Long time Post-Searchlight sports reporter Joe Crine passes away at 79

Joe Crine, the long-time Post-Searchlight sports reporter and staple of the Bainbridge community of nearly 50 years, passed away at the age of 79 on Thursday, May 2, 2024. 

The community mourns the loss of a man who many view as a Bainbridge legend. Crine attended, reported on and celebrated athletics (and more) in Bainbridge for more than 45 years, becoming synonymous with sports in town. 

“Every activity, everything to do with any kind of sports or athletics at any age in Bainbridge, you saw Joe Crine,” Said Sonny Smart, former Bainbridge High School head football coach and father of UGA head coach Kirby Smart, told the Post-Searchlight in 2016 when Crine retired. “You went to a ball game for nine-ten year olds, you saw Joe Crine. You went to a swim meet, you saw Joe Crine.”

Crine started at the Post-Searchlight in April of 1970. Mary Ann Griffin, the wife of the publisher at the time, Sam Griffin, said she remembers when Crine came to the paper asking Sam for a sports reporting job. Sam explained that the paper was too small for a dedicated sports guy and that they couldn’t hire him, but that didn’t stop Crine. 

Mary Ann said he kept coming back, saying that was really what he wanted to do, and that he would work for nothing, if necessary. With that, Sam hired him

“I guess I have a sports reporter,” Sam said. 

He later said it was the best thing he ever did.

“We loved him like family,” Mary Ann said. “He’s a part of Bainbridge, loved by young and old.”

Crine looks back at his time at the paper as the “happiest years” of his life.

“I had the greatest job,” Crine said. “I got paid to go to sporting events.”

From 1970 to 2016, Crine was covering everything in Bainbridge, from youth sports, to Bearcat football games, FFA shows, college and pro athletes who came from Bainbridge and everything in between. The legacy he leaves behind as the Bainbridge sports reporter is one of positivity.

“Our football team wasn’t always so good,” said Tommie Howell, a former Bainbridge High School principal. “Even when we would lose 50-something to nothing, Joe would put a positive spin on the story by saying, ‘We put up a good fight.’ He has always been a ‘glass is half full’ person.”

Erwin Harrell, a Bainbridge resident and former Grace Christian Academy Basketball and Volleyball coach, said he can’t remember a single time Crine “wrote a negative word” about a coach or a player.

“Joe could take a 56-to-nothing butt whoopin’ that the Bearcats took and put a positive spin on it somehow,” Harrell said. “It didn’t matter how bad we got whooped, or no matter how bad the score was, or no matter the controversy or drama surrounding it, Joe was a master at putting a positive spin on it.”

Carol Heard, the Post-Searchlight’s managing editor from 2002-2011, said Crine had an unshakable loyalty to Bainbridge.

“Joe was so loyal,” Heard said. “His loyalty rested with the people in the community. If you had a child anytime that Joe was working here in Bainbridge, it was probably under Joe’s by-line that that child was chronicled.”

Crine wrote an estimated 14,000 stories in his 46-year career at the Post-Searchlight, which is just under one story a day. He was the only sports reporter many people in Bainbridge ever knew, and reported for so long that he covered up to three generations of athletes in some families. Crine said that throughout his time at the paper, one thing always rang true: “It’s not about you, it’s about the people you cover.”

“God blessed us with Joe Crine,” said Ralph Jones, a former BHS football coach among other positions in the Decatur County Schools district, at Crine’s funeral.

To finish this story, we’d like to have some people whom Crine impacted tell you more about him. A portion of these conversations were conducted by former Post-Searchlight reporters Powell Cobb, Carolyn Iamon & Brandon O’Connor in 2016 when Crine retired.

