Keaton Jordan wore jersey number 22 back in the day for the La Follette High Owls.

By Jim Freeman

LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – Keaton Jordan was a playground god of sorts in his junior high and high school days in the 1960s and 70s; even starred on La Follette’s state championship all-star baseball team in 1965. In fact, a Cincinnati Reds scout was at most of Jordan’s high school baseball games beginning his sophomore year.

Jordan starred on the hardwood and the diamond though he told me years later that basketball was his real love. Those athletic Keaton Jordan genes were passed down. Among those carrying on his athletic tradition were his daughter Melia starring on the 1994 Oak Ridge state basketball championship team and his grandson Drew Jordan, an all-star in football for the Campbell County Cougars.

There was a time players wore even numbered jerseys at home and then one number up for an odd number when playing away. The logic I was always told was so the officials and score keeper would not confuse players. You even had to raise your hand when you committed a foul.

Jerry Dagley was the head basketball coach at La Follette High School about the time Keaton started high school. “Keaton was a good friend since his high school days. We had a close relationship and enjoyed watching
his children and grandchildren play basketball,” said Dagley.

Keaton Jordan (right) and Jim Freeman at the dedication of King Court in 2015. The court was named in honor of former La Follette Owl teammate Vic King. King coached the Owls to more than 400 wins.

Keaton was funny about the box score that would show up in the Knoxville newspapers the next day after a basketball game. He said he’d rather his name appear without a point next to it opposed to when he had an off night scoring only a few points. I remember him saying that if you were scoreless readers might think you turned your ankle or ended up in foul trouble and didn’t play much at all.

(Front row left to right)  Quinn Smith, Jeff Bullock, Lonnie “Hot Rod” Wilson, Darryl Woods, Scott Gibson and Dennis Powers.  (Back row left to right)  Lonnie Dupuy, Clyde Seiber, James Carson, Gary Lovett, Danny McCullah, Keaton Jordan, Mark Russell and Leland Miller.  Coach Junior Honeycutt stands on the left side while Coach Johnny Letner is on the right of the 1965 State Champs. This team won the Tennessee Little League State Championship.

The only time I ever saw Gary Gray, La Follette’s 6-6 big man, show any sign of anger was one day in practice. For some reason, Keaton ran and jumped on Gary’s back in piggy back riding style. That didn’t last long.

Keaton was not much for photos, but on this night, he wanted a photo of us, Jordan (left) and Jim Freeman (right). I was most honored and touched. The backdrop is the refurbished center circle from the old La Follette High School gym floor.

“Keaton and I were both catchers and roomed together many times on the road during our 1965 Little League Championship run. He was a great competitor and great guy who always had a smile and always had your back and will greatly missed by all of those who knew him,” said State Representative Dennis Powers.

Jordan’s number was 22, and everyone knew that. Or, at least, I thought they did. We had one last old timers basketball game before the LHS gym was razed. I was one of the first to arrive and pulled a well worn Owls jersey out of the jersey box. Keaton was expected to be there but was running late. In the mean time, another former Owl selected jersey number 22, and I knew right then that that wasn’t going to go over well. As soon as Keaton showed up he said, “Hey, that’s my number.” Keaton wore number 22 that night.

Jordan was a member of the LHS Class of 1972.

In his early days of baseball at LHS, a lot of us would laugh at visiting outfielders when Keaton would take a pitch deep. There was no fence at the old baseball field. Keaton would hit a ball so far that the outfielder would just be getting to it about the time Keaton was rounding third base heading for home.

Keaton Jordan headed for home for the last time earlier this week. He was laid to rest yesterday on top of the big hill at Bakers Forge.

Thanks for your friendship, pal. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 12/17/2021-6AM)

10 Replies to “Jordan was a buddy and a ball player extraordinaire all in one”

  1. Great story about Keaton, Jim – a great athlete and a good friend – we will miss him. I remember his dad, Ulis, who came to almost every game. He would let the umpires know very quickly if they made a bad call. He always cheered on Keeton – now they will be reunited once again.

    1. So sorry to hear the passing of Keaton.Prayers for all the family.Keaton was a good man and will always be remember as one of the bezt!!!Thank you Jim Freeman he definitely would love reading this!.

  2. This is a awesome piece about my good buddy and being w Melia for 10 years, I heard many of these stories. The first time we met, I seen his protective nature as a dad and I respected it. We won’t get into what happened but that’s a story in, we later shared laughs about.
    I got to join him and Melia in practices at Caryville and see his true competive nature mentioned above. I also got to see that in pick up game we would play as family, Melia, Keaton, Drew, and all his granddaughters.
    I sure will miss Keaton. From our conversations about sports, too our passion about politics. Most of all I will miss his smile when he talked about Melia and his kids, grandkids and Let’s not forget the what made his eyes light up the most, Melinda. The love of of his life. It helps us all knowing that they are on their next great adventure together.
    He will be truly missed. This was a great article Jim, I enjoyed reading these stories that embody Keaton to fullest. Thank you again for a awesome write-up. Being a Lafollette Owl myself I’ll end this as me and Keaton would joke about while watching Drew and his Granddaughters playing at Jacksboro……Man we have to cheer for Jacksboro but something about this just feels wrong- Laughing and Joking about the situation 2 Ol’ Owls where in. KEATON BLED ORANGE AS MOST TENNESSEE DOES BUT TRULY IT WAS THE ORANGE OF THE HARDWOOD OF LAFOLLETTE OWLS!!

  3. Great article. Nice to see you can be from Jellico Highway and still be remembered fondly. Keaton was the son of my uncle Ulis. Basketball might have been his favorite but baseball was best.

  4. Keaton was great guy We had a great time in the 6th grade and seemed get into a lot of mischievous activities. I had not seen him in many years since I left lafollette. But he was nothing but class and a good friend

  5. Keaton was great guy We had a great time in the 6th grade and seemed get into a lot of mischievous activities. I had not seen him in many years since I left lafollette. But he was nothing but class and a good friend

  6. What a nice tribute for Keaton. Not only was he my cousin but my playmate as kids and buddy through high school. He will be missed by many. Thanks for taking the time to honor him!

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