Mel Derrick lived a full life and left a lasting impression

col-tbuzz-2The first time I met Mel Derrick was a like a cross between a visit to grandpa’s and a police interrogation. He knew everything about me before I knew hardly anything about him as he quizzed me on every detail of my life.

It sort of made sense since I was the new guy at The Sun News, but I later learned that’s just Mel. He could strike up a conversation with a total stranger and pick your mental pocket without you realizing it. That’s part of what made him an award-winning sports columnist, first-class storyteller and colorful character who lived a full life. Mel died last week at the age of 83, and a lot of wild tales and memories died along with him.

Mel was at the end of his lengthy career when I was just starting mine when we first crossed paths in 1995. He was born the son of a preacher in Irmo and graduated from Wofford, where he worked in sports information after graduation and served in the US Army as an officer and writer for Stars & Stripes. He got his big break in sportswriting when he was hired by legendary sports columnist Furman Bisher at the then-Atlanta Journal, and Bisher took Derrick under his wing for an on-the-job training session that sparked his career and lasted him a lifetime.

Mel wrote for the Miami Herald, where he worked under another acclaimed tutor in Edwin Pope. During his stint in Florida, Derrick once went to Cuba on a quest to hunt down his hero, Ernest Hemingway, only to find Papa bellied up at a bar and too drunk to interview. He also played in an exhibition baseball game and got a single off Hall of Famer Satchel Paige. The next pitch was under his chin, an honor Mel treasured more than the hit. He knew Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali, Johnny Unitas, Dean Smith, Lou Holtz and Frank Howard, just to name a few.

Mel wrote for the Palm Beach Post, the Virginia Pilot, the Winston-Salem Journal and even the National Enquirer, which was still his favorite job when he moved to Surfside Beach for the final years of his storied career. I was fortunate enough to get to pick his brain over the years after he initially picked mine, and I learned more about the craft of writing from him than any other co-worker. “I don’t write about sports,” he once said. “I write about people.” So here’s a little tale about Mel that’s fairly insignificant but makes me laugh to this day.

Despite his long list of accolades, Mel was not above answering the late-night phone calls from coaches reporting their scores. He was great at it too, and could construct a decent story out of very little information. One Friday night a losing coach called with no stats other than a score and some guy named Jones rushing for five touchdowns against his defense. No first name, which was a big no-no in journalism. So Mel decides to nickname the kid “Bronco”, as in “Bronco Jones rushed for five touchdowns in a 42-0 win.” I still wonder whatever happened to ol’ Bronco, and if it became a name that followed him the rest of his life.

But that was Mel – crafty, quick-witted and friendly as can be. He left The Sun News after a prolonged illness and I was left with the task of trying to fill his shoes. I spent the rest of my time there answering questions from readers about how Mel was doing. I also tried to follow his example, and I would feel more than honored to have a fraction of the rich life and career he led. I can hear him quizzing God now – “How’d you do all that in six days/” and “What were you thinking when you made the giraffe?” And I can’t wait to read the column.

Comments

comments

Week 0 Preview and Picks: Chiefs-Tigers open season

Week 0 Preview and Picks: Chiefs-Tigers open seasonAll summer long Grand Strand residents have put up with [more]

Weatherwax looks to build on CF program's progress

Weatherwax looks to build on CF program's progressJackson Weatherwax grew up playing football at Pepper Geddings Recreation [more]

Countdown to Kickoff Poll: No. 2 Chiefs set for encore

Countdown to Kickoff Poll: No. 2 Chiefs set for encoreIn his first year as head football coach at North [more]

Countdown to Kickoff Poll: No. 3 Panthers growing up

Countdown to Kickoff Poll: No. 3 Panthers growing upEditor’s Note: GSSR, in conjunction with My Horry News, is [more]

Countdown to Kickoff Poll: No. 4 Tigers try rebuilding

Countdown to Kickoff Poll: No. 4 Tigers try rebuildingEditor’s Note: GSSR, in conjunction with My Horry News, is [more]

CF grad Beale follows in Keane's footsteps to CCU

CF grad Beale follows in Keane's footsteps to CCUMatt Beale always rooted for Tyler Keane. As a middle school [more]

