Leonard “Flash” Arndt, an athletic standout from Hickory whose achievements as a player, coach and official earned him a spot in the Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame, died on Thursday at age 97.
The Rev. Paul Christy, Arndt’s pastor at First United Methodist Church, confirmed the news.
Arndt’s athletic career was wide-ranging, covering at least three different sports. “I would rather play baseball, referee football and coach basketball,” Arndt told the Hickory Daily Record in 2009.
Arndt’s athletic career dates back to the 1930s, when he played football, baseball and basketball for Hickory High School, according to the Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame website.
Arndt’s Hall of Fame entry says he earned the nickname “Flash” during a high school football game. The game was tied and Arndt came off the bench to catch a game-winning touchdown pass, according to the hall of fame.
Arndt told the Record in 2009 that he actually got the nickname earlier when he beat two boys in a race but it was his performance in the football game that made it stick.
Arndt’s baseball career continued beyond high school. He played for the minor league team the Newton-Conover Twins and, during his time in the U.S. Army, played in Yankee Stadium, according to the hall of fame.
The hall of fame also credits Arndt with officiating roughly 5,000 sporting events. As a professional baseball referee, Arndt officiated a game in which Satchel Paige pitched, according to the hall of fame.
Outside of the world of sports, Arndt was “one of the foundations” of First United Methodist, Christy said.
Christy said Arndt was the longtime head usher at the church.
“He told preachers what to do and how to do it and preachers listened, too,” Christy said.