By: Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
Tuesday with Ralph was “simply amazing.” That’s the most fitting words that this writer can find to describe a recent visit with the 94-year-old legend and former mayor of Mountain City. It was a quite an honor to sit down and chat with one of the greatest basketball and football officials to ever wear the black and white striped shirt. Stout was and still is an icon indeed and his knowledge about sports is second to none. Stout graduated from Johnson County High School in 1939. But it’s his memory of that era which caught my attention. “We won 26 straight basketball games that year until Kingsport beat us in the tournament,” said Stout who starred for Johnson County. “You don’t forget a loss like that.” Stout said the game of basketball has changed over the years. “The main focus back then was on defense,” said Stout. “You didn’t have the big men years ago like you do now. They can take over a game both offensively and defensively. They’ve helped change the game a great deal.” Stout just wasn’t your run-of-the-mill official. He refereed in six NCAA tournaments, served in the U.S. Navy and officiated in a Sugar Bowl game. He played college basketball at Lincoln Memorial. The “ole eagle-eye” graduated from the Elgin Watch Makers College in 1945. And he earned the “Silver Whistle” award five times for being the best among Southern Conference officials. But there is so much more.
He touched on a couple of Hall of Fame coaches that gave him some lasting memories in games that he worked. And he took time to remember a few of his prize understudies too. “Larry Hutchinson from over in Shady Valley is the best football official in Tennessee,” said Stout. “He was one of my prize pupils. Earnest “Blackcat” Rasar and Jessie Birchfield were great officials and good men too. There’ve been a lot of them. I think Adam Buckles will make a good one. He’s young but eager to learn.” Stout didn’t hesitate when recalling one certain college coach. “Norman Sloan was the worst one that I ever dealt with,” said Stout. “He was a mean son-of-a-gun.” Dean Smith was another one who tried to intimidate you but he didn’t bother me.”
To read the entire article, pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk.