Ranger trio played during the hardest of times… Paul Gouge set for enshrinement in Carter County Sports HOF

Published 10:19 am Friday, February 11, 2022

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
Today, many will break through the barriers of the past by looking at the blessings of the present. There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
We are not living in eternity but only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake.
On Stoney Creek in the 1940s, Unaka had three ballplayers still enjoying the times of their lives. Some are still attending games, some watching grandchildren and great-grandchildren blossom, and enjoying each day to the fullest.
This year Carter County Sports will induct one of those three men, Paul “Bo” Gouge, into the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame. Lawrence Hardin and Lawrence Ritchie are the other two Unaka basketball players, as Ritchie is already in the Hall of Fame.
All three are reaching their mid 90’s and have fond memories of their playing days on the creek.
Hardin said, “I had a good time playing with his three brothers, Howard, Frankie, and Johnny. We even played in the rain as we would go to Mr. Lancaster’s and get sawdust to put on the ground. Everyone that came by would stop and play ball.”
It was a different time Hardin said as they had no gas, and in 1944 they stopped the games because of the war.
“We went to Kingsport one time to play, and they had a band,” said Hardin. “Not many schools had a band back then. I’m not sure what our record was – we won some and we lost some, but we sure did have a good time.”
“I loved playing Cloudland,” said Lawrence Ritchie. “They had the prettiest cheerleaders.”
He remembered guarding Jack Wilson of the Highlanders because of his quickness. He also guarded Joe Treadway and Herb Arnett from Happy Valley – two of the Warriors’ best players.
Ritchie also played baseball for the Rangers. There was one game that held a great memory for him and that was hitting a home run and beating Science Hill.
Ritchie went on to play softball at Sneed College, joined the service, and pitched in two World Series for the Navy. Ritchie still attends softball games and says the game has changed. In his day it was all defense and today it’s all offense.
This year’s inductee, Paul Gouge, was Unaka’s first 1000-point scorer and played all four years on the varsity team. His 1948 team won 40 games, a record that hasn’t been touched in the last 74-years.
Gouge said Harley Carden was one of the best guards in the county and was a great teammate. Carden and Gouge played three years together.
They didn’t give awards back then, but for sure they would have made all-conference and maybe even all-state. Their 1948 team recorded a record of 40-4.
The Hall of Fame induction is scheduled for June 25 at the Tennessee Technology Center. Tickets will go on sale May 1st.

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