Pro Beekeeping Legend Bound For Glory

In Reports from Green Lake by Brady Carlson0 Comments

Bobby “The Ox” Redman finally elected to NBL Hall of Fame

It’s the 1967 Buzzsaw Bowl. The Denver Drones have held the lead most of the game, but the Atlanta Buzz have managed to stay in the game and force three sudden death overtimes, largely thanks to their star smoker, Bobby “The Ox” Redman, who’s managed four pounds of honey and five assists despite having sustained a collapsed lung in the first period.

The clock ticks. The bees buzz. Suddenly Redman and forward Joe Ramone see an opening in the Drones’ legendary “yellow peril” defensive formation. Gasping for breath, Redman feigns left, makes a pass to Ramone and then hurls himself headlong into Drone scraper Walt DeRosio, fracturing most of the rookie’s ribcage and leaving Ramone a clear field. Ramone throws his bucket of honey toward the goal, but the wind catches it, dragging it toward foul territory. Ramone waves his arms frantically, as if he could will it back into play. Miraculously, it ricochets off the foul pole. The Buzz win. The crowd roars. Redman and Ramone are hoisted onto their teammates’ shoulders and carried around the perimeter of the field, stopping only when Redman’s other lung collapses and he has to be taken to the medical tent.

Nearly four decades after that remarkable day, Redman is getting something even better than expert CPR by Atlanta paramedics: induction in the National Beekeeping League Hall of Fame. The lifelong Green Lake resident spent last weekend on the porch of his attractive raised ranch in Green Lake, thinking about his illustrious 19 year career in professional beekeeping, his legacy and the future of the sport he loves.

“Those were incredible times,” he says, with a smile. “1965, ’66, ’67… the three best years of my career, and probably three of the best years of my life.” In those three years, Redman had per-game averages of 5.4 pounds of honey and 6.2 assists, while getting less than 20 stings a year. He led Atlanta to two consecutive Buzzsaw Bowl victories and picked up three Most Valuable Beekeeper awards in the process. His lifetime stats are unrivalled; even today, 19 of his records still stand. Redman was a no-brainer choice for the NBL Hall of Fame when he retired in 1979, and he was on the ballot in his first year of eligibility. “I felt like a million bucks,” Redman said. “But then the other stuff started happening.”

The “other stuff” refers to his infamous year-long cross-country “Bee Liberation” spree, in which he and Ramone, wearing enormous yellow and black striped wedding gowns, drove to hundreds of beekeeper’s houses and set all the bees free. The ensuing honey shortage destabilized world markets, leading to a long recession and the overthrow of the Costa Rican government. “Boys will be boys,” Redman offers shyly. But his ten year federal prison sentence was the least of his concerns: NBL Commissioner Mount Everest Johnson ruled he was banned for life from pro beekeeping. That meant no coaching or scouting jobs, no promotional appearances- and no Hall of Fame. “I was devastated,” Redman recalls. “To be that harsh for something as trivial as a year-long violent bee liberation spree… I just couldn’t believe it.”

After being paroled in 1993, Redman began the long process of clearing his name. He began organizing beekeeping games for charity and wrote a memoir, Stung In The Heart, asking for forgiveness from NBL fans. Hundreds of beekeeping fans across the world organized an Internet petition on his behalf, and soon the star beekeepers of the modern age were praising Redman as a major influence. “So he knocked over a few hundred beekeeping stands a while back,” said Houston Honey forward Quintavius Dwyer. “That doesn’t mean he wasn’t one of the all-time great smokers.” Seattle smoker Celeste Floy added, “I got into beekeeping by watching Bobby Redman as a kid… if anybody deserves a second chance, it’s him.” Finally, newly appointed NBL commissioner Joe Brown announced in July that he was lifting Redman’s lifelong ban, and the Writers Association unanimously voted to induct Redman into the Hall. “Ramone called me from the slammer to tell me the news,” Redman says. “I got so excited I hung up the phone, ran to my garage, picked up an axe and started smashing my neighbor’s car to bits. The cops came and all, but I explained the deal and they took me out for a beer.”

Redman plans to drive himself to the Hall of Fame dinner, which will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, next Wednesday night. “But this time, I won’t be knocking over any bee stands,” he says, with a grin. “I’ve waited too long for this to screw it up.” He pauses. “Well, maybe if it’s on the way.”

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