Sonny Smart

“As coach there at Bainbridge, certainly had a great relationship with Joe. Joe was just so dependable. There was times at night games or traveling and he’d have to get somebody to drive him, but Joe was always there. You could go back to 70’s or 80’s, anytime since Joe was there you could read Joe’s article and you could tell exactly what happened in the ball game. I thought he was great at that and he was never a person that tried to critique or said what should have happened. He gave you the facts of what happened and always positive about Bainbridge and always positive about the kids there. I want to be sure to say it was not just as the coach of Bainbridge High School. Joe Crine meant so much to our whole family. We were involved in swim team. My wife at one time was president of the swim team. We were involved at the Boat Basin with youth baseball. Just every activity, everything to do with any kind of sports or athletics at any age in Bainbridge you saw Joe Crine. You went to a ball game for nine-ten year olds, you saw Joe Crine. You went to a swim meet, you saw Joe Crine. When those kids would look at that paper they would see their name. They would see what they did and that’s just, you can’t put a price or a value on that for the generations of young people that he supported and covered there in Bainbridge and I think that’s just a great legacy.”

“No matter what you said to Joe it always came out the same, always positive. You could say we were terrible and all this and it always came out very positive.”

“We played, I don’t remember who it was, and they just whipped us. Joe came in and wanted a couple of comments and I just said ‘Joe they just whipped our butts’ Joe’s headline was the coach said they just whipped our butts. I tease him about that occasionally. ‘Aw Joe you didn’t have to put that in there.’”

Larry Clark

Larry Clark is a former Bainbridge High School athlete and Bearcat Track coach.

“The fact is Joe covered me when I was in high school. My senior year in high school when I played football at Bainbridge High School and ran track at Bainbridge High School, Joe covered me during that time. He did a great job. He’s the only sports writer that I’ve known in Bainbridge. Even some of the articles and the things that he covered us was as good as anybody at the Constitution or the Albany Herald or anybody around. He really, really put Bainbridge sports, he brought it to the forefront. Prior to that in my opinion it was never covered the way Joe covered it. He really, really did a great job as far putting a strong emphasis on athletics in Bainbridge. He did a great job, did an awesome job.”

“He did a great job. I’ve always been impressed with Joe. He was very much involved and he kept up with the schedule. Don’t think we are going to have an event on Tuesday and he wasn’t going to be there Wednesday to get the results of it. Anytime there was a track meet or an event, you could look for Joe to be there the next morning because he wanted to know the results and what your thoughts were about the event.”

“He was great. We’re going to miss him. I think he’s had a great career.

“The first one that I truly remember about me was when I was region champion at Bainbridge High School in the triple jump. He did a great story about me being the region champ. He also, our state championship in 1982 for football when I was coaching football here, he did a great job covering that. Even when I played college football at Morehouse College, Joe would look me up when I came home during the summer, He would always do an article on how the year went and he would always do a back to school article about me going back to play football. I’ll have a number of memories about Joe and the things he’s done. Not only covering Bainbridge sports, but even covering individuals.”

 Ralph Jones

“When you speak of Post-Searchlight and sports that’s all I think, Joe Crine.”

“He brings all the nostalgia back. He’s got that tradition. All the things that a small community needs when it comes to building a sports program and maintaining the pride. He was certainly a Bearcat in every way. I guess the thing that I remember the most. You could stink it up and I’d go, ‘Joe we stunk it up Friday night,’ and everything was like we just played the best game. Everything was positive and he was such a positive person when it came to reporting.”

“He was that kind of guy. Bainbridge is going to miss him. When I open The Post-Searchlight I’m always looking to what Joe writes.”

“I just remember the glow on his face after the state championship. He came up to me and he said coach you made it happen. You could tell he was gleaming with pride.”

Ty Aikens

Ty Aikens is a former Bearcat and professional track athlete. He holds multiple Bainbridge records and went on to win an SEC championship with Auburn and compete at a high level professionally against competition from across the world.

Aikens said if it wasn’t for Crine’s coverage of him, he would have never found the success that he did in track.

“Without Joe, I don’t know if my career would be where it was, man,” Aikens said.

