The Legend of Lumber & Lightning

When my parents dropped me off in Springfield, Missouri, for my freshman year of Bible college, I had no car, very little money, and a couple of friends.

And, my ball glove.  So…

After dorm move-in and registration — with no classes until the next week — I did what I figured any fervent Bible college student would do:  I wandered down to the softball field (with my glove), where I found five other “disciples” who were studying for the ministry by playing “500” (a game of one guy hitting flies & grounders, while everybody else competes to see who can earn 500 points by fielding more balls than everyone else).  Probably because they felt sorry for me, they were nice enough to invite me to join in.

Over the next day or two, we returned to the field to resume playing. As the numbers gradually increased, we may have had enough for a pickup game. I actually don’t remember.  What I do remember is that at some point, one of the five — it may have been Billy Gadd — mentioned that they were going to enter a team in the intramural softball league, and asked me if I was interested in playing with them.  It was an easy answer.

Gadd, Billy Ellis, Don Dickinson, Ron Crawford, and David Applegate were all from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and, of course, Pirates fans.  They named the team “Lumber & Lightning”.  And that, my friends, is where and how the legend began.

When I graduated from college four years later (people used to do that), there were a number of people on campus who knew me fairly well who just assumed that I was from Pittsburgh, because I was part of the infamous “Pittsburgh gang”.

I’ve never been closer than 300 miles from Pittsburgh.

I had no way of knowing that — when I walked down to the softball field that day — I had stumbled into the middle of an extraordinary group — a community, really — of young people.

We were all basically about the same age, but, to me, they all seemed so….  Okay, I’ll just say it:  they were more mature, cooler, smarter, and wiser than me.  Maybe that’s why they accepted me.

Over the next four years, we had a TON of fun, both on and off the softball field, and didn’t even get kicked out of Bible college. Well, some of us, anyhow….😜

Lumber & Lightning existed for all four years that we were there, and it really was special. We were dominant, and, well…legendary. At least, in my mind.  We were champions. (See pictures.)

It’s not an easy task to adequately express how much of an impact those guys, and the entire Pittsburgh gang, had on me.  I found myself especially drawn to Billy Gadd, Billy Ellis & Don “Scoops” Dickinson.  We had many similar interests…. Okay, okay:  it was sports. 🤦‍♂️  And, girls, of course. 🤷🏻‍♂️

But, they were also very serious about their pursuit of God, and His plan for their lives.  I needed that influence in my life.  I don’t think they have any idea how much their friendship meant to me, and I don’t know if I ever actually thanked them for that, and all the other stuff.

I’m planning to correct that oversight.


This weekend.

Tomorrow night.

I mentioned earlier that I’ve never been to Pittsburgh. Because of everything that I’ve already shared (and a lot more, as well), going to the Steel City has always been on my “list”, if you know what I mean.

Well, it’s actually happening:  Lumber & Lightning is having a 40-year reunion.  That’s right: a college intramural softball team. 🤷🏻‍♂️Makes perfect sense, right?  (And Momma said I would never grow up! 🙄)

Friday night through Sunday afternoon. About 20 of us. We’re meeting at Billy & Teresa Ellis’ home Friday night,and going to a Pirates game Saturday, then church on Sunday. Billy Gadd is coming from California. I’m flying out of Savannah in the morning, and will be in Pittsburgh tomorrow afternoon.

I’m like a kid going to Disneyland.  Over-the-moon excited. Seriously. And, since I might chicken out, and not have the guts to say it to them in person, I thought I would say it here, so that it’s on the record, you know…

So, to everyone from the Pittsburgh gang, and to all the guys who ever played for Lumber & Lightning:

I love you guys. Thanks for everything. Can’t wait to see you again. It’s been too long.

And, of course, I love you all. ❤️🙏

— Doug “The Bug”, July 18, 2019

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