By LARRY VAUGHT
Tuesday will mark the 25th anniversary of that historic Kentucky-Duke game in the 1992 NCAA East Region final in Philadelphia that cost UK a chance to play in the Final Four.
While that game is still a painful memory for UK fans, there was another point of historical significance for Kentucky fans in that game. It was the final broadcast for legendary Cawood Ledford, who called UK basketball and football games for 39 years.
Ledford was so beloved that after Duke’s overtime win, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski walked over to Ledford and joined him on the broadcast to congratulate him on his career.
John Pelphrey was a senior on that Kentucky team. He had 16 points and five assists in the 104-103 loss in Ledford’s farewell game.
“When I was a kid growing up (in Paintsville), 25 years seemed like a long time. Even when I left Kentucky as a player, I wasn’t 25 so that was not something on the radar to even be measured,” said Pelphrey, now an assistant coach at Alabama. “Now that I am a little bit older than 25 — not much — I think 25 years does not seem like that much but it is.
“To think of 39 years of Cawood calling games and the impact he had on whole state and so many generations of people — young, old, or both. I have vivid memories of my father in 1978 (when UK won a national title) turning the TV down and turning Cawood up (on the radio).
“For me personally to play there at that moment with him around to ride the bus with us, to ride planes, to go to shootarounds, to just be with him. He was such a big deal to my family. Growing up, it was all radio for them. When I played, my mom taped every game on the radio just to listen to Cawood.”
Every game? Does she still have those tapes?
“Absolutely. I just don’t know if anybody has a cassette tape to play them,” Pelphrey laughed and said.
Pelphrey cannot exactly remember the first time he met Ledford. But he has several vivid memories he’ll never forget.
“Him talking about us being his graduating class was so special. He had announced he was not coming back and that was overwhelming when he called us that,” Pelphrey said.
“There was a time, I believe we were in Oxford (Miss.) riding the bus to a game and I was sitting behind Cawood Ledford. If we had cell phones back then like we do now, I would have Snapchatted, tweeted and been all over social media with the fact I am sitting behind this guy. That’s what it meant to me.
“It gives me chills just to talk about it as the memories flood back. The Kentucky program and how this state feels about it, everybody has a hand in making it great. The players, the coaches. But Cawood was legendary. There will never be another Cawood.”
Pelphrey thought having an “actual relationship” with Ledford was as big for him as playing at Kentucky, playing for Rick Pitino and playing with some of the teammates he had at UK.
“Cawood was just as big of personality as any of the great players and coaches at Kentucky. What was unique about him is that today everything is about branding and social media and kind of look at me,” Pelphrey said. “But he had this incredible persona and he didn’t need to do any of that.
“He just did his job day in, day out for 39 years and that was it. He was just a pro. That’s a tribute to him. He didn’t need to create any spin or buzz or any of that stuff that goes on today in our world. He just wanted to do his job.”
Yet there was another side to Ledford that players like Pelphrey, and even media members, often got to see.
“You could definitely joke around with Cawood. He was quick witted and had a unique rapport with us all,” Pelphrey said. “There was obviously a tremendous respect level but you could talk and interact with him. Even today just thinking about him gives me chills. He had such an impact on my life and my family. He was one of a kind.”
Indeed he was and that’s why even now it’s hard for me to imagine that Tuesday will be the 25th anniversary of the last time we got to hear that golden voice on radio telling us about his beloved Wildcats.
Can't find something?