Former coach shares memories of baseball great

Those of you who were hanging around Wade Hampton High School in the late 70s or early 80s might recognize that nickname. It belonged to John Dwight Smith of Varnville, SC, but that is not the only nickname he endured during his rise from high school baseball phenom to an accomplished major league star. He had several nicknames that grew out of his personality and his ego. There was always a smile and a sense of happiness on Dwight’s face which often disguised the hard life he actually led growing up.

I’ve been dreading writing this tribute to Dwight after his death. Not because I didn’t want to write about my friend, but because I knew the memories and associated feelings would come rushing back. His life was a wonderful story that could be categorized as “The American Dream” if all things were not considered. His life and his dreams should be captured one day in print or video because it truly is Americana at its best. The irony in writing about Dwight is the important stuff is not about baseball, it is about relationships. The important facets making up Dwight were discipline learned, loyalty to family and friends, a million-dollar smile that embraced anyone he met, love of his music, and enthusiasm for life. If you want to watch a special tribute to Dwight, go to YouTube© and search for the short film titled “The Boys of Zimmer.” The truth is Dwight overcame very much to reach the pinnacle of success as a major league baseball player.

Randy Vaughn's grandchildren with Dwight on Nov.  23, 2020, enjoying the marker dedication to him in Varnville.

Disco Dwight was an affectionate name for the future world champion Atlanta Brave. Dwight was always walking or riding a bicycle around Varnville and around Wade Hampton. He was doing something else as he traveled the roads. He was always singing with a great voice entertaining anyone along the way. I can still see him as a 10th grader walking across the Wade Hampton baseball field at the first baseball practice in a white tee shirt and red sweat pants singing to the top of his lungs. While he was still walking across the outfield, I asked some of my other players who is singing in center field. Disco Dwight was their response. That was my introduction to John Dwight Smith, future runner-up as National League Rookie-of-the-Year.

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