A fitting tribute

By Wes Holtsclaw

   From an athlete to a coach's retrospective, Claude Holsclaw has had a career unrivaled by many.
   From playing in the 1945 Rose Bowl as a freshman to minor league baseball with the Elizabethton Cubs, and becoming the first athlete in Milligan College history to letter in four sports during a year to earning 302 wins as a baseball coach at Unaka and Elizabethton, Holsclaw has done a lot for the sports in this county.
   He received a great honor Tuesday night as Unaka High School named its new baseball field in his honor with a ceremony between the girls and boys games at Snavely Gymnasium.
   He was received with an overwhelming standing ovation.
   "It's a first," said Holsclaw of a field being named in his honor. "But any coach that's coached anything can tell you; you can never be honored any more than by having a field named after you.
   "It goes back to all of the boys that played for me and all of the people that was involved around the program. We started out here with two pitchers and we always had good ones every year."
   Holsclaw played high school sports at Elizabethton High School, where he was a tailback for the football squad. He participated in all four major sports and did great things.
   His 1944 basketball squad finished second in the state, although they defeated the Knox High Trojans, who won the title.
   He eventually lettered in all four sports at Milligan as well after his stint on the football squad at UT with his best friend John Manning.
   He played semi-pro baseball in Virginia and managed teams in Coeburn, Lebanon and St. Paul.
   Holsclaw returned home and coached football with Lynn Goddard at Unaka along with his baseball teams from 1950 until 1957. From '57 to '58, Holsclaw coached football and baseball at Elizabethton.
   During that period he instilled the shotgun offense into the Cyclone football squad and led the Elizabethton baseball team to the state finals, where they were defeated by St. Louis Cardinal Tim McCarver and the Memphis Christian Brothers High School.
   Holsclaw returned to Unaka from 1959 until his retirement and continued to coach many excellent teams in the Ranger uniforms to conference crowns, including a 3-2 loss in the playoffs to an eventual state champion Science Hill team.
   He did a lot for so many people and according to all of the people who came out to support him, it was well deserved.
   "It's a great honor," said Willie Church. "There are three people who are responsible for making high school baseball what it is today: Coach Broyles at Science Hill, John Whitehead at Dobyns-Bennett and Coach Holsclaw.
   "He is a first-class gentleman and had some great teams," he said. "He was just an all-around great athlete."
   The appreciation for Holsclaw was shown from former players and fellow coaches, as well as current players and people involved in the Unaka system.
   "He instilled something in us to appreciate the game from how you dressed to how you represented the team, the community and him," said former Unaka coach Mickey Taylor, who also played for Holsclaw.
   "He was from the old school and very knowledgeable," he said. "He taught us respect and how to act, and conduct ourselves in an appropriate manor. He's the kind of guy you would run through the wall for."
   Among fellow colleagues in attendance was Hall of Fame coach Harold Stout. Stout credits Holsclaw for being a great person whenever he was called upon.
   "He brought some people to Milligan when I coached there and helped his players get into college," Stout said. "He lived and played ball. He's an excellent friend and has had an illustrious career."
   "A good definition for Claude would be that he was selfless about things," he said. "He honestly tried to help people all he could. He's done a lot for a lot of people and this honor is much deserved."
   The new baseball field at Unaka has been a work in progress, and it was only fitting to name the new field after Coach Holsclaw.
   "This means a tremendous amount to the school and community," said Unaka baseball coach Mike Ensor. "You can tell by the turnout, the amount of love the community feels for the man. He's a legend.
   "We've talked about naming if after him for years, but we felt it was disrespectful to hang a plaque on what we had. Now we can hang his name on something we can be proud of."
   Said current Unaka player Chad Lewis: "This is great. People just don't understand what it means to us. We finally have a new field. Hopefully it will be done before March 22nd when we play Elizabethton.
   "My dad played for him a year here and his friends played for Coach Holsclaw. He really thinks a lot of him."
   There has been a lot of people put forth a lot of effort to get the project rolling for Unaka High School. It has been in the works for a long time.
   "This was something that was said when I was playing," said Ensor. "There has been a lot of hard work from the present administration involved in this. Kevin Ward and both of our board members among others have worked their tails off.
   "Principal Fine pushed it up here and we are thankful. We felt like it needed to be done with our poor conditions."
   Holsclaw's coaching style has been handed down over the years and the fact that players he coached have kids on Unaka's current teams says a lot about the situation.
   "He has instilled a tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation," Ensor said, "I respect what he did -- he was dedicated to the kids. His legacy goes on here."