The careers of the late Jim Elder, Harry King and John McDonnell took some similar twists on the way to the celebration of common achievements Saturday night.
At the third Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame induction, Elder was honored for his sportscasting career, King for his sportswriting career and McDonnell for his success as arguably the most successful college coach in history.
Elder, a native of Pennsylvania who came to Arkansas as an umpire in the Cotton States league, became legendary with his broadcasts of Arkansas Traveler baseball and as host of the first major statewide radio talk show in state history. He served as a minor league general manager, a referee, an umpire and worked at a sporting goods store. Then the late Bud Campbell, last year's Hall of Fame inductee as a sportscaster, hired him to keep statistics for the Travelers, which led to an analyst job and later to a career as of the most familiar voices in state history. He was one of the last broadcasters in the nation to recreate road games from a studio.
"When he passed away, thousands of people in Arkansas thought they knew him personally, but they were not as lucky as the people who actually did," said Jim Bailey, a semi-retired sportswriter who has gone into the hall both as a sportswriter and for lifetime achievement.
Bailey also had a hand in the career of King, the dean of Arkansas sportwriters covering the Razoracks who worked a short stint for the Arkansas Gazette before beginning a 36-year career as news and sports editor with the Associated Press in which he played a major role in reporting about every major event in state history. Since 2002, King has served as sports columnist for Stephens Media.
King remembered the college football game he covered was an Arkansas Tech game in Russellville for the Arkansas Gazette. He said he began dictating his story that evening and "just choked. I had no led, no middle, no coherency, nothing."
Bailey, who took the dictation then asked him to give a few of the basic facts and details and said, "Don't worry. We'll take care of it. I drove 77 miles that evening really contemplating a career change. The next day, I opened the paper and saw this smoothly written, coherant, wonderfully accurate account of the game with my byline and I did not recognize one word.
"It showed me how good editors can work wonders and I've had good editors thoughout my career."
In introducing McDonnell, Gary Taylor, one of his outstanding former athletes, noted the coach's 40 national championships, 50 citations as coach of the year, 12 consecutive NCAA titles and five national triple crowns (winning NCAA cross country, indoor track and outdoor track in the same year).
"People always ask me one question: How did he do it?" Taylor said. "One word — inspiration. He had the ability to bring great individual athletes into focus for a team."
McDonnell, who began his career at Arkansas working for $2500 a year, said it was surrounding himself with great people, including former UA athletic director Frank Broyles, who was presented the lifetime achievement award and was in attendance.
But it also began in Ireland with his brother, Dustin, who also was in the audience. He said he was kicking a football (soccer ball) in Ireland one day when his brother, a runner, asked him to pace him as he trained. He beat him in a race.
"My brother said, 'you could be a good runner,'" McDonnell said. "And that led me to a career in track, which led to the coaching."
Also honored at the banquet, which attracted about 300 people, were the late Bob Ralston, a service award, and former UCA basketball coach Don Dyer (who spearheaded ticket sales for the banquet) and Arkansas Sports Club Member of the Year.
(Further details on the banquet in Monday's editions of the Log Cabin).