One of two display cases lined with trophies at Pearson's home
By Michael Butler
It's 27 degrees in East Tallassee. I put three layers of clothing on to walk 50 feet outside and retrieve the Saturday morning paper.
Wayne Pitchford is out for an early morning drive. It's about 7:00.
"I just saw Speck hitting tennis balls," Pitchford said.
"I know," I respond. Speck, also known as Frank Pearson, hits tennis balls on a daily basis, no matter the conditions.
"People probably think I'm crazy for hitting off this wall," Pearson told me when I mentioned writing a story about his love for the game.
You can call it what you want. I call it dedication. Pearson is a bit of a local legend for his mastery of the sport.
He started playing at the age of 10 at the old Carrville courts. Pearson said he got the nickname "Speck" due to his freckles. When asked if he liked it, he responded, "No" with a grin.
Pearson is now 75 and still hitting. His favorite professional player today is Novak Djokovic.
Like Djokovic, Pearson has has won numerous tournaments - just not on the WTA Tour. Wins have come in singles, doubles and team competitions around the southeast. He and his son Frankie narrowly missed qualifying to play in the "Father/Son" division of the U. S. Open. The pair were runners-up in a Memphis tournament that would have given them a ticket to Flushing Meadow. "We lost on a net point," Pearson recalled.
The most prestigious trophy among many that fill two cases in Pearson's home is probably his state championship in the 55-59 Men's Singles Division in the 1990s. After winning the title in Montgomery he travelled to Orlando, Fla. He was one match away from a national title. Instead, he brought back a silver medal.
As teenagers, several of us played tennis. We always looked up to "Speck."
I remember the Tallassee Recreation Department holding a tournament in the late '80s. Pearson was about 50 then. He swept the bracket winning the singles and doubles title with Frankie.
One of the last times I volleyed with Pearson he switched hands in the middle of a point. Switch hitters are more common in baseball. Ambidextrous tennis players are rarer. Surprisingly, there was little drop off from his right hand to his left hand.
If you're over in East Tallassee, stop by the court that Pearson still frequents. You'll probably see him in a pair of jeans hitting off the wall. He might even be willing to hit a few balls with you at Pearson Court.