It’s Official: Poole will definitely

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 9, 2005

be missed


The State of Mississippi, and in particular Mississippi sports, lost a great one last Tuesday. Barney Poole passed away at a Jackson hospital, ending a life that was as big as the man himself.

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Ironically, the last time I saw Barney Poole was at his doctor’s office in Jackson. I was in the waiting room while my wife was having her annual physical, and I heard a nurse come out and ask for George Poole.

I had already noticed the man and his wife in the waiting room and thought to myself how much he looked like Barney Poole. I remarked to the man’s wife that he must be kin to Barney and the rest of the Pooles, because he looked so much like them.

She laughed and told me that was Barney, that his first name is actually George. After introductions, she said how much Barney had enjoyed coming to the Joe Fortunato Golf Classic, though Barney did not consider himself a celebrity.

They had both always enjoyed coming to Natchez. When Barney came out of the doctor’s office, he realized I was someone he had met somewhere, and when I told him we had met at the Fortunato Classic, he said how sorry he was he had to give up golf and how much he really enjoyed the Fortunato function.

Barney Poole was a welcome and fun addition to the celebrity group, and those guys who were fortunate to play in a group with him always enjoyed his company. He was a good golfer, too.

I don’t remember the exact years Barney was on the coaching staff at Southern Miss. The early years of my officiating career in the SEC the league assigned officials for Southern’s games and for Tulane, Memphis State, Florida State, Miami and a few smaller schools.

That was before Southern started using officials from the Southern Independent Collegiate Officials Association and before moving to Conference USA.

P.W. Underwood was Southern’s coach during much of that time, and officiating those games was no picnic. P. W. thought he was getting only the youngest and least experienced of the SEC officials, and he wasn’t far from right. I was in that number.

I don’t recall if Barney Poole was on P.W.’s staff then, but he was a wonderful athlete, Mississippian and a wonderful man. He will be missed.

To a less sad subject &045; baseball umpiring. There is a school of thought that all an umpire needs is to be consistent. I do not entirely agree, though that is certainly a needed attribute.

I watched a high school baseball game where the home plate umpire had a strike zone that stretched a foot off the plate. He called it the same for both teams &045; which qualifies as consistent &045; but certainly wasn’t fair to the players.

The pitchers quickly adjusted, but several batters were hit by pitches after crowding the plate to reach those outside pitches.

I would always rather see an umpire who has a slightly expanded strike zone than one who shrinks the strike zone up so small that all you see are walks. There has to be a balance so no one has an advantage.

And that’s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. Reach him at