The Tack Clark Legacy Part 3: The Roast | Mineral County WV News & Tribune

KEYSER, W.Va. (WV News) – After writing about “Tack” Clark’s legacy of victories, specifically after recounting in two separate articles the five combined state championships his team won in football and basketball, our thoughts turned to anecdotes told in a Coach Clark’s roast at the Keyser Moose Club on February 12, 1994.

In the first part of a three-part series on the barbecue, the words of fellow coaches Jim Broome and Jim Thompson were recounted, along with sportswriter J. Suter Kegg. In this, the second of three parts, we will detail the words of Connie Whitmore-Kesecker, Mo Kruk, Tom Harman and Jack Landes.

In the next article, part three of three, among other speakers, the words of Tack Clark himself, along with his daughter Debbie Wallizer, will be detailed.

What follows are excerpts from Whitmore-Kesecker, Kruk, Harman, and Landes:

Connie Whitmore-Kesecker had something of a two-pronged relationship. She, as a cheerleader, met Tack at that function, and graduated with her son Freddy, so he was also the father of a classmate. In addition, however, Connie, after graduating from college, became a physical education teacher at Keyser High School, and thus also taught at KHS along with Coach Clark. Here are parts of what she shared:

“I have a slightly different view of things here. Everybody is talking about all these different fears of Tack. Hey, let me tell you that he is a pussycat. Nola told me years ago, and of course Debbie. I graduated with Freddy. Freddy never told me that, but women do.

But I know the boys were afraid of Tack, because when we went out when we were in high school, they would see Tack and duck, or cover their heads, or walk around the building.

One night, we had an evening like the one we’re having here now. On those days, Gary can tell you, we had a lot of snow. We had all gone to Willow Avenue, and there was a big hill down there, and we all went sledding, we did a lot of that. We were on our way home, and somebody yelled, ‘there’s Coach Clark,’ well, Gary ducked. Gary was driving the car. Fortunately, someone knew how to take the wheel or we may not be here today.

They were all afraid of Coach Clark, and we could never figure out why, the rest of the girls.

We’ve talked about football, we’ve talked about baseball and basketball, but Tack also had cheerleaders. For several years, Tack also coached cheerleaders. Tonight, we have a lot of former Keyser High cheerleaders here. In fact, we have two who were here the first year Tack coached.

I’m going to ask all these former cheerleaders to come here for a minute. We have them from the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. I told you a couple of them, but I’m not going to tell you what decade the rest of us are from. I wish all these former cheerleaders would come here with me for a minute.

(The cheerleaders then led a cheer that read): Two, four, six cents on the dollar, everyone who loves Tack Clark, stand up and shout!”

Mo Kruk, certainly a character in his own right, was also, of course, the father of Major League Baseball player John Kruk. Mo and his wife Lena became traveling companions of Tack Clark and his wife Nola. The four of them spent a lot of time together traveling to see John play around the country and became very close. Here are parts of what he shared:

“Joe Stan and Tack were announcing a game at Ridgeley, against Allegany, and it had to be home runs because they were there every night. The match ended up being decided by one point. It was a very close and close match. When the game is over, the officer goes and checks the book.

Joe Stan is standing there and people are just giving it to Joe one way and the other. He looks around and wants to know where Tack is. He can’t find it. After making his way through the crowd, Joe says “where the hell have you been?” Tack said, ‘Joe, you’re young in this game. I’m just trying to get you a good experience, because you’re going to need it.

I wasn’t here during Tack’s glory years, but guys, let me tell you something. Through our travels and all that, I guarantee you I’ve heard every one of his names. If you want to hear some good stories, give me a call sometime and come up. I can say what I want to say at home.

We started our trips to see John play. We’re sitting at a high school baseball game and Lena tells Tack, “If Johnny’s going to Vegas next year, we’re going.” Nola says, “Oh well, he’s counting on us, we’d like to go too.” We didn’t really know Tack that well, we knew Tack through the kids playing.

We wondered how things were going to go. I would say that about two hours later, we hadn’t even gotten to Wheeling yet, it was as if we had traveled our whole lives together. We’ve been, you name it, we’ve been there. We’ve been to Houston, Chicago, St. Louis, we’ve been to all of them.

