VOL. 129 | NO. 96 | Friday, May 16, 2014
The Press Box
Prescott Earned Place in Sports Hall of Fame
By Don Wade
On Easter Sunday, April 17, 1960, a 13-year-old Allie Prescott and his father were sitting down the third-base line at Russwood Park watching an exhibition game between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox.
That night, the old wooden ballpark burned. So Prescott had been there for the end.
Since then, he has been a huge part of so many sports beginnings in Memphis. And for that he is being inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, May 17, in Nashville.
Recalling his days as a pitcher at then-Memphis State, Prescott, 66, smiled and said: “My reputation was that of a hard thrower with a little bit of a control challenge.”
But once Prescott walked off the mound for the final time, having earned all-Missouri Valley Conference honors his senior season, his reputation could best be described as the complete opposite of a hard thrower with a little bit of a control challenge.
Off the field, he always had just the right touch at just the right moment.
“Allie was the practitioner when others were the dreamers,” said Ray Pohlman, Redbirds Foundation president and an executive with AutoZone. “Allie had an innate ability to build relationships with people.”
Prescott held the general manager’s title with both the Memphis Chicks and Memphis Redbirds, playing a huge role in the opening of AutoZone Park. Later, he helped the Grizzlies sell suites as they began play at FedExForum.
Even now, since the Redbirds sold to the St. Louis Cardinals and with the suites in the 15-year-old ballpark coming up for renewal, Prescott is calling on members of the business community to try and help the Redbirds out.
“Without Allie, a lot of these people wouldn’t have come to the dance,” Pohlman said, speaking of pretty much every sports/civic endeavor that Prescott has touched.
Things might not have turned out this way. Upon graduating from Kingsbury High School in 1965, the Baltimore Orioles drafted Prescott and offered him an $8,000 signing bonus. Pretty good money at that time.
“Scouts were at our games,” he recalled, “but no one had a speed gun in those days.”
The Redbirds honored Prescott earlier this week and he threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Which was perfect, because there probably would not have been a first pitch at Third & Union without him. He was working for two years as the team GM before the Redbirds had even moved here from Louisville.
With the Chicks, his tenure came after Denny McLain ran the Memphis Blues (disastrous); and before David Hersh operated the Chicks (also disastrous). Where they courted controversy, Prescott avoided it.
“I’ve always been someone who didn’t like confrontation and tried to be a consensus-builder,” Prescott said, adding that may have actually hurt his pitching. “I did have a coach say once that I wasn’t tough enough, didn’t throw inside enough.”
Maybe he didn’t throw inside enough, but try building relationships by leading with a fastball aimed at the other guy’s head. Today, Prescott does some mediation and consulting, a business he started with wife Barbara, and serves as a senior adviser with Waddell & Associates Inc.
Prescott also worked in the sports justice department, if you will, by spending almost two decades officiating college basketball games – many of them in the SEC. But it’s AutoZone Park of which he is still most proud.
It’s easy to forget all these years later, but the Redbirds’ success and the realized dream of AZP were the forerunners to landing the Grizzlies and getting FedExForum built.
“Andy Dolich (then a Grizzlies executive) told me one day they never would have had the confidence to come here if we had not had success, and Michael Heisley (then the Grizzlies’ owner) felt the same way,” Prescott said as he watched the Redbirds play on a sun-splashed afternoon. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who loves sports and this city that is not very proud of this place.”
Not to mention grateful to Allie Prescott, resident sports practitioner.
Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.