The Obit For Speck Shirley

James Hamilton Shirley

Published in Tuscaloosa News on January 13, 2011


TUSCALOOSA James Hamilton “Speck” Shirley, age 80, of Tuscaloosa, died Jan. 12, 2011, at Hospice of West Alabama.

Graveside services will be 2:30 p.m. Friday at Evergreen City Cemetery with Neil Hodo officiating and Memory Chapel Funeral Home, a Dignity Memorial Provider, directing. Visitation will be from 12 to 2 p.m. at the funeral home.

He was preceded in death by his father and mother, J.T and Enza Shirley; stepmother, Mary Shirley; infant daughter, Tammy; and sister, Betsy Hall.

Survivors include his wife, Valerie Pericola Shirley of Tuscaloosa; a daughter, Tracey Booth (Billy) and her mother, Martha Shirley, all of Northport; a sister, Cynthia Turner (Aubrey) of Daphne; a stepdaughter, Angela Strickland of Spanish Fort; stepsons, Michael Marcet (Nancy) of Jacksonville, Fla. and Ben “Bubba” Castleberry (Cheryl) of Cottondale; grandchildren, Ashley, Clay and Brett Booth, all of Northport; step-grandchildren, Sara Marcet of San Diego, Calif., Nick Marcet of Eugene, Ore., Bennet and John Cole Castleberry, both of Cottondale, Kelly Strickland of Gordo, and Trent Strickland of Spanish Fort; a beloved aunt, Clara Hamilton of Tuscaloosa; and a host of nieces and nephews.

James Hamilton Shirley was born Sept. 11, 1930 to J.T. and Enza Shirley. At age six, he was reborn Speck Shirley while recovering from a horrific pharmaceutical accident to his eyes. A mix up in medication for pink eye caused major damage to his eyes requiring surgery and a long recuperation. At long last, with huge myopic glasses, he was allowed to go play ball with his friends. As he approached the ball field, one of the boys greeted him with, “Well, here comes ol' Speck.” The nickname stuck so closely to this tiny competitor that he became Speck, and in his adulthood, very few knew his real name.

He loved jokes and he loved people. One of life's truly original characters, he didn't meet strangers, he met new friends. He was unique in that he was funny, often without trying, and many people knew of Speck Shirley jokes and Speck Shirley stories without ever having met him.

After graduating school at 17, he signed to play with the Cleveland Indians. In 1950 he joined the Air Force and played baseball there until he left in 1954. In 1955 he signed to play baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals and played to the AAA level. Always athletic, always competitive, always striving to be his best, he moved from the armed forces to the business world, managing the Greyhound Bus Lines until he retired.

Speck was inducted into the West Alabama Softball Hall of Fame in 1985, was inducted into the Alabama Softball Hall of Fame in 1992, and was inducted into the Tuscaloosa Men's Bowling Association Hall of Fame in 2000.

He will be remembered sometimes with teary eyes, but far more often, he will be remembered with beaming smiles.

Pallbearers will be his grandsons.

Honorary pallbearers are Paul and Betty Green, Bobby and Flora Martin, Haley and Maryanna Grant, Tommy and Delores Lancaster, Elizabeth Rutledge, Darlene Martin, Dennis Capley, Jenny Junkin, Ned and Barbara Christian, Billy Boyd, Doris Woodard, Jean Charles, Parks and Dot Burgin, Cathy Sanford, Ina Herring, Pete Lawless, Kim Hodo, Clyde and Margaret Phillips, Dr. George Miller, Dr. N. Krishnamurthy, Dr. William Hill, Dr. Anne Lewis, Dr. Tucker and the Cancer treatment, DCH Regional Medical Center staff of 6 North, the Alabama athletic event staff, and the staff of Hospice of West Alabama.