Ed Grisamore

The man who thinks he can

When he was 14 years old, Dick Frame attended the 1954 Indiana state basketball championship game at the Butler Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

That night, tiny Milan High School, with an enrollment of 161 students, beat Muncie Central to become the smallest school ever to capture the Indiana single-class title. It was David vs. Goliath.

Dick never went to bed that night. His family had followed Milan for much of the season. And he and his twin brother, Steve, were paperboys and had to deliver the Indianapolis Star when it hit the streets at 2:30 a.m. A movie was made about that night and that team. It was called “Hoosiers.” The team was known as “Hickory,” and it is my all-time favorite sports movie. I always watch it this time of year, the perfect companion to all the basketball tournaments and March Madness.

Naturally, it is one of Dick’s favorite movies, too. He also remembers another one. He saw it when he was a teenager. “Pride of the Yankees” was a baseball movie. Gary Cooper was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor in his role as Lou Gehrig.

Gehrig’s career was cut short when he diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a fatal neurological disease more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Despite his tragic affliction, in his farewell address at Yankee Stadium, Gehrig uttered the famous line: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”

Dick Frame has Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The right side of his body can no longer seem to catch up with the rest of him.But it has not affected his attitude. Just ask anyone around him. Mr. Sunshine. The luckiest man on the face of the Earth.He will be 70 years old next month, a guy with boundless energy despite the decline of his mobility. He remains one of Macon’s greatest ambassadors for high school sports.

Nobody ever seems to notice he stands only 5-foot-6. The man is a giant.

This marks his 32nd year as a volunteer track coach at First Presbyterian Day School. He has never been paid a dime for it — he spent the other half of his life volunteering at Vine-Ingle Little League — but he is surrounded by the real riches in life.He has helped coach 23 GISA champions in the hurdles. He has motivated the FPD girls to win six of the last seven state titles and inspired the boys to claim four of the last six.

Since 1982, he has been the official starter at the state track meet — firing the blank pistol at the beginning of almost every heat and race.

It’s more of a challenge now. When he reaches to raise the starting gun, he can no longer sustain his arm in the air without using his left arm for support.

He was always a picture of health and fitness. For years, he would run alongside his athletes while they were practicing the hurdles.

Then he had to stop. At first, he told them it was a pulled muscle. He thought it might be his cholesterol. He went to have his heart checked out.

The diagnosis came two years ago, just before the start of track season.

He still shows up to coach every afternoon. He makes good use of the bounce he still has left in his step.

“I’ve got to do this,” he said. “A lot of people go downhill when they’re diagnosed. But you can’t have a defeatist attitude. You must have something to live for. I’m committed to these kids. They’re like my own children.”

His doctors shake their heads in amazement.

“They think I’m an anomaly,” he said, laughing. It has been a wonderful ride. As a youngster, he once shot hoops with the great Oscar Robertson. He and his brother came South after earning track scholarships to Georgia Tech. In the Southeastern Conference championship meet in Baton Rouge in 1959, he won his heat in the 100-yard dash against the legendary Billy Cannon, who won the Heisman Trophy playing football for LSU that same year.

He met his future wife, Marty, three weeks before he graduated from Tech. They married in 1963 and moved to Macon in 1965.

They have four children — Rick, Jacki (Spivey), Jeff and Taylor. Dick is retired after working for 43 years as an area manager for the Trane Co.

It was 10 years ago this spring when Dick received The Telegraph’s annual Sam Burke Award for Service to High School Sports. Last fall, he was the recipient of FPD’s Alumni Service Award, even though he never attended the school.

Last week, he and Marty took a skiing vacation to Colorado. “I wanted to keep trying to do things,” he said. After 10 minutes on the slopes at Vail, the tough reality set in. He realized he could no longer maneuver his legs enough to keep skiing.

The effort is still there. So is the upbeat attitude. His mantra has always been a 114-word poem called “The Man Who Thinks He Can.’’

The race is not over, he said. Not by a long shot. Think Hoosiers.