We were in Cincinnati one night watching a game, and around midnight, Johnny called and said he had been moved to Philly. He said we were going to catch a plane from here at about 8:00 in the morning, and we’re in the starting lineup. Lena called Nola and told her that Johnny was traded. I told Johnny to leave us four tickets, that we’d be in Philly tomorrow night.

Well, it was the night that Mike Schmidt retired. He threw out the first ball, there were about 60, about a thousand people there, and we didn’t know where we were going or what. Johnny got us a room. All the motels were gone, but Johnny got us a room. In all of our travels, it was the first time we stayed in the same room.

Tack, I want to tell you something. From all our travels, you and Nola, as Coach O’Connor said, behind every good man is a good woman. I guess we were lucky, because we got two of the best.”

Tom Harman was a mini-roaster at the event. Harman, of course, graduated from KHS and played football with Tack. After a successful college career, Tom would go on to pursue his own football coaching career, first at Bruce and then at Valley, where the Black Knights team won the Maryland state football championship in 1974. Here are parts of what he shared:

“Coach, I’m a little confused. Is it the same Suter Kegg you were telling us about? You don’t tell him the same things you told us.

You knew it was a Suter from behind, it had to be. Because, at Keyser High School, when you got to your senior year, he would get the whole team together to give out the equipment. In his senior year, he knew he was going to get the best team. It’s 1957, we’re standing there, and the coach calls sophomore Gary Keating.

Then call to the backs, then to the ends. I guess she felt sorry for us and finally called us. It was time to give the shoes first. I thought, finally, we wait four years, we’re finally going to get a new pair of shoes. She looked up and said, ‘You two are linemen, there’s no difference, get yourself a pair of those refurbished shoes.’ I have never forgotten that coach.

One time Melvin Davis and I were racing and we had all the starters in two cars. Melvin hit a curve and some gravel, and his car slid into the ditch. We’re playing the Allegany on Friday night. The car is stopped at an angle and no one can get out. We jump out of my car, there are players running from the pool.

Melvin is turning white. Gary Keating has gotten wet. All we can think is Coach Clark can’t find out, he’d kill us. We picked up the car, and Gary this is the truth, and put it on the road. Freddy was there, Mrs. Clark, excuse us. We grabbed Freddy, put him against the wall and told him, ‘If you tell your dad, we’re going to kill you.’ I know it worked, because he didn’t know it.”

Jack Landes was a standout linebacker on the 1953 Keyser High School football team, playing under Coach Clark. Landes graduated from Keyser High in 1954 and served in the United States Marine Corps from 1954 to 1957, eventually retiring from MeadWestvaco with more than 30 years of service. Landes spoke as a former player. Here are parts of what he shared:

“I would like to say that everyone tonight is saying very good things about you, coach. I’m not sure they had the same coach that I had.

It’s a miracle he didn’t kick me off the team. I think it was my penultimate or last year, I don’t remember which, it was too many years ago. But my dad wanted me to go hunting with him, he wanted me to go squirrel hunting. To do that, I had to miss two or three days of soccer practice. I remember it was the week before the Allegany football game. Every soccer player knows that’s a no-no, right?

So, I missed two or three days of practice and went hunting with my dad. When I came back, needless to say, I came back with a very angry coach. If you ever saw him on the sidelines, that clipboard, it must have been stainless steel, and he was always throwing it on the floor. That was when he got angry. When he got really mad, he would throw the clipboard on the floor and then try to kick it. He had seen him do this for four years.

When I came back and told him why I missed practice, he almost chewed it up. And I was the front line linebacker, and I remember we went down and played Allegany, and I sat on the bench. He kept me there, and the whole time I was there, they kept running around my end. I kept wondering how long I was going to put up with this, because I wasn’t that bad of a linebacker.

Well, a quarter is all he could take. Then he put me in. As I remember coach, I didn’t make much difference, we lost. And I also think that was the game where I got knocked out.

That was the main thing I wanted to say. You had a way of chewing a person up on one side and down on the other. Then, in five minutes, you put your hand on his shoulder and he forgot. You’re the only man I’ve ever met who could do that.

Two weeks out of high school, when I entered the Marine Corps, I had a drill sergeant, and I guarantee you I couldn’t do that. If I were to compare that drill sergeant to you, you’re a prince guy.

Stay tuned for the third part of three in the series.