A Tech book worth reading

The more devout Georgia Tech fan knows that this season marks the 70th anniversary of Clint Castleberry’s single glorious season as a Yellow Jacket, when he finished third in Heisman Trophy balloting (the highest by a freshman to that point) and led the Jackets to a 9-2 season for coach William Alexander. Castleberry went off to fight in World War II, never to return. His No. 19 is the only football jersey that Tech has retired.

His story is told with expertise and detail by Tech grad Bill Chastain in “Jackrabbit,” available here. It has been a great history lesson not just about Castleberry but also about Alexander, Bobby Dodd and the city of Atlanta in that era.

Bill was good enough to answer a few questions for the blog about the book. For those interested in Tech’s football history and Castleberry specifically, this is a terrific read.

1. How does a Tech grad end up in writing?

Like a lot of college students, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I graduated with an Industrial Management degree in 1979. I always figured that I would graduate, make money and be happy. But that wasn’t enough. I had always been an avid reader, a sports fan, and I liked to write, which prompted me to begin writing articles for local publications as a free-lance writer. I was hooked. Eventually I parlayed the articles in the local publications into articles in national publications and that led to full-time work as a sports writer with The Tampa Tribune. After leaving the Tribune I began to write books and I continued to do so after I began covering the Tampa Bay Rays for MLB.com.

2. What were your reasons for working on this book?

Growing up in a Tech household, I had always heard about Clint Castleberry from my father. Once I became a sportswriter I wanted to know more about the only player in Tech history to have his number retired. Unfortunately, save for a handful of articles that had been written over the years, I couldn’t find out much about him. So I decided to write the book and find out as much as I could on my own about Castleberry. The book actually had been scheduled to come out four years ago, but the first publisher ended up having financial problems and there were some problems with contract the second publisher offered me. Fortunately, in 2011 I found a home for the book.

3. What were some of your most useful resources?

Many of those who played with Castleberry had died, but I was able to locate some who knew him in high school and in college. Their interviews were invaluable, as was the interview with Charley Trippi and many interviews with  Catleberry’s widow. The Georgia Tech Department of Living History was unbelievable, especially its director, Marilyn Somers. And, obviously, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was invaluable.  I enjoyed the research process, particularly the days when I uncovered a jewel or two that enhanced the story. Those were the good days.

4. What did you learn about Clint Castleberry that you did not expect?

I wasn’t exactly surprised to find out he was a gym rat.  This guy loved sports and was a talented athlete in football, basketball, and baseball. He loved to compete and he was a winner. Learning about his days at Boys High was not only fascinating, but it was also something I did not expect. I had no idea that the Atlanta-based high school was a national powerhouse that traveled all over the country to play games. And Castleberry dominated in those games.

5. What was the reaction when his plane disappeared?

Total shock. His father never get over his son’s death and many believed that he somehow had found a way to survive.  Some figured he would turn up as a survivor on a distant island. Castleberry was so revered that Bobby Dodd kept his framed picture in his office until he retired.

6. What might the course of his life had been had he returned from war?

I don’t know whether he could have returned to the playing field or not based on the knee injury he sustained. During my research, there was no way of finding out the extent of his injury or whether he truly got the injured knee repaired. Arthroscopic surgery was farther away at the time than walking on the moon. Based on some of what I learned about Castleberry, I believe he would have become a high school football coach and lived a happy life while doing so.

7. If you could ask him one question, what would it be and why?

I think I would ask him if he would have continued playing upon his return. There is nothing sadder in sports than wondering what might have been.

8. Is there a Tech player, past or present, that, either by virtue of his playing ability or character, that reminds you in some way of him?

I did not know Joe Hamilton, but I watched most of his games. In hindsight, some of what I observed about Hamilton reminded me of Castleberry. “Little Joe” was the smallest player on the field, but he tilted the field in favor of the Jackets every game he played.  That’s Castleberry to a T.

You can learn more about Bill on his website here. You can also purchase his novel, Peachtree Corvette Club, which is set at Tech.

Thanks for reading.

47 comments Add your comment

Jim

October 19th, 2012
7:10 am

Enter your comments here

Jim

October 19th, 2012
7:10 am

Great interview, Bill

Wal-Mart Re____s

October 19th, 2012
7:35 am

I wonder if the book is censored as much as this blog.

Jacket Detective

October 19th, 2012
7:43 am

Thanks again for more great reporting Ken.
Good questions.

reebok

October 19th, 2012
7:55 am

Interesting, I look forward to reading the book. Thanks for the information.

bugs

October 19th, 2012
7:56 am

I grew up in Atlanta in the 50’s and 60’s and heard about the great Clint
Castleberry.I read a book about Charlie Choo Choo Justice,the great running
back from North Carolina and he talked about Castleberry.Charlie’s Ashville
High school team was condidered the best in the country and they played
Boys High in an end of season game.Clint led Boys Hig to a 40 point victory
and Justice was in awe of Castleberry and said they couldn’t catch him.

btgt69

October 19th, 2012
7:59 am

Thanks Ken,,,I will buy a copy.. Is it at B and N GT bookstore? I reread “Clean Old Fashioned Hate” every year at beginning of Spring practice. Will anyone ever update that book? THWg.

