Atkinson, Bobby

Bob Atkinson Bob was born to Ed Atkinson and Ruby McNatt Atkinson 
January 8, 1938. Bob always loved the fact he shared his birth date 
with Elvis Presley. Bob attended Garfield Grade School, Longfellow 
Junior High, and graduated from Enid High School. Sports have been 
a central part of Bob's life. In 1946, he started his sports career 
playing little league baseball, football, and basketball, with 
baseball being his passion. By the age of 12, Bob began his 52 years 
of working with the young people at the ABC Park through coaching 
and umpiring. In 1959, Bob met his future wife, Carol Kay Richert, at 
ABC Park. Bob's sons, Lance and Garry, as well as his grandchildren, 
Lucas, Emily, and Raymond, also played at ABC Park. The ABC baseball 
fieldswere renamed the Bob Atkinson Field in honor of Bob. Bob was 
a left-handed pitcher and first baseman. He worked out with the 
Washington Senators and the Boston Red Sox. The Kansas City Athletics 
offered him a baseball contract. Bob pitched batting practice at Enid 
Professional Baseball Park, home of the Enid Buffaloes and the Enid 
Giants. Baseball legends Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killabrew were among 
the players to whom Bob pitched. In the 1970's, Bob scouted for the 
Cincinnati Reds profession baseball team. Bob has had a lifetime 
association with the YMCA, where he was a childhood member, 
volunteer, and later served as sports director. Bob finished his career 
at the Enid YMCA where he helped many children and their parents in 
difficult times. Of all the coaching, umpiring, the countless hours spent 
volunteering for youth and adults in Enid, probably his greatest gift was 
his ability to make people better. One of the ways he accomplished this 
was by simply giving someone a chance -- a chance to be on a team and, 
more importantly, a chance to play. His direction for you would be to 
have fun, enjoy your life, work hard, volunteer your time, and when 
you have the opportunity -- and you will -- improve yourself and 
someone else by giving them a chance. Bob received numerous 
awards in his lifetime. He was especially proud of the 
Booker T. Washington Award for Appreciation, the Pride of the Plainsmen 
Award for Community Involvement, and his induction into the Enid Public 
Schools Foundation Hall of Fame. Bob wanted us to remember, "I've had a 
great life with my family and the people of Enid and surrounding towns. I 
love people, and I've always tried to give them my best."

CLASSMATE COMMENTS---

Donnie Karns 
Dallas, Texas 75225 
 
Stories about the life of Bobby Atkinson.  
 
