Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Kinnick Wall Of Fame Revisited


While attending a meeting in West Des Moines this week, someone asked me about the Media Wall of Fame in the Kinnick Stadium press box at the University of Iowa.
It was nice of that person to ask.

She had noticed in one of my Facebook essays that I was one of 20 charter members of the Wall of Fame.

Instead of me writing more about the honor that took place 11 years ago, I'll reprint an announcement from the University of Iowa and a column I wrote on one of my websites about the the who, what and why of the whole deal:

There was this announcement from the University of Iowa:

The new press box at Kinnick Stadium will feature a Wall of Fame to recognize members of the news media and the University of Iowa’s own public relations staff.

“We want to honor those individuals who have covered Hawkeye football with integrity, accuracy, and fairness over a long period of time,” said Iowa Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby, in making the announcement. “We believe a Wall of Fame in the new press box at Kinnick Stadium is an appropriate way to do so.”

The Wall of Fame’s first class includes 20 men who will be recognized at Iowa’s football game Oct. 28 with Northern Illinois. Together, they have a total of 780 seasons covering Hawkeye football.

“This is an extraordinary group that has reported on the past 84 years of Iowa football,” said Bowlsby. “They knew all the great coaches and players during that time, and witnessed all the great games. We are fortunate to have had them chronicle the Hawkeyes.”

Listed alphabetically, they are:

Bob Brooks, WSUI Iowa City, 1943-48; KCRG Cedar Rapids, (Deceased).

Bob Brown, Ft. Dodge Messenger, 1956-1993. (Deceased).

Gene Claussen, KXIC Iowa City, 1948-86. (Deceased)

Tait Cummins, Cedar Rapids Gazette, 1939-47; WMT Cedar Rapids, 1948-70. (Deceased)

Al Grady, Iowa City Press-Citizen, 1951-87; Voice of the Hawkeyes, 1988-2002. (Deceased)

Ron Gonder, KRNT Des Moines, 1965-68; WMT Cedar Rapids, 1969-99.

Jerry Jurgens, Quad City Times, 1945-77. (Deceased)

Ron Maly, Des Moines Register, 1959-99.

Bert McGrane, Des Moines Register, 1922-63. (Deceased)

Frosty Mitchell, KGRN Grinnell, 1960-85; WMT Cedar Rapids, 1986-96.

John O’Donnell, Quad City Times, 1925-67. (Deceased)

Gus Schrader, Iowa City Press Citizen, 1950; Cedar Rapids Gazette, 1951-78. (Deceased),

L.E. “Ike” Skelley, Associated Press, 1929-58. (Deceased)

Russ Smith, Waterloo Courier, 1955-90. (Deceased).

Bud Suter, UI Athletic Relations Director, 1955-74. (Deceased)

Buck Turnbull, Des Moines Register, 1952-93.

Maury White, Des Moines Register, 1946-88. (Deceased)

Eric Wilson, UI Sports Information Director, 1924-68. (Deceased)

George Wine, UI Sports Information Director, 1968-93. (Deceased).

Jim Zabel, WHO Des Moines, 1949-2000. (Deceased).

Brooks covered more than 60 years of Hawkeye football. Zabel, Grady and Schrader were on the scene for at least 50 years each.

McGrane and Wilson covered the Hawkeyes when they still played on the east side of the Iowa River and, along with Skelley, reported on the first game at Kinnick Stadium in 1929. Those three, plus Cummins and O’Donnell, chronicled the legendary 1939 Ironmen, starring Nile Kinnick.

Cummins, Grady, Maly, McGrane, Turnbull and Wine have all written books on Hawkeye football.

The Wall of Famers were selected by a committee appointed by Bowlsby. Additional individuals will be honored in future years.

* * *

Now for some personal comments from me that appeared in print in 2006.

Thank you, University of Iowa.

Thank you Bob Bowlsby.

Thank you, George Wine, and everyone else else who had something to do with establishing the Wall of Fame.

I am humbled.

On behalf of all of us in the charter group, I am grateful that Iowa and Bowlsby chose to honor those who were able to share the rich tradition of University of Iowa football by writing and talking about it over all these years.

"This was all Bob Bowlsby's idea," said George Wine. "He asked me one day if I'd like to get involved with the Wall of Fame in the new press box.

"It's a nice thing for him to do, and I think it's appropriate. He has an appreciation for people like you and the others who covered the Hawkeyes for all those years. Bob is an Iowa native who has followed the scene down here for a long time."

[At the time, Bowlsby was winding up 15 years as Iowa's athletic director and was preparing to take a similar job at Stanford. He spearheaded the drive to make the $90 million improvements in Kinnick Stadium -- the new press box being a big part of it. Bowlsby's successor is Gary Barta of the University of Wyoming. Bowlsby now is commisioner of the Big 12 Conference].

