GARDEN CITY — Cliff Richey and Ralph Terry have known each other for nearly three decades.
By most standards, they are strange bedfellows for friendship.
Richey, a 5-feet-9-inches, was one of the top professional tennis players in the world in the 1960s and 1970s, being ranked as high as No. 6 worldwide while winning 28 professional tournaments.
Terry, who towers above his Texas friend at 6-feet-3-inches, made his professional career by pitching primarily for the New York Yankees, including the 1962 season when he won 23 games, most in the American League, and pitched the Yankees to a World Series triumph with a 1-0 shutout of the San Francisco Giants in the deciding Game 7.
But it was golf that brought them together many years ago in San Angelo, Texas, where Terry was a fledgling PGA Senior Tour player and Richey was participating in a Celebrity Players’ Tour event, of which he was a founding member.
They became fast friends and have become even closer friends over the past two-plus decades.
In the wake of an apparent suicide by Garden City High School student Davon Riegel, local businessmen Jack Schmidt and Sean Thayer invited the two legends of their sports to Garden City to speak to an audience of Garden City High School student-athletes, coaches and administrators.
In his opening remarks, which were to eventually introduce Richey, Terry spoke of the opportunity presented by athletics to young people.
“You learn how to have teammates, be a teammate, travel and you can learn lessons that will help you in life,” said Terry, who now calls Larned home. “You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out.”
A member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, Terry was born in Big Cabin, Okla., and signed with the Yankees to begin his pro pitching career with the storied franchise.
In his introductory remarks, Terry said Richey had been at the top of his profession despite battling depression for most of his life.
“He wrote a book about it and it dealt with depression, how to battle it, and the loss of loved ones,” Terry said of Richey.
Richey, 10 years younger than Terry, gave a wide-range of ideas on how he dealt with depression while playing competitively at the highest level. His sister, Nancy, had also won a couple of Grand Slam tournaments and is in the Tennis Hall of Fame.
“What I found that helped me was to tell myself that I would never quit, because once you quit the first time, it’s easier to quit the second time,” Richey told the audience. “My dad always taught me to give 100 percent every time you’re on the court, or whatever you do.”
When he started losing more on the professional tour, Richey said he started drinking and then used valium to help him sleep, citing that depression has been linked to his family genetics.
“I quit cold turkey, and that was 24 years ago, and the depression on Tour lasted about six years,” Richey recalled of those darker days. “It threw me into a three-year period where I was somewhat non-functional and didn’t want to leave the house.”
Richey said he knew he needed help and also knew there was help out there for him to deal with the disease.
“I underwent Cognitive Therapy and it gave me a game plan for life,” he said of the one-year program. He likened it to a three-legged stool.
“I learned how to live a good lifestyle, learned how to eat good food and how to sleep good,” he said. “It’s like a tool box. You learn to deal with it and you learn your new normal.”
Richey said he had much to be thankful for and says that the diseases comes at you like a bully and a liar — and he says a person must find a way to stand up to the bully and tell the liar that you’re not going to give up.
His first book titled “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champions Toughest Match” had helped his develop skills to deal with depression.
“I’ve learned how to never give up, never ever, ever, give up,” he said in his closing comments.
Richey was also conducting a clinic for GCHS tennis players while in town.