Jacket Detective

October 19th, 2012
8:02 am

The blog gets sensored because some are more interested in insulting each other than contributing.
That comment is not necessarily aimed at you, Walmart.
I would like the Tech people to stay on our blog and the Georgia peeple to stay on their’s.
But neither group will.
Probably what Ken likes to do the least is trying to figure out who needs a reprimand.
Yesterday there was a comment that should have gotten someone booted for 3 months or a year.
But if Ken did so, the person would claim Ken was being a dictator.
There are people with children who your name might offend.
Or grown people, not the smartest, but who conrtibute in ways the brilliant would never think of.
I am not asking you to become a politically correct Democrat but Ken has a point.
Jacket Detective was about my 4th name.
Maybe put (ex-Walmart) next to a new name.
Just a thought.

GTJohn

October 19th, 2012
8:06 am

Thanks for a great article. Just downloaded the book to my Nook

JacketsWIN

October 19th, 2012
8:16 am

juvenal

October 19th, 2012
9:11 am

imagine, an athelete smart enough to be an aviation officer…….rare in bcs these days, but still what we aim for.they put in a bunny degree for jocks and they will have seen my last penny and last second of interest, would rather go the U of Chicago route…….Lee, grilling, if there’s anything in particular you want & it will make you feel better, bring it, but appetite all that’s needed…….

George P Burdell NE

October 19th, 2012
9:18 am

Great article.
Glad to read something positive about GT football.

JM

October 19th, 2012
9:21 am

Great part of GT history. Clint Castleberry has been missed.

Tech dropout

October 19th, 2012
9:27 am

My mom took a job at Walmart after being laid off. I guess she is one of those Walmart Re____s.

TC

October 19th, 2012
10:22 am

JACKRABBIT is an awesome read. And it’s availabe on Amazon, B&N, etc.

Ken Sugiura

October 19th, 2012
10:58 am

glad you all enjoyed it.

btgt69 – i just called the tech barnes and noble. they have four copies and it was suggested you put one on hold before tomorrow. (404) 894-2515 or you can get it from the publisher website. the link is in the second paragraph of the post.

Old Gold

October 19th, 2012
11:10 am

A member of our family Bob Sheldon, played on that squad and knew Castleberry well. Bob was quoted a number of times in the book, and I had a terrific lunch with him a few months back to dig a little deeper into some of those stories, especially the win over Notre Dame at South Bend. “Uncle Bobby” joined the Marines after his Tech playing days and served in the South Pacific, earning the Purple Heart for a wound suffered on Iwo Jima. Many sports heroes during that time became heroes on a bigger stage.

Supersize that order, mutt

October 19th, 2012
11:52 am

@ Ken…….GREAT article. Thanks for delving into Tech history. That’s just one of the reasons we all like you so much. Keep up the good work.

Paddy

October 19th, 2012
11:57 am

Very refreshing! This is what a Blog and its followers should have. A good exchange of comments and experiences. Well done all of you above. Wal Mart —- didn’t do to well, but it is a start.
Go Dawgs!

Barry's Uncle

October 19th, 2012
12:12 pm

@Supersize….Ken does a good job. Better than our friend Dawg Roberson…Lol!

blazer

October 19th, 2012
12:13 pm

Plan to get it! Another great book is “Upon other fields on other days”.

Ex-college players that died in all the wars! Castleberry is in it!

William Casey

October 19th, 2012
12:17 pm

Great reporting, Ken. I’ll read this book.

UGA = Yawn

October 19th, 2012
12:23 pm

Old Gold. Uncle Bobby remembers!? That is outstanding for someone who has to be in his 90’s. Good genetics.

UGA = Yawn

October 19th, 2012
12:24 pm

PS: THWG . . . . and TG for SS !!!

fuzzybee78

October 19th, 2012
12:32 pm

@Supersize–
Thanks for you kind invitation yesterday. If I shake this head cold I will try and stop by. If not, maybe another home game.

This will give some perspective to how good CC was–
Trivia—- who was the next Soph to finish 3rd in the Heisman voting?
40 years later—-Answer– even Tech men respect — Hershel Walker

www

October 19th, 2012
12:51 pm

“I am not asking you to become a politically correct Democrat”

some of you guys are complete morons. makes me wonder how you graduated from tech with such a lack of critical thinking.

