Will Borthick, Daily News journal, March 25, 2015
MURFREESBORO — Perfect spring weather and a crowd of more than 300 people were on hand for a historic afternoon at MTSU Tuesday.
The first two statues on the school’s campus were unveiled prior to the Blue Raiders’ baseball game against defending national champion Vanderbilt.
John Stanford, a former MTSU player/coach/ athletic director, and Reese Smith Jr., a former Blue Raiders player and long-time program supporter, were immortalized with the uncovering of their bronze statues.
The unveiling signified lifetimes of achievement of the men — both of whom are now deceased — and a more than yearlong process in getting the life-size monuments in place.
“The greatest game of all was when he won my heart,” said Nancy Stanford, John Stanford’s wife, with tears in her eyes upon seeing the statues unveiled.
“It brings back a lot of memories, things he enjoyed doing with baseball. He loved the university, and he wanted everybody to succeed and give back to the community and their families.”
After serving in the Air Force, Stanford played for MTSU in the 1950s before eventually spending 14 seasons as the team’s coach. He later went on to serve as the school’s athletic director.
Smith played for MTSU in the 1940s and was instrumental in the construction of the Blue Raiders’ baseball stadium, which bears his name. He made Reese Smith Jr. Field the first lighted college baseball field in the state of Tennessee through his donations.
“Mr. Smith was referred to as ‘The Chief,’” said former MTSU baseball coach Steve Peterson, who was in attendance for the ceremony. “He hired me, and he kept me making money when he knew I didn’t have much. That’s how I got to know “The Chief.’ “These two guys are the patriarchs of the baseball program. Coach Stanford and Mr. Soith were just together in everything.”
Both men are also members of the MTSU Hall of Fame. MTSU President Sidney McPhee, Athletic Director Chris Massaro and Steve Smith, one of Reese Smith Jr.’s sons and the main financial backer of the entire project, spoke prior to the unveiling.
“They were both very humble, and they did not take credit for things,” Peterson said. “They would be very, very proud to see what this has become.
“There was an old western I remember that used to always end, ‘Long live their name, long live their fame, but always long live their stories to be told.’ I was thinking about that while I was sitting there. That would be perfect for them. They’re down in history now.”