For years, I kept an idea in the back of my mind that I wanted to write a story about Danny Clinton.
This is not what anyone had in mind.
Just about any town with an athletic program has or had someone like Danny, but Danny was truly one of a kind. He kept official statistics for Ozark High School football, basketball, baseball, volleyball and other sports for years. In the summer, you’d find him at U.S. Baseball Park serving as the official scorer in the Show-Me Collegiate League. On fall Sundays, he regularly scored triple-headers for the Grip’N’Rip Baseball League, spending up to 11 hours at the ballpark. That’s where I truly got to know Danny, and I truly enjoyed sitting next to him in the press box for all of those hours.
Danny worked as a paramedic, and was Christian County’s first ever 911 director. He was also a very close friend and helper to Santa Claus, if you know what I mean.
When he wasn’t saving lives and making kids smile, he was on the sidelines and in press boxes.
A man whose sporting life truly had no offseason, Danny Clinton showed up to work at just about any major sporting event you could find in Ozark. For more than 40 years, he kept the books for the Ozark Tigers because he loved the games and he loved the kids who played them.
If Ozark High School had started a tiddlywinks program with a short season crammed between the football and basketball seasons, I would bet money that Danny Clinton would have learned how tiddlywinks statistics are kept, and he would have been there to support those kids.
Ozark High School boys basketball coach Mark Schweitzer shared a photograph on Facebook with a message mourning Clinton. It showed Danny holding a championship trophy from the 2014 Greenwood Blue and Gold Tournament, a holiday classic and a longstanding basketball tradition in southwest Missouri. Clinton is standing in a locker room inside JQH Arena, and he is surrounded by a smiling group of Ozark players that includes Chandler Lyon, Heath Carmichael, Kyland Hewett-Newbill, Riley Simmons and many more. The photo shows off exactly what Danny meant to the players, that they thought so much of him they invited him to hold the trophy and celebrate a hard fought championship victory.
Danny’s wit was as sharp as a razor and his sense of humor was about as dry as the Mojave Desert. I enjoyed our conversations immensely. I knew of him for a long time during my work as a high school sports reporter, but I came to truly know him as I started my second job as the play-by-play announcer for the Grip’N’Rip league. Danny was never afraid to let me know if I messed up explaining a play, but he corrected me in a kind and caring way with just the right about of deprecation.
Danny had stories and jokes for about anything or anybody. He also sang “God Bless America” countless times to the crowds at U.S. Baseball Park.
Every town should have a Danny Clinton, but people like him are becoming harder and harder to find. He gave so much of his time and energy to helping other people, and he did it for no other reason than the kindness of his own heart and his love of the Ozark Tigers. There are quietly more than a few stories floating around of Danny showing concern for an athlete who was struggling, or making sure that a kid didn’t go hungry on a trip home from a road game.
More than a few opposing coaches enjoyed playing against Ozark because they enjoyed Danny Clinton.
“I never knew his name, but always liked talking to him. Neat guy,” a coach texted me as news of Danny’s passing spread on social media over the weekend.
Danny touched a lot of lives in that way. Many knew him simply as, “the smart and hilarious guy who looks like Santa Claus who keeps score for Ozark,” and that’s just the way it was. He gave his time and efforts modestly, faithfully and fully.
Services for Danny Clinton will be held Thursday, July 25, at 10 a.m. at Adams Funeral Home in Ozark. Burial will follow at Selmore Cemetery.