Whistling-the act of emitting a clear, high-pitched sound by forcing breath through a small hole between one’s lips or teeth. Whistling without the use of an artificial whistle is achieved by creating a small opening with one’s lips, usually after applying moisture and then blowing or sucking air through the space. Throughout the sporting world, people can be heard on a daily basis whistling, most notably when their team has done something fantastic or won a game. What most people don’t expect is to hear someone whistle during a game just because they can. Today, I plan to introduce you to college baseball’s most famous whistling fan, Mr. Preacher Franklin.
I first met Preacher Franklin in the spring of 2017 when the Vanderbilt Commodores visited the MTSU Blue Raiders.
Sure, I had heard about him through various sources, most notably from ESPN in 2014 when their broadcast crew attempted to have the two Vanderbilt Whistlers thrown out of a game for….WHISTLING. They were literally producing a natural sound without foreign objects. The mistake ESPN made was the placement of the crowd microphones. They just happened to be right in the middle of the Vanderbilt fan section. Of course, this amplified the sound during the broadcast. Instead of muting the mic, they chose to make it a public issue. When it boiled down to it, ESPN could not make them leave because they were not violating any rules.
As a boy growing up in Carthage, Tennessee, Mr. Franklin was given his nickname of Preacher by his family. At the age of 5, his mother, father, brothers, and sister said he was whistling, talking all the time, getting in to everything, and asking too many questions and for this reason they called him Preacher. The name has stuck with him and he prefers it over his birth name that he asked me not to share. In 1955, at the ripe old age of 9, his family moved to the Morris Hill area of Nashville and that is where he lived until he graduated high school. Of course, being a boy, you can bet he got himself into some hot water occasionally. “I whistled all through HS which I got in trouble with my HS Coach! During the girls game before our game I whistled like a referee’s whistle and the Refs stopped the game thinking that the other one blew it! No body in the stands knew I did it but my Coach! He called me into his office and said if he heard me one more time I was not going to start tonight! That was during my sophomore year and that was that!” At the age of 13, Preacher became a Vanderbilt Commodores fan and has whistled at their games ever since.
As an adult, Franklin developed an affinity for NASCAR. Over the years, he became a huge Darrell Waltrip fan. In honor of his fandome, Preacher started a collection of replica DW cars. At his peak, he owned 6 of them and currently still owns four. He is currently working on a DW truck. That isn’t his only affinity. He has also built multiple Vanderbilt tribute vehicles, the most famous probably being his VandyBoys van, complete with baseball bats forming the luggage rack. He also has a Vandy motorhome, a Vandy mower, a Vandy golf cart, and a Vandy scooter. Stay tuned to that collection as there could be more added later.
He is always looking for ideas to honor the team he cheers for. The best part? His wife of 38 years, Jackie, fully supports this full fledged Vanderbilt addiction, and is somewhat of a Vandy addict herself. Together, they have been to literally thousands of games, getting to know numerous alumni, coaches, and fans around the nation, and not just Vandy fans, either. At one point he was close to the South Carolina Gamecocks super-fan Bill “Oot Oot” Golding and the two would visit whenever the garnet and black faced off with the black and gold. He also has very fond memories of a group of students from the University of Georgia that once came and apologized for some of the Bulldog fans giving Preacher some grief over whistling. Not only did they apologize, two years later when Vanderbilt visited UGA again, that same group of students made a point of going to the Vanderbilt section to visit with Preacher and Miss Jackie.
As you can imagine, over the years, Franklin and his wife have accumulated numerous items of memorabilia as well as memories of players, road trips, games, events, etc. When asked about items of Vanderbilt swag, Preacher replied “I have several pieces of Vandy gear but my favorite is a game Jersey from Sam Lind who only played 1 year at Vandy and transferred to Cumberland College where he led them to NAIA CWS Championship! He was MVP of the Tournament, led the Nation in RBI’s!!!! Sam lives in Arizona with his wife Tias and we talk at least once a month. He was on the Vandy CWS Team in 2011 that went to our first World Series!” He states that “Three times we went to every baseball game they played, home and away including California teams 3 times.” He can also be found following the Vanderbilt basketball programs as well as Vanderbilt football. One could say he is either a die hard or a gluton for punishment considering some of the epically bad football teams the Commodores have produced.
When discussing 2020, and the year that we all faced, Preacher is very disappointed that he missed out on well over 100 sporting events at Vanderbilt. It did produce one life altering event-that of his retirement in July after 30 years of being a small business owner as well as 24 years combined with Western Electric/AT&T. He describes himself as the “$8 million man” due to having undergone 2 knees replacements, 1 hip replacement, 2 rotator cuff surgeries. While recovering from those he enjoyed spending time with his family of schnauzers-Vandy, Whistler, and Gretchen. Though Whistler and Gretchen have passed on, he has acquired Lil Whistler. Vandy acts like a mother to him and Franklin states “My Lil Whistler is already growing and going through the doggie door! He just follows Vandy where ever she goes! She is like a Mom to him! Best medicine for us since we lost Whistler & Gretchen!!! It took me 2 weeks to get our 2 eight year olds to go through the doggie door! Lil-Whistler did it today 4-5 times just following Vandy!! Smart smart smart! We love him to death!” You could say there is a special bond between Franklin and his pets. Preacher is also the father of 3 children consisting of 2 boys and 1 girl and grandfather to a boy and a girl, Lantz and Kensi. He also has a great grand daughter now in the mix. Word on the street is that Lantz might even someday wear a VandyBoys uniform as he is a spectacular baseball player himself.
As a college baseball fan, the next time you hear the Vandy Whistler, keep in mind there are actually 2 of them. They both have very different sounds and tones to their battle cry. As you listen to them, I hope this article gives you a little insight into one of them. In life beyond baseball, he is just an ordinary guy, with a very large persona. He loves his life and cherishes the memories of winning 2 College World Series and never missing a pitch in 4 trips to Omaha. Stories actually have been told that Kendall Rogers actually likes Preacher, even if he doesn’t approve of the whistling. Until you get the opportunity to meet Preacher and Jackie for yourself, always remember to Whistle Down and Anchor Down!!!!!!!!!!!!