Two friends couldn’t have been much closer than Gary Shephard and Terry Webb.
They met on St. Patrick’s Day, 1973, through a mutual friend while Shephard was visiting Savannah for a job interview. They played a round at the nine-hole Mary Calder Golf Club and never played against each other for the rest of their lives, and they golfed a lot.
“We were always teammates,” Shephard, now 72, recalled more than 50 years later in a telephone interview May 9.
They ended up teaching and coaching together at Jenkins High School – Shephard was primarily a football coach, Webb primarily baseball and they coached other sports, too. They also worked different years at Windsor Forest High.
In addition, the pair were teammates on the Thompson’s Sporting Goods elite travel men’s softball squads.
“My nickname was Pork Chop. His was Pork Chop’s Brother,” said Shephard, no literal relation to Webb. “We were about the same height. He was maybe a half-inch taller and I was probably 5 or 10 pounds heavier. We coached together, taught together, played softball together and a lot of times people couldn’t tell us apart if they were 20 or 30 feet away.”
They signed off with those abbreviations, “PC” and “PCB,” when they texted each other.
Shephard chokes up when he reads some of their last exchanges from October and November 2021. Webb, retired after an illustrious career as a beloved and respected coach at Windsor Forest (1970-83) and Jenkins (1983-99), was battling cancer at his home in Guyton.
Shephard, a longtime and successful high school and college football coach, had returned to his native Clarksville, Tenn., to help run his family’s restaurant, Edward’s Steakhouse.
When Webb died on Nov. 23, 2021, a few weeks before his 73rd birthday, Shephard wanted to attend the visitation and celebration of life service on the afternoon of Dec. 3, a Friday.
Except he had other obligations that week, including in his role as executive director of the Tennessee Football Coaches Association. The state football championships were that weekend, and he was tasked with handing out awards to the new hall of fame inductees that Saturday.
He drove from Clarksville to Chattanooga on that Thursday, delivered the plaques, then drove to Georgia, arriving at his Pooler hotel around midnight.
Shephard was there for his dear friend’s memorial service, then drove back about 370 miles to Chattanooga.
“I would not have missed that (memorial service). Had the circumstances been reversed and it’d been me, Terry Webb would not have missed that,” Shephard said. “If the (memorial) ceremony had been Saturday, somebody else would’ve handed out those plaques.”
Shephard was in town recently for that mutual friend since 1973, longtime coach and athletics administrator Bobby Gee, a Citation Award recipient at the Greater Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2023 induction on May 8.
May 20 ceremony
Shephard has another visit planned for 11 a.m., Saturday, May 20, when Jenkins High School will formally dedicate Terry Webb Field.
“It’s going to be very baseball themed,” said Don Stewart, the former Jenkins principal who successfully led the initiative to name the field after Webb, a proposal approved on June 1, 2022, by the Board of Education of the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System.
“I ask everyone to consider bringing a glove and ball. At the end, we’ll all get on the field and think about Terry and play catch and take pictures of old teammates and just celebrate a new field at Jenkins High School that’s been named for a special friend.”
Shephard, back in Clarksville, has obligations that Friday, May 19, at the steakhouse – which also serves pork chops -- so his plan is to leave by midnight and drive about 540 miles so he can attend the 11 a.m. ceremony at the baseball field.
“Terry Webb was an excellent basketball and baseball coach. He was an even better person,” Shephard said. “He treated everybody fairly. He would chew you out for doing wrong, but he would love you and hug you around the neck before he left the field or the court that day for something he chewed you out for. He didn’t treat you bad, but I guess you’d call it tough love.
“He had high expectations. He didn’t degrade you. He wanted you to do the best that you could do. When you didn’t, then he fussed at you, but he always put his arm around you, and he always loved you.”
Shephard was one of those who never heard Webb say anything negative about anybody.
“Now, I guarantee you, deep down he thought some bad things about some umpires that made bad calls,” Shephard said, laughing. “It goes with the territory.”
Webb earned, not demanded respect, his friend said. He was a proud person dedicated to his wife and children as well as to his career and his baseball program.
And, as is true for so many coaches, that dedication including the care and effort put into the baseball field. They toil for countless hours mowing, fertilizing, weeding, lining and manicuring so their grounds rule.
Jenkins is understandably proud of its ballfield, but that wasn’t always the case. Before Webb arrived, “the baseball field was playable, but that’s all you could say about it,” said Stewart, the principal from 1983-92.
Needing a baseball coach, Stewart inquired of Webb, who said he’d agree, “but we’ve got to do something about that baseball field,” Stewart recalled.
In a reverse order of “Field of Dreams,” Steward promised Webb that if you come, we will build it.
Stewart credits Webb for giving up his weekends, as well as students’ parents and others in the community for building what became “a really, really good high school baseball field,” he said. “It was primarily due to Terry’s efforts. The kids began to affectionately call it ‘Webb Field.’ We thought that was sort of cool.”
The field was rotated to take better advantage of the sun and went through comprehensive changes.
Shephard said: “Don Stewart and Terry Webb turned the field around and made it what it should have always been. They had a grass infield. We didn’t have much grass in the outfield.”
After Webb died, Stewart made remarks in his eulogy about ‘Webb Field’ and it planted the seed to make it official.
“I thought it was a great idea because Coach Webb meant the whole world to me,” said Jenkins baseball and softball coach Seth Gaspin. “He always was a great mentor to me and always took care of his field.”
Gaspin knew Webb for decades, from when he coached at Memorial Day School and used the field, and later as he has taught and coached at Jenkins since 2003 (except for one year in Florida and a brief coaching stint at Benedictine). Gaspin had “Terry Webb Day” annually when Webb would throw out the first pitch.
“We always remember where we came from and who coached in front of us,” said Gaspin, adding with a laugh that he gave Webb a new Jenkins hat every year, too.
“You could call Coach Webb in the middle of the night. You could ask him any time you needed to ask a question about anything, whether it was life, baseball, marriage, anything. He’s going to give you the best answer he possibly could.”
After funds were raised, the sign for Terry Webb Field went atop the scoreboard near the close of this season in April, Gaspin said. The dedication ceremony is expected to bring together the Jenkins, Windsor Forest and area’s baseball communities, and also Webb’s family, some coming from his native Kentucky with a couple of his former teammates.
“They’re bringing a container of clay from the infield of the field Terry played on to add to the infield clay at Jenkins High School,” Stewart said. “Baseball is so wrapped up in traditions and the stadiums where people played. I thought was a cool thing the family wanted to do.”