“I first started running track as a way of getting faster for football. I can vividly remember, you know, like any kid, you always want to make your parents proud or whatever the case may be.  And I can remember the first time that, you know, I won a track meet… it was just a little local meet that we had right in Bainbridge at the Bainbridge [High School] track. You know, obviously, I didn’t even know Joe then. He didn’t do an interview or anything, but he took a picture of me going over the hurdles and he, you know, basically in the sports section had like, ‘Aikens wins the hurdles.’ To see how my mother lit up seeing her son in the newspaper… to see that on my mom’s face, it literally drove me to like, become, it almost drove me to this almost obsession with trying to win races so I could be in a newspaper, if you will, because I knew how proud it made my mother. So that kind of fueled  and kind of started this whole thing.

“I think without Joe, and this is not being dramatic, I don’t know if I would have had that initial drive. I don’t know if I would have been triggered that way, because you’ve got to remember, without Joe, I would have never seen that reaction in my mom. And my whole mindset with running track… I initially ran track to get faster for football. My whole mindset of running track was, ‘Man, I don’t care about track I’m just trying to get my 40 [yard dash] time down.’ I will say, without Joe, I don’t know if I would have had that initial drive that would have sparked the whole mindset of like, discipline and everything that falls into my career… Without Joe I would’ve had just a decent career.”

Stan Killough

Stan Killough, former Bainbridge High School Athletic Director said Crine was the first person he met when he came to Bainbridge.

“My one word to describe Joe is an encourager,” Killough said. “A lot of times, when he would interview us as coaches, he would always thank us for helping him with the story. In a lot of cases, he was helping us. He always encouraged you as a coach. You always felt better after you talked to Joe. He listened to a lot of whining and complaining. When I talked to Joe after a tough loss, he was always that guy to encourage me.”

Killough said he realized just how much Joe meant to him after Joe was injured by a shot put during a track meet in 2013. The large, iron ball struck Crine in the head, putting him in the hospital then out of work for six months while recovering.

“I spent a lot of time with him at the hospital that day,” Killough said. “What that did for me was it just showed me just how much Joe meant to me, and how much he meant to the community. It was a terrible time and bad to think about, but that time was special.”

Paschal Ward

Band director Paschal Ward said the Bainbridge Band doesn’t like Crine, they love him. He even named an award The Joe Crine Award, given to a band student who has shown great character and integrity.

“In 1991, we went to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. Joe went to take pictures for the Post Searchlight,” Ward said. “We are in the hotel after everything, and everybody is together getting back on the bus. Joe was sitting there with his overcoat on. He looked kind of disgruntled. I said, ‘Joe what is going on?’ He said, ‘I hate to tell you this, but I lost the film for the pictures.’ A couple parents started looking. Well, one of his coat pockets had a hole in it. It had got into the hem of his coat through that hole. I was just tickled that we found it.” 

Al Kelly

Al Kelly was the former Director of Leisure Services for the City of Bainbridge while Crine worked at the Post-Searchlight.

“I’ve known Joe all my life. He covered the recreation department for the last 30-something years that I worked for the city. Joe was a very dedicated individual. I never heard anybody say a bad thing about Joe Crine. He was always positive and he has been an asset to this city and the Post-Searchlight for many many years and he’s going to be missed.

“I asked Joe, I can’t forget what event we was having. Joe showed up to take some pictures and he took the pictures and left. The next day Joe called me and he said ‘Al I got to tell you something’. ‘I said what’s that Joe’ and he said ‘when I took those pictures yesterday I forgot to put film in the camera.’ We had to come back and take the pictures. I will never forget that.

“He was one of a kind, that’s for sure. I don’t know of anybody in Bainbridge or involved in sports in the tri-county area that didn’t know Joe Crine and what he meant to us.”

Tuffy Nussbaum

Fellow Lions Club member, Tuffy Nussbaum, said Joe has been a big part of the local club for as long as he can remember. Joe joined Bainbridge Lions in 1974 and has served in several positions, including president one year. In 1974 he was named Lion of the Year. “He is always there for our Lions Club events and covers everything, giving us lots of exposure in the Post Searchlight,” added Nussbaum.