Countdown to Kickoff Poll: No. 5 Braves look to reload

Countdown to Kickoff Poll: No. 5 Braves look to reloadEditor’s Note: GSSR, in conjunction with My Horry News, is [more]

Steele deals shutout win, Pelicans top Rocks in series

Steele deals shutout win, Pelicans top Rocks in seriesJustin Steele did not allow a hit until the sixth [more]

Countdown to Kickoff Poll: No. 6 St. James on the rise

Countdown to Kickoff Poll: No. 6 St. James on the riseEditor's Note: GSSR, in conjunction with My Horry News, is [more]

Lady Chants shut out Elon, open regular season Friday

Lady Chants shut out Elon, open regular season FridayMackenzie Gibbs scored in the second half to push Coastal [more]

Pelicans strand 11 on base in one-run defeat to Rocks

Pelicans strand 11 on base in one-run defeat to Rocks Despite a three-hit, two-RBI night from Jared Young , the [more]

Big night for small schools at wild CNB Kickoff Classic

Big night for small schools at wild CNB Kickoff ClassicFriday's CNB Kickoff Classic proved to be a big night [more]

Pelicans snap seven-game losing skid over Blue Rocks

Pelicans snap seven-game losing skid over Blue Rocks Behind three home runs in a five-run third inning, the [more]

Busch takes turn to Strand to open school, race fans

Busch takes turn to Strand to open school, race fansNASCAR driver Kyle Busch cut the ribbon for the Palmetto [more]

Ready or not, Strand teams play in CNB Kickoff Classic

Ready or not, Strand teams play in CNB Kickoff ClassicLast year's CNB Kickoff Classic was rained out, spoiling the [more]

Dogs, cornhole, fireworks mark Pelicans' promotions

Dogs, cornhole, fireworks mark Pelicans' promotionsThe Myrtle Beach Pelicans have only 10 home games remaining [more]

Lady Chants kick off 2018 with shutout over Citadel

Lady Chants kick off 2018 with shutout over CitadelThe Coastal Carolina women’s soccer team opened the 2018 season [more]

Pelicans losing skid grows to seven in defeat to Dash

Pelicans losing skid grows to seven in defeat to DashThe Myrtle Beach Pelicans were handed their season-worst seventh consecutive [more]

Green's departure leaves NMB seeking new coach

Green's departure leaves NMB seeking new coachNorth Myrtle Beach High is looking for its third boys [more]

Coastal favored to defend Sun Belt volleyball crown

Coastal favored to defend Sun Belt volleyball crownThe Coastal Carolina volleyball team – defending Sun Belt champions [more]

Pelicans swept by P-Nats; MB duo wins July awards

Pelicans swept by P-Nats; MB duo wins July awardsThe Myrtle Beach Pelicans were shut out by the Potomac [more]

CCU hires former Conway coach Jordan as analyst

CCU hires former Conway coach Jordan as analystCoastal Carolina head football coach Joe Moglia announced this week [more]

Masters set records, Miller qualifies for swim worlds

Masters set records, Miller qualifies for swim worldsThe Grand Strand area was well represented at the Pan [more]

Pelicans pose as Mermen, suffer loss to Wood Ducks

Pelicans pose as Mermen, suffer loss to Wood DucksLeody Taveras delivered three RBI singles for the Down East [more]

Seahawks QB Doty gives verbal nod to Gamecocks

Seahawks QB Doty gives verbal nod to GamecocksMyrtle Beach High quarterback Luke Doty is entering his junior [more]

Week 0 Preview and Picks: Chiefs-Tigers open season

Week 0 Preview and Picks: Chiefs-Tigers open seasonAll summer long Grand Strand residents have put up with [more]

Weatherwax looks to build on CF program's progress

Weatherwax looks to build on CF program's progressJackson Weatherwax grew up playing football at Pepper Geddings Recreation [more]

One response to “Mel Derrick lived a full life and left a lasting impression”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2018 Grand Strand Sports Report · RSS
Myrtle Beach Web Design
Kayaking in Myrtle Beach