77ME

October 19th, 2012
1:06 pm

there’s a great YouTube feature on Clint Castleberry- just search for his name- has a clip of him running with an interception, weaving back and forth, and past, the other team

Supersize that order, mutt

October 19th, 2012
1:16 pm

@ fuzzybee78…..hope you feel better and can make it tomorrow. Maybe the fresh air will help

Skeptic

October 19th, 2012
1:40 pm

I guess we’ll have to type ‘Southern yeoman” from now on instead of re____s. Everything around here went to hell after they discontinued Drownproofing.

Wal-Mart Re____s

October 19th, 2012
2:24 pm

Oh well, so much for laughing at CPJ making fun of UGA ‘dwags’ doing stupid things… and then not agreeing with calls for him to apologize.

I’m done with this blog permanently. Godspeed to all and To H___ With Georgia!

TECHIE

October 19th, 2012
2:45 pm

Isn’t CC’s jersey, which was displayed in the Edge Bldg. a few yrs ago, gold in color or was it navy.? and his playing pants were what.?

dwagdawg

October 19th, 2012
2:53 pm

c’mon Walmart…just gotta be a little creative, that’s all……how about Sam Walton’s “special population” for a handle…..or Short Bus to Walmart……lots of different ways to say the same thing, just ask Barry’s Uncle about that.

Tech77

October 19th, 2012
2:56 pm

A inspirational read about a young man who put selfless service above personal gain – a rare trait these days. We need more stories like this!

Dang, I signed on the read this...

October 19th, 2012
3:02 pm

…thinking it was going to be a book on calculus since all the GT faithful gripe about is that their athletes have to take 2 semesters of it…

Barry's Uncle

October 19th, 2012
4:39 pm

@Tech77….Are you new to the blog?

Lexjacket

October 19th, 2012
4:59 pm

Thanks Ken, great article, you sold me. Right after I read your article, I downloaded it to my kindle. Ken, I think you’re a great sports writer. Thanks!

1 4 GT

October 19th, 2012
7:55 pm

Always enjoy reading books about Tech. I have several & will see if I can get this one. I suggest trying Amazon.com. I have bought some hard to find books there.

1 4 GT

October 19th, 2012
7:57 pm

As for updates to “Clean Old Fashioned Hate” by Bill Cromartie (if memory serves), I believe my copy is Volume 7. Try Amazon for it too.

Barry's Uncle

October 19th, 2012
8:27 pm

@1 4 GT….send me your email and can direct you to a site that has a lot of Tech history, etc. SSiBU@yahoo.com.

Hughfree

October 20th, 2012
5:24 am

Thank you for the interview and thank you Bill for writing the book! My Dad played on Clint’s Boys High teams and I grew up with many great stories of his football exploits. One of my favorite Castleberry stories was when Clint came back to Boy’s High for the annual alumni game where the alumni played the current team. Dad was trying to tackle Clint along the sidelines….he had the perfect angle…but Clint leaped over him leaving Dad grasping for air. The picture made the Atlanta Constitution sports section the next day. Back then Clint and Boy’s High football where the talk of the town.

dry dirt road

October 20th, 2012
6:45 am

I can offer another Tech story about a grad who went to war and became a hero. Don’t know if he was an athlete. His last name was McGwire. He went off the Europe in WW II and became a pilot. He shot down a bunch of nazi planes. He was in his 20’s. He did not come back, and was shot down. The Air Force named McGwire AFB in NJ after him. My dad, a Tech grad like me, used to go there on reserve weekends a long time ago. He said he never knew McGwire went to Tech until fairly recently.

dry dirt road

October 20th, 2012
6:49 am

JD, I have never been on a Georgia blog, and have read maybe one or two paragraphs of a Georgia article maybe twice, not being able to stand finishing them.

Buzzer

October 20th, 2012
8:19 am

The book is a bit cheaper at Amazon. Here’s the link

Old Gold

October 20th, 2012
9:15 am

UGA=YAWN, yes, he turned 90 last year and he’s in great shape, mentally and physically. You’d think he was 25 years younger. His mind is likely sharper than mine OR yours. Read the book – he’s cited/quoted in a number of places.

wreckmaniac

October 20th, 2012
10:12 am

Thanks, Bugs, for the reference to Choo Choo Justice. I am an Atlanta native but lived in Asheville in the 70’s and 80’s when I learned about the famous Choo Choo.

GTGirl

October 20th, 2012
7:49 pm

Thanks Ken! i remember hearing abou the book when Bill first wrote it. i need to get it too.

dry dirt road

October 21st, 2012
10:59 am

Yesterday I wrote in a comment about this article that the WW II Tech grad’s name was McGwire. Later on in the day I recalled that his name was spelled McGuire, from McGuire AFB, NJ, but pronounced as McGwire. It’s not pronounced as any French pronunciation such as McGuirre might sound in Canada or something. I also wrote nazis, and later thought that the normal spelling is Nazis with a capitalized N.