Paul McGriff a fixture with local sports

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Sports Talks

By Robert Howey



Seems no matter what high school you go to, there’s a guy like him.

He’s oftentimes a former athlete who, despite the fact he played his last game long ago, or as they say “back in the day,” he likes to be around when “ball season” rolls around.

If you’ve been around Lancaster High School athletics for any amount of time, you have a pretty good idea who I’m talking about. As my late mother, Bettie Howey, used to say, “I’ll give you three guesses, but the first two don’t count.”

This guy was into counting, most of the time when it came to dealing with the game clock, or an umpire’s clicker. He, in this case, is Paul McGriff.

The news of Paul’s death last week was a stunner. We knew he had struggled with some health issues, but news of his death was a tragic surprise.

Last Friday when Lancaster opened its home basketball season, it was unusual not to see him running the clock as he had for so many seasons.

He did the same during Bruins’ football games.

Lancaster High School athletic and school officials didn’t let the day pass without a remembrance.

A simple sign during the game said it all for his extraordinary deeds – “Thanks Paul.”

There was also a moment of silence.

Paul’s association with Lancaster High School has deep roots. Actually, it went back to the days of Barr Street High School, the former all-black high school which merged with LHS with integration back in the early 1970s.

Paul was a standout football player with the Golden Tigers and he was quite proud of it as he should be. You never forget where you come from and who helped you along the way.

That was so true of Paul and the people he chose to follow in the years after his athletic eligibility was up. He followed the late W.C. “Bill” Lewis, the former Barr Street coach and athletic director, and stayed with him when he was a part of the Lancaster High School staff, an assistant football coach and basketball coach.

A few seasons back, Paul, a team member, was a key player in an event to honor coach Lewis and the 1965-66 state champion Barr Street Golden Tigers basketball team.

It was quite a night as folks from that special era of Barr Street athletics were honored for their banner season and many accomplishments with the state champion Golden Tigers.

Paul worked with others to make the special night just that.

His love for athletics stayed with him throughout his life. During football and basketball seasons, you would find him running the clock or serving as a scorekeeper, two significant roles for the game. You need both to make the game click.

In spring and summer, he would be on the baseball diamond, working games at nearly all levels, youth baseball, high school baseball and even some college games.

More times than not, I usually saw him working the plate because he liked to be right in the middle of the action.

I always liked how he would sing out a strike call. It was his signature way.

A few seasons back, Paul was honored by the S.C. High School League with an annual district award for his dedication to the game. He earned it, and as you might expect he was quite proud of the achievement. I still recall him coming by the paper for a photo to go along with the article.

Seems like a moment frozen it time, a wide grinning Paul and him cradling his award.

Paul wasn’t all about awards. He enjoyed the recognition, but he enjoyed being part of the game. It was his way of giving back as he knew folks did for him on his way up.

It will be different at future LHS games. Paul will be tough to replace.

Even more, you will miss that big grin, deep laugh and attention to detail.

Seems like every high school has a guy like Paul McGriff. They perform their duties, whatever the call, with some compensation, but it’s more out of a love for the game and the players.

Most every school has a Paul McGriff. Those that do have to consider themselves quite fortunate. They’re one of a kind, the kind you always like to have around.