Maysville legend, friend of high school sports, Punk Griffin dies

Courtesy: Independent-Ledger

Arthur "Punk" Griffin stood only 5 feet 1, but he was a giant among Maysville sports personalities.

Griffin, 81, died at 1:15 p.m., Friday at the hospice unit of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Lexington, said his son-in-law, David Allen of Lexington.

Griffin had a heart attack last month and had a pacemaker implanted. Doctors said he needed open heart bypass surgery and a heart valve repaired. But his weight was down to 160 pounds from 230, and Griffin was too weak for the surgery.

Visitation will be held at 5 p.m., Monday at the Brell and Son Funeral Home in Maysville with funeral services at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Maysville First Christian Church.

Griffin was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of sports. For years he was statistician for local sports teams, first with the semipro Maysville Athletics baseball team and later as statistician for the Maysville High School basketball team, a position he held for 47 years.

"I don't think there's any doubt what he loved most ... and that was being scorekeeper at Maysville High games," Allen said.

Griffin attended the University of Kentucky at a time when Adolph Rupp's Fabulous Five was America's top team. He thought "Wah Wah" Jones was the best of all the Wildcats, Allen said.

Griffin was a regular at the boys' state basketball tournament. Until he missed the 2007 tournament, he had attended the "Sweet 16" for 61 consecutive years, his son-in-law said.

"He was a celebrity at the state tournament," said Elden May, a former Ledger Independent sports editor who is now public relations director for the Kentucky Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. "Everybody knew him."

That applied at practically every sporting event Griffin attended. Even the ushers at Cincinnati Reds games knew Griffin.

May recalled driving Griffin to the state tournament.

"He never owned a car, but I never met anyone more traveled than Punk," May said, pointing out that Griffin was adept in hitching a ride to anyplace he wanted to go.

In fact, Griffin took his annual vacation each October so he could attend baseball's World Series. Allen said from 1954 or 1955 until 1966, the only time Griffin missed the World Series was when it was played on the West Coast.

Griffin was "unlike anyone I ever met in sports," May said.

Others who knew Griffin agreed.

Jonathan Fraysure, another former Ledger Independent sports editor, met Griffin for the first time two years ago at the state tournament, but felt as if he already knew Griffin well because Griffin would call him at least once a week just to chat about sports.

Said longtime friend James T. "Junie" Poynter: "The thing that impressed me most was how much he knew ... about any sport. He was never wrong, I don't think.

"He was one of a kind, no doubt about it. A very unique person."

While the Maysville Bulldogs may have been No. 1 in Griffin's heart, he had plenty of room there for his beloved Reds and UK Wildcats, said longtime Ledger Independent sports editor Laurnie Caproni.

"Men are never called sweet, but he was just the sweetest guy you ever met in your life," said Caproni.

Allen said his father-in-law was particularly proud of his accuracy at making football predictions. He wrote a column called Punk's Picks for The Ledger Independent for more than 50 years and accurately predicted the outcome of 78 percent of those games.