The fourth Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame banquet Saturday offered a sliver of bitter with the savory and the sweet.
Mostly, there was laughter and the warm feeling that goes with folks with long resumes and experiences sharing some stories.
The induction banquet happened to occur four years to the day in which KATV sports director Paul Eells, one of the most beloved figures to work in this state, died in an automobile accident. Eells was the
first sportscaster inducted into the Hall. It explained why Eells’ widow, Vickie, was unable to attend and also while there was a solemn moment or two as several shook their heads and outwardly murmured,
"Has it really been four years?"
It was also a time to marvel at how far the event, conceived by Mike Harrison and energized by a bunch of community leaders, has come since a gathering of 102 people at Ryan’s Steakhouse in its first year
in 2007. The latest event attracted almost a full house at the Centennial Valley Special Events Center. More than 400 tickets were sold.
At the head table was Don Dyer, an Arkansas Sports Hall of Famer and the winningest men’s basketball coach in Arkansas college history; Jim Bailey, an Arkansas Sports Hall of Famer and one of the most
respected reporters and columnists in the state for decades; Frank Broyles, Arkansas Sports Hall of Famer and legendary football coach and athletic director; Harold Horton, Arkansas Sports Hall of Famer and the winningest football coach in University of Central Arkansas history; Ken Hatfield, Arkansas Sports Hall of Famer and legendary player and coach; and Cliff Garrison, Arkansas Sports Hall of Famer and
winningest basketball coach in Hendrix history.
Pat Summerall, the sportscaster who was inducted, accepted his award by video. Jerry McConnell, the sportswriter inducted, was lesser known to some because he represented writing and reporting from an era
past, but was one of the most respected practicioners of his craft in the state, particularly in developing reporting on track a field.
The setting translated both to friendly barbs, old jokes and long-forgotten stories.
It was ironic that Dyer, the winningest coach in UCA history and an significant rival to Garrison in his day, introduced Garrison, who was selected Arkansas Sports Club Member of the Year.
"We coached against each other for 15 years, and I remember when Hendrix won, it was superior coaching and when UCA won, it was superior talent," joked Dyer, noting Garrison is one of his best friends since
both have retired. "And I’ve learned, if you want to get something done, give to Cliff."
In introducing former state Sen. Stanley Russ for a service award, longtime friend Jim Baker said, "It you stack all of Stanley’s accomplishments on top of each other, there’s not a New York show dog that
could jump over them."
"It was embarrassing that Jim exaggerated my meager accomplishments and for me enjoying them so much," Russ said.
Something you will never experience is Hatfield, who received a lifetime achievement award, talking about himself. During his time at the podium, if he used "I," it wasn’t noticed. But he had praise for
almost everyone and every group in the room.
He did tell a story of the time he was selected to play in a "Milk Bowl" high school all-star game in Texarkana between a group of all-stars from Texas and Arkansas. The Arkansas team showed up in T-shirts, shoulder pads and ragtag uniforms. The Texas players arrived in full uniform with cleats and helmets and won easily.
"None of us on the Arkansas team had cleats and there was only one guy with a helmet and he was a backup and wouldn’t loan it to anybody," Hatfield said.
Bailey recalled how McConnell and former Little Rock Central and now retired Baylor track coach Clyde Hart got together about creating a Meet of Chmmps for event winners in various classifications. The
Arkansas Activities Association declined to underwrite it.
"The gate at that first event netted $3,000 and after that, the meet looked a whole lot better to the Arkansas Activities Association," Bailey said.
McConnell was covering sports when Dyer was coaching in high school, Garrison was playing in high school and Bailey was just beginning his sportswriting career. McConnell was also just ahead of Summerall’s
arrival at the UA.
He recalled the old-school days of football practice in Arkansas in August.
"Sam Cook (legendary coach at DeWitt) told me after one August practice that ‘I sure have trouble getting five straight days out of a white dress shirt,’" McConnell said.
A side note: His career reflections had a special meaning to this reporter. As managing editor of the former Arkansas Democrat in 1978, McConnell brought me to Arkansas after he judged a contest in which I
had won an award.
Some of the tales were so old they required translation.
McConnell recalled watching Harold Horton scored on four touchdowns for Dewitt on what we are called "naked reverses" because there were intentionally no blockers in front of him when he got the ball.
"Cook called it the ‘Sally Rand play.’" McConnell said.
Some folks laughed. Others had puzzled looks.
Sally Rand, an icon from the days of burlesque in the early part of the 20th Century, was one of the most famous strippers in history, a most appropriate moniker in the day for a "naked reverse."
Although stuff was lost in translation, most folks, after some whispers from friends, sorta got the meaning.
It’s typical of how both legends are made and celebrated.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)