The contrast was amazing at the eighth induction banquet for the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
The sportswriter honored was Clay Henry of Hawgs Illustrated, a precise and conscientious wordsmith.
The sportscaster inducted was Dizzy Dean, a grammatical rebel. Rebel is an understatement. Dean was to prim and proper speech what John Daly is to plain and simple golf clothing.
Dean was a Hall of Fame pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals, then became one of baseball’s main broadcasters (along with Pee Wee Reese) in the fledgling days of national baseball telecasts in the 1950s and 60s.
From the outset, he was beseached with criticism from English teachers throughout the country for his lack of good verbal mechanics — like inventing another tense for slide: “He done slud into third base.”
Sandy Dean, who made the acceptance speech for his late uncle, noted that the famous and/or infamous broadcaster had little formal education. Dean apparently started the third grade but dropped out, then noted his ‘Ole Diz’ once said, “Come to think of it, I wasn’t doing very well in the second grade.”
But his colorful nature made him one of the highest-paid sports broadcasters of the time. “A lot of people who don’t say ain’t, ain’t eating too good,” Dizzy once said.
Often bawdy and brash, Dean, who worked for CBS, ignored political correctness.
Sandy said, “He and Pee Wee were broadcasting a game that turned out to be a really bad game. He came out and said, ‘Folks, this is supposed to be the national Game of the Week but there is a much better game over there on NBC.’”
Henry is a different story. I actually succeeded him as sports editor of the Log Cabin when he joined the staff of the Tulsa World. He laid a solid foundation that made an easy transition into this job. For the past 23 years, he has served as publisher of Hawgs Illustrated, the most authoritative single source on Razorback athletics, and as a sports columnist in northwest Arkansas. He has been a strong network of trust among both news sources and colleagues throughout the state.
“He is conscientious and thorough ... and I’ve always admired the way he goes about his business,” said radio talk show host Bo Mattingly, who introduced him. “He does what is right even when nobody is looking. If he knows you, chances are he has done something for you and you may not even know about it.”
Henry is part of the first father-son combination to be honored by the Hall of Fame. His father is the late Orville Henry, the first sports writer inducted.
Henry grew up and was mentored by a cast of Hall of Famers — not only his dad but Jim Bailey, Jerry McConnell, Harry King, Wadie Moore and Joe Mosby, all of whom spent a stint at the late Arkansas Gazette.
“These people were my family,” said Henry, who started covering sports at age 17 while a student at Little Rock Central. “I didn’t have to have anybody tell me how to do this job. I just did what they did.”
While working in Conway, Henry said he tried to get a job with his legendary father at the Gazette. “Dad told me it was time to go somewhere else (eventually the Tulsa World). He told me there was only one good sports writing job in the state and he had 40 more years left.”
Clyde “Smackover” Scott, who starred in football for the Naval Academy and Arkansas, played four years in the NFL and won a silver medal in the 110 hurdles in the 1948 Olympics, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Arkansas Sports Club. Scott once constructed his own hurdles for practice and became a world-class javelin thrower after making his own javelin out of a long stick he purchased at a lumber yard. He was also a lightweight boxing champion in the service.
“Folks say he may have been the best athlete in state history,” said Bud Whetstone, who helped introduce Scott, who could not attend because of health reasons. “I would ask, ‘is he not the best athlete who ever lived?’”
The families of the late Don Nixon and Jim Connaway were presented with Service Awards.
Former state Sen. Stanley Russ was recognized as Member of the Year by the Arkansas Sports Club.
He also gave the most welcome and succinct speech, “Blessed is he who has a lot to say but doesn’t say it.”
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)