"Bowlsby explained to me earlier this year what he had in mind for the Wall of Fame, and said he needed someone to pull it all together," Wine said. "So I told him I'd think about it. I got hold of Phil Haddy and Tom Bauer. The three of us basically selected the 20 people for the Wall of Fame."

Haddy succeeded Wine as Iowa's sports information director. He now is retired from that job. Bauer worked in various capacities at the university for many years.

"Once my committee got the 20 names together, we ran them by Bowlsby," Wine said. "He told me to start working on having plaques made of the 20 members. I have the plaques ordered, and I think they'll be very nice-looking.

"They will be gold, etched in black. I'm going over to the new press box Friday to determine which wall they'll be on."

Wine said the Wall of Fame will be in the press section on the fourth level at the north end of the new press box.

It's sad that all 20 members can't be present for the Oct. 27 dinner at the Iowa Athletic Club and the Oct. 28 game at Kinnick Stadium.

As I think of that, the years are on rewind in my mind as I write.

I think of those no longer with us.

I think of Gus Schrader, the longtime sports editor at the Cedar Rapids Gazette, who gave me my first sportswriting job when I was 15 years of age. I once said I'd work at the Gazette for nothing. And that's about what I got. I was paid 75 cents an hour. But I wouldn't have traded it for anything.

I think of Bert McGrane, who came out of the Grantland Rice school of sportswriting and wrote such wonderful game stories for the Register. I had the pleasure of working in the same office with Bert late in his career. As a 24-year-old, first-year copy editor/one-night-a-week bowling-columnist, I'd use his typewriter to write stories -- hoping there'd still be some magic in the keys after he'd gone home for the day.

I think of Maury White, the sports columnist/reporter who was still showing up in the Register's offices in his 80s. He died the way he wanted to die. He collapsed on the newsroom floor -- probably after he'd written something clever --and went to the big press box in the sky a few days later. No one worked harder than Maury.

I think of Al Grady, the Iowa City writer and Hawkeye sports historian who defied death several times -- probably because he wanted to see one more Iowa victory over Michigan. If anyone bled black-and-gold, it was Al.

I think of Tait Cummins, the sportswriter-turned-broadcaster whom I listened to as a kid regularly on WMT-radio in Cedar Rapids.

I think of John O'Donnell, the man who knew everybody and called every one of them "Coach."

I think of Eric Wilson, the intense veteran of 44 years in the information business at Iowa.

I think of Bud Suter, who told me over lunch in 1965 that he thought Forest Evashevski would came back after his earlier success to coach Iowa again. Too bad it didn't happen.

I am honored to be included in the same list of Wall of Famers as my friend Buck Turnbull. Buck and I still exchange war stories. The best thing was that both of us were fortunate to cover sports during the golden age at the Register.

There are, of course, some talented broadcast heavyweights included in the List of 20.

One is Jim Zabel, who spent the last half of the 20th century living and dying with the Hawkeyes for WHO-radio in Des Moines. Zabel is now deceased.

Another is Bob Brooks, the veteran Cedar Rapids announcer who watched Nile Kinnick and the Ironmen play in 1939. Brooksie has also gone to the big press box in the sky.

Another is Ron Gonder, a man I got to know when he worked for KRNT in Des Moines in the 1960s, then went on to a standout career at WMT in Cedar Rapids. He's a master storyteller and an excellent person.

Frosty Mitchell covered the Hawkeyes for 25 years for KGRN in Grinnell, then bought WMT and did Iowa games for the Cedar Rapids station for another 10 years.

George Wine, who became Iowa's second sports information director in 1968 and later wrote a book about Hayden Fry and another about Hawkeye sports, was among those of us who suffered through 19 straight non-winning football seasons at Iowa. "As Jim Zabel says, 'There were one or two bad decades in there,'" Wine said with a laugh. Wine and Zabel are now deceased.

To all the others in the Wall of Fame -- Bob Brown [deceased] of the Fort Dodge Messenger, Russ Smith of the Waterloo Courier deceased], the late Jerry Jurgens of the Quad City Times, the late Gene Claussen of KXIC in Iowa City and the late Ike Skelley of the Associated Press -- I join Iowa in saying, "Thanks for a job well done."

Iowa has added others to the Wall of Fame, including Rick Brown [Bob Brown's son] since the charter members were named.

The attached photo is of me and my entire family in the press box in front of the Wall of Fame on the weekend the charter members were honored.

Included in the family photo in addition to me are my wife Maxine, sons Lonn, Mark and Kevin, their wives Julie, Polly and Donna, and grandchildren Cole, Jerika, Shelby, Claire, Nate and Megan.

Obviously, the grandkids were much younger and much smaller 11 years ago than they are now.

Indeed, our family has grown by one since the photo was taken. Cole married Danielle last July 30. We love her a lot, and she's a wonderful addition.