1940’s Linden Bulldog Sharpshooter Bob Vail
By Butch Dale
In the three basketball seasons of 1947, ’48, and ’49, the Linden Bulldogs, under Coach Alex Cox, compiled an impressive regular season record of 46-8, in addition to winning the County Tourney in 1948. A player largely responsible for this success was Bob Vail who was undoubtedly one of the greatest shooters in Bulldog history. Bob started on the varsity those three years as forward and carried an amazing 19 point average during his career. Alex Cox stressed a “run and shoot” offense, and Bob did not hesitate to put the ball in the air. He could hit the basket from anywhere on the floor.
As a junior in a game against Clarks Hill, Bob peppered the basket for an almost unbelievable 48 points, which was quite a feat back in those days! But Bob’s most memorable games came during the 1948 County Tourney as his Linden team beat Ladoga, Alamo and Waynetown to capture the crown . . . with Bob scoring 47 points in the three games despite being double-teamed much of the time.
Bob was named as the captain of the All-County Tourney team, and he, along with teammates Don White and Bud Kitsmiller, comprised three out of the four top scorers in the county that year. During his senior year in 1949, this stringbean of a player continued to amaze the fans with his sharpshooting ability. The Bulldogs finished with a record of 16-2, and Bob was again named to the All-County and All-Sectional teams. The Bulldogs made it to the championship game of the county tourney that year, but lost to an excellent Ladoga team coached by Jack Hester.
Bob joined the U.S. Army in 1951 and served his country during the Korean War. After his military service, he owned and operated Vail’s Citgo station in Linden, but continued to play independent ball up until the early 1960s. Bob was also an avid bowler and participated in several leagues and tournaments through the years, while another hobby was pitching horseshoes. Bob just loved competition! Many Linden kids knew Bob as their school bus driver, as he also drove for North Montgomery for 32 years.
Bob was selected to the All-Time Modern Team in 1971, and also was elected to the Montgomery County basketball Hall of Fame. Bob passed away in 2006 at the age of 75. His basketball shooting prowess is etched in sports history. There were several good Linden ballplayers after Bob graduated, but in my opinion, his dead-eye accuracy was not duplicated until Daryl Warren played for the Bulldogs in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.