Former Starkville High School baseball coach Danny Carlisle, who died Wednesday morning at the age of 65, won 571 games in 29 years as the school’s baseball coach. He had the baseball field named in his honor in 2012. Photo by: Dispatch File Photo
December 6, 2018 10:11:31 AM
Danny Carlisle always said he was going to umpire when he was finished coaching baseball.
Umpires in the state of Mississippi knew they better know their rules when they worked at Starkville High School because Carlisle, the school's longtime coach, knew them and would welcome an opportunity to test you on them. Carlisle wasn't showing off his knowledge of the game. He merely wanted umpires to be at their best when they worked at his field, which in later years eventually was named in his honor.
It was an honor to work for Carlisle, who passed away Wednesday morning after a battle with cancer. He was 65.
Carlisle always had a smile when you worked in Starkville. He didn't chirp on every pitch in an effort to gain an advantage, but you knew he was there. When you win 571 games and three state championships in 29 years, it's safe to say you develop a presence that is felt on the field.
Carlisle's players felt that presence, too. Like umpires, they wanted to perform and show their coach they were worthy of the standard he set.
Roger Short, longtime assigning secretary for umpires in District 4 in the state of Mississippi, worked many games for Carlisle. Many of the games were with longtime official Mickey Allen, who is a member of Short's football crew. Short and Allen are two of the best umpires in the area. When you work with them, you're expected to raise your level. It was the same when you went to Starkville High, which is why Short loved going there.
"Danny was always fun to work for," Short said. "He always had something going on. I don't know how to explain that."
Like many officials who worked for Carlisle, Short has plenty off stories. One of the first he remembers is the time he ejected Carlisle. It is the only time he has ejected a coach in his years as an official for baseball, softball, and football.
But just as Carlisle would come out to argue a call he thought was incorrect, he would acknowledge your hard work, even if he had to use a little trickery. Short said he recalls a few occasions when Carlisle would come out to talk to him after a close play. He said Carlisle could be animated, but he always was respectful and made sure to praise an umpire if he thought they made the right call.
"He was passionate and emotional during the game, but when the game was over it was over," Short said. "He was a good guy. He loved the kids He loved the sport. He made Starkville High School baseball what it is."
Michael Bradley, the former football coach at New Hope High who is now football coach at South Pontotoc High, also has plenty of stories about working for Carlisle as an umpire in District 4. Bradley said Carlisle would never run to confront an umpire. He said he would walk down from third base to home plate or out to the field to have his say. When Carlisle arrived, Bradley said he might be animated or wave his hands to show the fans he was sticking up for his players, but he usually had something good to say to an umpire.
"One of the first times when I was umpiring in District 4, I was behind the plate and they were batting and I called a kid out," Bradley said. "Coach Carlisle comes walking up there. As he walked up there, you could tell, 'Oh God, here we go.' He had a look on his face and I had heard how hard he was and I was kind of bracing myself for it. He gets five to 10 feet from me and he says, 'Let me tell you something here.' He is waving his arms and I say, 'Wait a minute coach,' and he says, 'That was a great call.' He is waving his arms and he is turned away from the crowd to make all of these people happy. He said, 'I don't think they think was a great call, but I think it was a great call.' ... He walked back from home plate to the third base coaching box and I sat there and watched him walk back and I wondered what in the world just happened."
Bradley said you always could expect Carlisle's baseball teams to be very disciplined, to play extremely hard, to be well coached, to know the fundamentals, and to play with good sportsmanship. He said Carlisle instilled a lot of values in kids that people take with them long after the get through playing high school sports. Bradley said he is quite certain coach Carlisle influenced a lot of good men due to them having played baseball for him.
"Coach Carlisle genuinely cared for other people," said Bradley, who also became a business partner with Carlisle for three years. "He would give you the shirt off his back to give you a chance to do better or if it would help you. I never played for him. I had a chance to build a personal friendship with him. But kids know whether you care about them or not. I am quite certain the kids who played for him knew he genuinely cared about their well being and that he wanted them to become better baseball players but better people. When a person knows you care for them and want what is best for them they will do almost anything for you. I am quite certain those kids felt that and believed in him because he believed in them as people."
Unfortunately, Carlisle never officially joined the ranks of umpires in District 4. He remained a presence at Starkville High's baseball field following his retirement. Carlisle even traveled with Bradley to attend Ole Miss games for The Dispatch. Wherever he went, Carlisle was an ambassador for Starkville High and its baseball program. Like all great coaches, he demanded your best and expected nothing less. The state has lost a giant.
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Dispatch. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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