My friendship with Ernest “Chester” McCarter can be traced to his legendary performances as a member of the York High School Green Dragon football and baseball teams. So I was deeply saddened to hear last week that he had passed away.
Ernest McCarter became widely known as Chester when he came to school one day walking with a limp because of a minor foot injury.
One of the most popular shows on TV at the time was “Gunsmoke,” which featured U. S. Marshal Matt Dillon and his popular deputy, Chester, who walked with a limp.
So when Ernest arrived at school with a limp that morning, everyone, including students, teachers and coaches, jokingly referred to him as “Chester.”
The name stuck. Forever.
Although Chester was a private person, we had a bonding friendship over the years. He always said he liked having me around because I made him laugh.
Chester had his driver’s license before I did in our high school days, so he would take me places, including the times we would double-date. Our girlfriends were close, making double-dating an ideal night out for the four of us, with Chester at the wheel.
Sometimes we would go see a movie at the Sylvia Theater in York. Other times, we would see what was playing at the movie theater in downtown Clover.
Chester liked nothing better than to play a prank on me. Like the time he talked yours truly into going snipe hunting and had me holding a bag at midnight in a thickly wooded area.
Chester laughed for months about that one and asked me if I’d been snipe hunting when I talked to him at a Clover American Legion game two years ago.
Allow me to share with you fond memories of Chester the athlete. He was one of the greatest athletes to ever wear a York uniform, and he was inducted into the York County Sports Hall of Fame and the York School District Athletic Hall of Fame.
Chester was a two-sport athlete, excelling on the football field and the baseball diamond. He played the game with passion. He had a burning desire to subdue his opponent into submission.
Chester was 5-feet, 9-inches tall and weighed about 160 pounds, with a powerful arm. Some opponents would underestimate Chester because of his size. Big mistake.
Like the time he was pitching for the Kings Mountain, N. C. American Legion team when there was no legion team in the York-Clover area. I saw him pitch one night and he struck out 19 batters. The hitters couldn’t catch up with Chester’s fastball. He was too intimidating.
After graduating from high school, Chester signed with the St. Louis Cardinals organization and played professional baseball for several years.
He was the all-time leading passer in the history of Green Dragon football.
One of the greatest football games ever played in York was the upper state championship game in the early 1960s, when Belton-Honea Path visited the Dragon Pit for the big showdown before an overflow crowd.
BHP led 25-12 with about six minutes left in the game and appeared to be state championship-bound.
But not with Chester McCarter at quarterback and with defensive stalwart Taze Bolin swiping the ball away from a BHP ball carrier to give York possession.
Chester’s razor-sharp passing opened up the running game, and when the game was over and the dust had cleared, York had fought from behind to defeat Belton-Honea Path 26-25.
In the state championship game at Williams-Brice Stadium the following week, Berkeley defeated York 21-7, but Chester had his moments.
Late in the game, with Berkeley ahead and York in desperation mode, Chester stepped in the pocket at the York 30-yard line and heaved the ball 70 yards to the end zone.
The York receiver, who had been unaware Chester could throw the ball that far, slowed down at the end of his pass route.
Fans, coaches and college scouts at the game were in utter amazement seeing a high school quarterback throw the ball that far.
Kenny Hartsoe, a longtime Friday night chain crew member and a York football loyalist, remembers watching McCarter play.
“Chester is the first high school football player I ever saw kick a field goal in a game,” Hartsoe said before last week’s York-River Bluff showdown.
Cougar head football coach Bobby Carroll, a former Green Dragon standout, is also familiar with McCarter’s remarkable career.
“I would like for one of our players to wear a No. 12 jersey next year and in years to come in honor of Chester McCarter,” Carroll said.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be the best player on the team, but a player whose work ethic and commitment to our program make him special,” Carroll said.
Carroll’s idea about a Cougar player wearing jersey No. 12 in honor and in memory of Chester McCarter would be a fitting tribute to the legendary athlete.