Music legend Charlie Daniels passed away on Monday at the age of 83 following a hemorrhagic stroke. Best known for his number-one hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Daniels’ career in the music industry spanned more than six decades. But he was so much more than a musician. He dabbled in the acting world, most often playing himself but also taking other roles from time to time. Charlie Daniels was also a huge sports fan. He loved Major League Baseball and the NFL and was an avid follower of college football, especially the University of Tennessee.
Daniels was such a sports fan that he once wrote a passionate letter on his website condemning the use of performance-enhancing drugs and questioning the behavior of many modern pro athletes.
Charlie Daniels grew up watching the Tobacco State League and later wrote a foreword on a book about it
Born in Wilmington, North Carolina, in October 1936, Charlie Daniels wasn’t yet 10 years old when the Tobacco State League was founded in 1946. The low-level minor league organization began with six teams that year and expanded to eight in 1947, the same number it would have when the league closed up shop in 1950.
While the Tobacco State League lasted just five seasons, it held a special place in Daniels’ heart and when a book was written on it in 2016, he wrote the foreword. As part of a passionate piece he wrote on sports in 2013 for his website, CharlieDaniels.com, the Country Music Hall of Famer discussed how special going to those games was for him as a child.
“When I was a kid, there was a minor league baseball organization in our part of North Carolina. It was named The Tobacco State League, a confederation of small town teams made up of players who would never make it to the show, but they were hometown heroes and the Wilmington Pirates were celebrities to every young boy who owned a baseball glove and frequented the sand lot baseball fields around town.
“I remember going to those games at Legion Stadium and listening to them on the radio and the Pirates players meant just as much to us as Mickey Mantle ever meant to a kid in New York or Stan Musial to a kid in St. Louis.”
Charlie Daniels condemned the use of performance-enhancing drugs
In that same letter for his website, Charlie Daniels transitioned from discussing his heroes of the Tobacco State League to athletes and organizations of the modern era. He condemned the use of PEDs, citing numerous examples of how leagues such as the NFL and MLB selfishly turned a blind eye to the problem, also mentioning one of this generation’s biggest sports heroes that was disgraced by performance-enhancing drugs.
“I personally think professional sports, especially baseball, turned a blind eye to the use of performance-enhancing drugs for selfish reasons. The old records were being shattered and the guys were knocking the fences down to the delight of the fans and owners alike, as the bleachers filled up, and the money was rolling in.
“The condition Lyle Alzado ended up in should have motivated the NFL to enforce more stringent policing of their players, and I can’t believe the international cycling community could not have known about the widespread doping going on with Lance Armstrong and company.
“Hank Aaron is my all-time favorite baseball hero and somehow it just doesn’t seem fair that this great and honorable man should see his hard-earned home run record fall to someone who knowingly broke the rules and used an unfair advantage.
“In my humble opinion the professional leagues should set the bar and serve the notice that no amount of illegal substance will be tolerated, that even once is over the line and if you dope, you’re barred for life.”Charlie Daniels
But PED use wasn’t the only thing that irked Charlie Daniels about modern sports.
He didn’t care for the attitude of the modern athlete
Charlie Daniels clearly wasn’t a fan of PEDs but he also didn’t care for the attitudes of some of today’s athletes at both the professional and collegiate levels.
“In the case of many of today’s professional athletes, they were punks when they were drafted and remain punks throughout their playing days getting into serious trouble and letting their teams down at crucial times when they’re needed most.
Recruitment at the college level has reached a fever pitch and I wonder if the standards haven’t fallen in direct proportion. And sometimes the best players are signed – even though they are potential trouble makers – and they’re allowed to get by with a lot more than they should just to keep them on the active roster, until the players finally do something that can’t be sugar-coated or covered for and the whole thing breaks wide open revealing a pattern of bad behavior that has been all but ignored.”Charlie Daniels