I remember when everybody first got TV.  I would stay at Bobby's house,    
which was just north of Garfield.  We would play one-on-one basketball 
till 12:00, and then we would go in and watch a midnight Frankenstein 
movie on Saturday night. Our treat was a quart of Pepsi each, and we 
would stuff the bottle with peanuts after we drank some.  Can you imagine 
if we had seen one of our kids or grandkids now doing that?  Oh, how 
things have changed.  When Bobby got his Cushman Eagle, we went everywhere 
on it.  The only time I got to drive it was wintertime, as Bobby did not 
have a wind-screen as it wouldn't look cool.  So guess who served as the 
wind-screen.  We would drive around singing, and Bobby could carry a tune.  
I couldn't sing a lick, but you wouldn't know it as the way we would 
belt out "The Great Pretender," and Bobby would sing the high part solo. 
I will tell you the most dangerous thing we did was when his parents 
got that new 1955 Pontiac.  That was the year GM introduced the V-8 
into their   auto line.  It was fast, and you could floorboard it and
it would drop down into passing gear and really accelerate. We would 
approach a red light but could see the amber light from the other 
direction.  Bobby would time it so that he would hit the passing gear 
while our light was still amber and hit the intersection just as ours 
turned red.  How stupid and dangerous,   but we had a blast.  
One night we were southbound on the street that runs in front of St. Mary's 
at the intersection where the old steam engine was.  An eastbound Bobtail 
fruit truck ran the red light, and we broadsided it in the back wheel 
location.  I remember the truck going up on two wheels, and I thought it 
was going to run in that creek, which was just east of the intersection.  
Of course, we totaled the car, but the other guy had run the light.  
I remember I had a ball bat and was bouncing the bat on the floorboard.  
No seat belts.  No air bags.  I was not hurt, and the only injury was 
Bobby's right knee broke off the key, which was at knee level, and he 
received a small cut.  We were scared we were going to get in trouble   
with his parents, but laughed about how it scared the hell out of that 
driver when he went up on two wheels.  We were lucky we survived our teenage 
years, but what wonderful memories. The last one I would like to share 
with you occurred on Halloween night. For some reason, I wasn't out 
with Bobby that night.  There must have been a hundred of us guys and 
girls gathered at the Champlin mansion in the south intersection in front 
of mansion. It had been snowing, and we all were having fun:  no fights, 
no drinking, just fun. I saw Bobby on the far side of the crowd, and I was 
on the other side.  We were all under a big streetlight that lit 
up the whole intersection.  I made up a big snow ball, packed it tight, 
and then threw it high in the air at Bobby, only hoping it would come close.  
Kay, I hit him solid on his chest.  As you know, we all had a lot of 
testosterone flowing. Bobby yelled out, "Who in the hell did that I'm 
going to whip your ass."  He started wading through the crowd 
trying to find out who hit him.  He saw me and said, "Karns, did you 
see who threw that?"  And I responded, "I haven't seen a thing."  
Kay, I didn't have the nerve to tell him until our tenth high school 
reunion. If he would have found out that night, I thought I would have 
been a dead man. One other thing happened to us.  
We used to drive out on the country roads with our lights out bushwhacking. 
We were trying to find people parked and drive up beside them, turn on our 
lights and honk and yell.  Everybody had their windows down as there was no 
air conditioning. This one night we did this, and two 30-year-old guys pop 
up out of the front and back seats and say, "Are you going to kill us?" 
Bobby and I take out, and these two guys start chasing us.  We are 
going 80 miles per hour down the country roads with our lights out, but, of 
course, they can see our brake lights.  We finally lose them back in town, 
but Bobby and I are afraid we are going to get the hell beat out of us. 
Kay, again, what a wonderful friend I had in Bobby.  With his passing, 
the reunions aren't the same to me.  I miss him every time I think of 
Enid or EHS.   Don. 
 
 

October 2, 2014  -- To Kay Atkinson, Enid, OK 73701
Dear Kay:

