Stout patted Press on the shoulder and fired back: But Pete gets 50!
Another time Press got Stouts attention when he thought his son was being fouled. Stout, he said, get em off Pete.
Stout turned and quipped, Whos Pete?
West Virginias Jerry West was the equivalent of Maravich, Stout feels, but they were different types of players.
Stout worked football games in the Southern Conference for 13 years. He was in the officiating crew at East Carolina when Marshalls team played there before perishing in a plane crash while returning to Huntington, W.Va. If the game had been played at Marshall, Stout said, Id have been on that plane flying home.
He had an opportunity to officiate SEC football but wasnt offered enough games to justify leaving the Southern Conference.
Stout was voted by his peers as the top official in the Southern Conference for seven consecutive years.
Stouts introduction to Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp wasnt a very pleasant one, but they became friends.
Stout had a sense of humor and enjoyed entertaining the college students. On his first trip to Lexington, Stout blew the whistle, trotted out one door and came in another. At halftime, Rupp was furious. Listen, Stout, Im the show up here and youre not, he said. Dont ever do that again if you want to call my games.
When Kentucky star Cotton Nash drove the lane, Rupp sprang to his feet and yelled: Call something!
Stout did. He called a technical foul on Rupp.
Stout officiated about 50 Kentucky games. Rupp ran the SEC, Stout said. He did all the talking at its meetings. He was the king.
Stout refereed games when Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski played for Bobby Knight at West Point.
Stout didnt see eye to eye with coach Norm Sloan. He wanted it all North Carolina States way, Stout said.
Stout used to receive phone calls from coaches in 10 states for clarification of rules. The knowledge of rules and mechanics was my greatest asset, he said.
The games upper echelon affectionally referred to Stout as Eagle Eye. He routinely was asked to look over the rule book before it went to press.
That nickname might have applied to his profession as well. Stout is a master jeweler and, at the age of 90, he still has the vision necessary to repair watches.
Stout supervised high school officials for 10 years after he quit calling. He was inducted into the TSSAA Hall of Fame in 1984, the Northeast Tennessee Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Tennessee Hall of Fame in 1992.
Stout drove some 4 million miles to and from games.
I wore out seven new cars, he said. I look back and wonder if I really made anything. At the time, I thought I was getting rich. I was being paid $175 for a college game, and gas was 30 cents a gallon.
He feels gratification in knowing he called games fair for both sides. You have to love officiating to do it.
Added Stout: My wife, Margie, was the greatest thing I had going. She was very supportive. If an officials wife isnt behind him, hes headed for trouble.
When Stout retired, he turned the reins of the Tri-Cities Officials Association over to Jim Cradic. Jim has done a good job, Stout said. He sticks his neck out to give young guys a chance. He can judge talent.
Now: For 72 years Ralph has operated Allen M. Stout & Son Jewelers. His father ran it for 30 years. Stout still works five days a week.
He was mayor of Mountain City for 19 years. The towns 20-acre, multi-use park bears his name.