By David Miller at Ponca City News
If nominations were taken for who is the most avid sports fan in Ponca City, there undoubtedly would be a large number of qualified candidates.
However, those who know Kenneth "Doc" Wright would be quick to suggest that his name should be among those considered.
Doc, who will turn 96 in October of 2011, doesn't get out to games any more and is pretty much confined to his room at Via Christi Village, but he keeps up daily with the Oklahoma Sooners via the official Sooner website and watches as many sporting events as his television set will enable him to see.
Doc is a walking encyclopedia of Oklahoma Sooner sports. He has that distinction even though he is a graduate of Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
"I went to OSU, but I've been an OU fan since Bud Wilkinson," he said. He said he met the late Oklahoma coach once in the company of Tom Catlin, who was from Ponca City and was an All-American on the Sooner football team at the time.
Those who have been involved in Ponca City sports over the years will remember Doc on a number of levels.
There are some who will remember that he was involved in the early days of church-league softball.
"I helped organize the church league in 1936," he remembers. "Cities Service had a softball field at the northwest corner of Prospect and 14th behind the Musical Pig restaurant. They took the lights down from that field and the church league bought them.
"We put those lights on a field at the end of Sunset Street, south of Otoe. Then we moved to a field at Hampton Pasture just off of Highland near Sunset and fenced it all in. Then came the war and we sold all our equipment and put the lights in storage," he said.
After the war, the league got going again, with the lights going up in the northwest corner of Dan Moran Park.
He was involved in softball until 1950, he said.
Others will remember him for his involvement with youth baseball programs.
"In 1954 I took a team of (baseball) all stars, 11 and under, to Shawnee and won a state championship," he said.
The next year he took another all-star team, this one 12 and under, to Lawton and won the state championship. In 1955, he took a 10 and under team to Stillwater and won the state title there. In later years, he was involved with a 12-and-under and a 13-and-under team that finished as runners up in the state tournament.
"Once I took a group of 14-and-under kids to Enid and we got knocked out in the first round. But the highlight of that year was the train trip we took to Kansas City to see the Yankees play. The boys got more of a kick out of running up and down the train watching folks gamble than they did from seeing the Yankees," he said.
Others may remember him for his work as an umpire.
"I started umpiring for the American Legion and high school baseball programs in 1960," he said. "I had a good setup. I was a good friend of Earl Sullins (the late Po-Hi athletic director) and he wanted me for every game he could get. I also umpired at Chilocco and Mr. Sullins would make sure than Ponca City and Chilocco didn't have home games scheduled the same day so that I could umpire them all."
All in all, between senior league, American Legion, high school and youth league competition, Doc umpired for about 20 years before he quit.
"I worked for Cities Service and they would let me take off to umpire. I always helped to have Mr. Sullins call Cities Service and say, 'We really appreciate you letting us have Doc to umpire,'" Doc said. "But then I went to work for Conoco and they said that I would have to umpire on my own time. So I quit umpiring in 1970." His involvement in baseball earned him the distinction of being named "Mr. Baseball" in 1964 by Ponca City Kiwanis, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Rotary and Lions groups.
Others will know him as simply one who has always been interested in Po-Hi sports and athletics.
"I lived (on Seventh Street) across from the high school for more than 50 years. I have seen a lot of kids come and go," he said.
He continues to maintain an interest in the high school baseball team, and inquires of those who he thinks might know concerning the status of certain ball players of whom he had taken a special interest.
And there are others that know Doc for reasons other than his involvement with sports. He served as an inspector for the Election Board from 1960 to 2002, working in that role most recently in the precinct that votes at Central Baptist Church.
"And I taught a dog obedience course for 32 years," he said.
He has been involved in his church, Albright United Methodist Church, since it was organized in the 1920s as First Evangelical Church.
He has a son, Philip, who played both football and baseball at Po-Hi, graduating in 1964. He went on to play football and baseball at Oklahoma Military Academy and Knox College. Doc has a daughter, Judy. His spouse of many years, Zenna, passed away in December 2004.
"I have seen or heard parts of every (Major League baseball) All-Star game that has been played," he said. "I was listening to the radio when Babe Ruth hit the home run to win the first All-Star game (1933) and I was listening when Carl Hubbell struck out all those great hitters in a row (Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in 1934). I've seen and heard a lot of baseball."