I have enclosed a photo copy of a team picture that will become the beginning point of 
some thoughts of, actually, the beginning of the friendship between Bobby Atkinson and me. 
The picture was taken at the very beginning of the summer of 1955 “opening day ceremonies”. 
Two things are apparent from this picture. Bobby is on the team, top row left and I am not. 
Notice the Ray Gene Robertson is in the picture between my brother, Bob, and Bill Scherich. 
At the time this picture was taken I was on the roster of the Exchange Club Little Giants 
as a catcher. Ray Gene Robertson was the Legion team’s backup catcher to Alan Livingston, 
front row third from the right. Then, after about the Little Giants second or third game, 
Ray Gene showed up on the Little Giants team and was given the bulk of the catching duties 
and leaving the Legion team without a backup catcher. So, I approached coach Provist to see 
if I could join the Legion team’s backup catcher. I guess my thinking was if I wasn’t going 
to play regularly, I might as well be on a better, relatively older, team. This “move” is 
actually how I became acquainted with Bobby.  Why 1955? As you well know, the way that the 
Enid school system was set up at that time, a person was well acquainted with the kids in 
their neighborhood and they attended the same grade school. Then, Enid was divided at the 
junior high level between Emerson and Longfellow, finally funneling into Enid High School. 
Most Enid kids, if they were interested in baseball, began playing in the little leagues when 
they were in third grade, basically playing for their grade school team. Businesses would 
sponsor a team which was pretty much limited to a T-shirt for each player and, sometimes, 
a treat after games. Each year, through the sixth grade, I played for the Jefferson grade 
School team. I’m pretty sure bobby played for Garfield. Garfield always had a good team, 
but, honestly, I do not remember anyone who played for them, by name. Our big rival seemed 
to be Adams grade school, and a very good pitcher named Kenny Sparks, also in the picture, 
top row, second from right, who had turned into an excellent third baseman. At the grade 
school lever, most of the games were either played on the school grounds or at a little 
ball park, no longer in existence, that set just east of Boggy Creek on the east side of 
Government Springs Park. However, once in Junior High the venue changed predominately to 
Exchange Park. Often, my little league team would have an early game there which would 
be followed by a game featuring the Exchange Club Little Giants (named after the Enid 
Giants, Class D professional “farm” team) and that is when and where I became aware of 
Bobby Atkinson. As I recall, when the Little Giants played, Bobby pitched, period. If 
they had another pitcher, I can’t remember who he was. Everyone became familiar with 
Bob’s parents, who never missed a game, Ed and Ruby Atkinson. Bobby looked older than 
his age. It is said that his mother always carried his birth certificate should it 
become necessary to prove his age to the opposing team. A necessity when an outstanding 
pitcher, of fifteen, sported a five o’clock shadow! An ardent baseball player and fan, 
I cannot count the games I saw the Little Giants play the years that Bobby was with 
them. Of special interest was their rivalry with the George E. Failing team, of the 
same age group. These are games one would not want to miss. Both teams had Enid’s 
“elite” players, great coaches and excellent venues to play. About this time, anyone 
in Enid, who was a baseball fan, knew who Bobby Atkinson was, even if they had never 
personally met him. Of course there was the summer baseball, but, during the school 
year, Bobby was an outstanding basketball and football player at Longfellow Junior 
High. Those of us at cross-town Emerson Junior High only rarely got to see Emerson 
and Longfellow participate in these sports, because , as I recall, the schedules 
called form them to play only once per season, unlike the huge schedule of summer 
baseball games. Emerson and Longfellow did not play each other in baseball. Now, back 
to 1955. My first game with the Legion team found me, as expected, setting on the bench. 
Someone else, other than Bobby, was pitching, when suddenly Coach Provist summoned Bobby to 
“warm up”. The bullpen area at Phillips-Failing Park for the home team was down the right 
field line so Bobby and I proceeded there. After several fastballs Bobby tossed a curve 
ball that I was not expecting. It curved from my right sharply to my left and I did not 
get a glove on it and it hit me on the top of my left foot. Although my pain was only 
temporary, Bobby, I remember well, thought the situation hilarious and about doubled 
over with laughter. This would be the time to relate, that every pitch Bobby threw had 
movement, even his fastball. I honestly think that his fastball violated the laws of 
physics the way it might move one or sometimes two directions on its way to the plate. 
I’m not sure why, but this initial hitting me with his curve ball seemed to be the 
initial incident that would cement our relationship. That we could both laugh 
without blame or ill feelings, showed good humor on both parts. Although my 
participation on the field with this team was very limited as I explained 
above, my “career” with Bobby was not. This team did go far in American 
Legion ball that summer. We swept through the district tournament held in 
Guymon, Oklahoma which qualified us for the state tournament, held in 
Hobart, Oklahoma. We made it to the championship game undefeated and played 
Oklahoma City (basically Capitol Hill High School) for the championship. 
Bobby had been suffering from a “high” temperature and sore throat for 
several days prior to the game. Coach Provost determined that Bobby, our 
“ace”, would be our best chance to win and started him. My recollection 
is that Bobby pitched the entire game, even in his condition, however, 
we lost a close game as our batters struggled with the OKC pitcher, one 
of the McDaniel brothers (Von or Lindy), eventual major leaguers. Each 
member of our runner-up team received a nice memento including a picture 
of the team. I, along, with Bobby made that picture. Kay, I am sure that 
you have that picture among Bobby’s mementos. And, in closing, the future 
would provide that I caught thousands more of Bobby’s pitches, and, never 
again, did one hit me in the foot!  My love to you and your family;

Rick Warren--Longmont, CO 80504