Some people collect sports memorabilia. Tommy Moody collects sports memories.
You’d think, then, that the 11-year color man for South Carolina baseball broadcasts and early morning co-host with Bob Shields and Benjy Norton on WNKT-FM (107.5 The Game) wouldn’t have the sort of storage problems that other collectors have. After all, memories only take up space in the frontal lobes, right?
In fact, Moody has an amazing gift of recall, spouting names, dates and scores from years gone by — most involving South Carolina football, basketball and baseball, though he also can, he says, name every Heisman Trophy winner since 1935 — which he exploits for the trivia questions he offers on air. But even he can’t remember everything.
So his office at the radio station is jammed with old preseason sports magazines and game programs dating to the early 1950s, a time when Moody, 59, was barely able to read them. His Shandon home is similarly overflowing with reference materials.
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“It started in the 1970s,” he said. “I just kept stuff; I guess I’m a pack rat. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away.”
To prove it, he pulled out a fading copy of Sports Illustrated’s college basketball preview issue from 1969, with LSU star Pistol Pete Maravich on the cover. For USC novices, that was the season coach Frank McGuire’s Gamecocks were ranked No. 1 in preseason.
“And do you know who was picked No. 2?” Moody asked.
UCLA, which went on to win that year? He grinned and shook his head. “New Mexico State,” he said.
Who better, then, to be master of ceremonies for Wednesday’s “Gamecock Legends” reception, 6:30 p.m. at Seawell’s on Rosewood Drive? Moody and Mike Safran, whose passion for all things USC is manifested in an unmatched collection of memorabilia at his Whaley Street antiques store, will introduce a lineup of former Gamecock greats expected to attend.
Moody comes by his passion for South Carolina sports honestly. A former all-area baseball player at A.C. Flora High, he walked on for the Gamecocks as a 5-foot-9, 152-pound second baseman in 1970, when former New York Yankees great Bobby Richardson became coach.
But Moody was headed for a lifetime of sports obsession long before then. His father, Tom Sr., who died in 2002, began taking him to USC football and basketball games in the 1950s. The father-son duo also attended baseball games at Rex Enright Center Diamond, sitting on an ivy-covered hill where the Sarge Frye Field bleachers would be built years later.
“One event really hooked me,” Moody said. “In 1963, the Carolina-Clemson game was pushed back to Thanksgiving because of President Kennedy’s assassination. We were sitting at the dinner table when my Little League coach, George Bellinger, called and asked, ‘Would y’all like to go to the game?’
“I had never been to the Clemson game. We dropped our knives and forks and off we went.” Clemson won 24-20, but — as Moody vividly recalls — USC quarterback Dan Reeves threw for three touchdowns.
Moody’s baseball career, cut short by a broken leg in 1971, also had a feels-like-fate start. He was offered a half-scholarship by Clemson’s Bill Wilhelm — USC coach Jack Powers’ staff wasn’t interested — but decided to walk on with the Gamecocks. When Richardson replaced Powers, “I benefitted from a slate wiped clean,” he said. Richardson later would tell reporters Moody “hustled his way into our lineup.”
Another longtime constant in his life — a weekly football newsletter/predictions column he began in 1979 — also has roots in his childhood. Tom Sr., a 40-year S.C. Highway Department engineer, would bring home pick-’em contests from work and let young Tommy fill them out. “I won about two or three times a season, and to win $25-$30 then was a big deal,” he said. “I studied college football.”
His first newsletter had a mailing list of eight. It grew to about 350 before this season, when he began posting it on 107.5’s website instead.
Moody worked for General Mills for 28 years, but his broadcasting career began in 1990 when he appeared weekly on WSCQ-FM with Gene McKay, Bill Benton and Doug Enloe to read his picks. After he began working as a salesman for Citadel Broadcasting, it was an easy transition into his spot on “The Early Show” on the company’s all-sports WNKT.
All of which means that, when Moody greets former USC greats on Wednesday, he’ll be in his element — and his heaven. “All those names and faces it’ll just be special to reflect on those times,” he said. “I expect it’ll be delightful.”
Chances are, he’ll remember every one.