/Jack Cristil’s biography a gift that keeps on giving

Jack Cristil’s biography a gift that keeps on giving

Cristil stood just below a “No Smoking” sign at the store during the book tour that followed Salter’s excellent biography. Nobody who knew Cristil will be surprised to learn that Jack was smoking. Cristil was approached by an elderly woman dressed in maroon-and-white who told him that she was a huge fan. Jack thanked her and smiled. She said, “But you know Mr. Cristil that you shouldn’t smoke cigarettes here.” Cristil replied, “Yes Ma’am. I know it’s a bad habit and I’ve been doing this for a long time.” “It’s something I haven’t been capable of quitting,” Cristil replied. Cristil politely replied, “You know there’s a lot of kids here and this sets an example for them.” “Like you say, it’s a horrible habit. It’s something I tried to stop doing but it didn’t work. “It’s probably too late to do it now,” the woman insisted. The woman replied, “You should really quit.” “If you have any other reason, quit. It’s for your health. Imagine how long you could live. Cristil took a deep breath and exhaled like an animal chimney. He said, “You know, lady. My mother lived to 95 years.” “I have one older sister than me and another sister in her 90s. I am 86. Do you want to find out what we have in common?” She nodded, likely thinking she would soon hear that they all smoked cigarettes. Jack stated, “What we all had was that at a very young stage, all of us learned to manage our own damned business.” Each Wednesday at noon, the MDAH sponsors a “History is Lunch” program. The topics are varied, but the cost is never high. It’s available for free every Wednesday, and it is the best deal in Mississippi. Many of the listeners wore State colors and seemed to be glued to every word. Salter shared my favorite Cristil story. It involved a Mississippi State football match against Alabama in the early 1960s. Bob Hope was performing a show that evening and was present at the game. This was typical of Alabama-Mississippi State football games in that era. Alabama led 35-0 at halftime. Alabama’s sports publicists knocked at the visitors’ broadcast booth door and said: “Jack Bob Hope is available if necessary.” Cristil also mentioned the story about Ole Miss’s defeat of the Bulldogs at Oxford in Sylvester Croom’s final game as head coach. Cristil was ready to announce the Sonic Drive of the Game. This is a weekly promotion. Cristil said, “And the Sonic Drive of the Game is my drive home from Tupelo.” It was a classic. Cristil was more than a wittily-stylized ranter. On the occasion of Cristil’s retirement, I wrote: “It doesn’t matter what university you attended, Cristil was there. He put you there and made sure that you listened. He explained the weather and the setting. He told you which team was going in which direction. He would give you the colors of the uniforms and the context of the game. Salter’s biography, and the subsequent revision since Cristil’s passing in 2014, were a huge success story. They are a fitting tribute to the most loved sports broadcaster in Mississippi history, Dizzy Dean included. Salter stated, “The book tour was like a last hurrah to Jack.” “I have never seen so much love for anyone.” The first printing sold nearly 12,000 copies. You can still find the revised edition in some bookstores. It is important to know that Cristil initially refused to write the book. However, he learned that the proceeds would be used to fund a scholarship named after him for Mississippi State Communications students. The scholarship is specifically for those who are interested in broadcasting sports. The endowed Jacob Sanford “Jack Cristil Scholarship” has raised approximately $200,000 so far. Although Jack Cristil will never again be published, the scholarship can help anyone who wants to follow that path. You would know Jack Cristil would be thrilled to hear that.