That Time the Razorbacks Football Team Went On Strike: Part 1

In other states, Arkansans have played major roles in some of the biggest team protest/strikes in college football history. In 1969, for instance, Sparkman native Fred Milton precipitated an Oregon State football protest generating national headlines by simply refusing to cut his hair.

Later that same year, Pine Bluff native Ivie Moore became one of Wyoming’s “Black 14” who boycotted an upcoming game against BYU.

In 2015, of course, the entire Missouri football team went on strike in advance of a game against BYU — though for different reasons than the Wyoming players. Russellville native Mitch Hall* was on that Mizzou squad.

Far less known than the above incidents is the time practically the entire University of Arkansas football team went on strike. In happened in January, 1912, and before diving into specifics, let’s take a wide-lens look at some of the most dramatic ways Razorback football was then so different:

  • Under the leadership of Hugo Bezdek, the program was coming off the most statistically dominant stretch in its history. From the start of 1909 to halfway through the 1911 season, Arkansas went 17-1 and outscored its combined opposition 617-42.
  • Touchdowns were then worth five points each.  Not only the 1912 were they worth six points.
  • It would be another two years before Arkansas joined the SWC as a charter member.
  • Its captain-elect, Dan Estes, would go on to coach at what’s now called UCA for 17 years. Today, Estes Stadium in Conway is named after him.

So, back to the strike: What exactly happened?

Just like with the strikes at Wyoming and Missouri, this student protest started with non-athletes. In Arkansas’ case, it started with the university administrators trying to put the clamps on an underground student-run newspaper called The X-Ray. This publication, helmed by 36 students, aimed “to correct university failings by condemning everything from campus litter to favoritism among discipline and scholarship committees,” Brady Tackett wrote for The Arkansas Traveler in 2012.

Another specific complaint levied by The X-Ray editors: “While we are too poor to keep our campus look neat at a nominal cost, we are able to build ten thousand dollar tracks and football fields that are never used.” Notably, the editors (who included their names on the paper’s masthead) included sons of members of the board of trustees, UA baseball stars and, apparently, Dan Estes himself.

This publication infuriated UA administrators, especially UA president John Tillman. It violated a 1905 law, prompted by the board of trustees, banning “unauthorized publications and assemblages.”


This was Part 1 of a two-part series. Go here to read the rest.


*The 2015 Missouri football team strike was inspired by a black student organization’s protests against racially charged incidents on campus and a cut to health insurance for graduate students. I don’t know if Hall, who is white, supported the protest or not. Not all the Mizzou players did, after all. One white player anonymously told ESPN: “As much as we want to say everyone is united, half the team and coaches — black and white — are pissed. If we were 9-0, this wouldn’t be happening.”

Missouri football has struggled mightily since the start of the 2015 football season, winning only three SEC games in that span and producing terrible Tweets like the below. It’s has about 1000-to-1 odds of winning the 2018 national championship according to some betting lines.

 

The 5-10 Philander Smith Guard Who Led the Nation in Field Goal Percentage: Part 1

It’s not common to find high-volume shooters who connect on more than 75% of their field goal attempts over the course of a full college season. Rarer still are those players who can also connect on more than 90% of their free throws.

Rarest of all is the player who does all the above while standing less than six feet tall.

And yet, nearly 50 years, a Philander Smith College guard named Robert Thompson pulled off this possibly unmatched trifecta. In 1968-69, this 5-10 Texas native finished:

  • 8th in the nation in scoring with a 29.1 average per game
  • 1st nationally in field goal percentage at 77.8 %, completing 257 out of 330 field goals attempted
  • 1st nationally in free throw percentage at 97.1 %, completing 104 out of 107 free throws attempts

These are amazing statistics. In the NBA, the kinds of players who can shoot more than 70% from the field while also shooting at high volumes are in the Wilt Chamberlin realm—unstoppable giants camped out close to the rim. Yet those same giants often struggle with their free throws, shooting under 60%.

At the Division I NCAA level, the two highest field goal shooters have been:

  1. Davontae Cacok (UNC Wilmington): Shot 80% for 12.3 PPG in 2016-17
  2. Steve Johnson (Oregon State*): Shot 74.6% for 21 PPG in 1980-81

Yet both of these guys were fairly large dudes operating around the rim. Cacok stands 6-7, 240 pounds, while Johnson played at 6-10, 235 pounds. And both shot under 69% from the free throw line.

Meanwhile, the Division I record-holder in season free throw percentage is Missouri State guard Blake Ahearn, who hit 97.5% in 2003-4. But he also shot under 40% from the field.

Philander Smith plays in the NAIA, so how does Thompson’s feat stack up within that association’s all-time records? Well, it turns out his free throw record still stands today.  The runner-up is Klay Knueppel (Wisconsin Lutheran), who made 95% of his free throw attempts in 1989-1992.

The listed season field goal leader is James Cason, a Birmingham-Southern forward who made 78.2% of his 280 attempted field goal attempts in 1995-96. Cason, however, stood 6-5, making him one of the tallest players on the court during most NAIA games. Robert Thompson may hold the No. 2 ranking here. According to the NAIA record book, the No. 2 spot goes to Paul Peterson (Westbrook [Maine]), who shot 76.2% from the field in 1994-95. But Thompson’s 77.8% is superior, of course.

Of course, since the NAIA official record keepers didn’t include Thompson’s record, it’s possible they have missed others as well. But regardless of how high Thompson’s 77.8% ranks, it’s fair to say it’s an extremely impressive for any player—especially a 5-10, 158 pound guard.

I’ve found some old articles which delve deeper into Thompson’s historically great season. Stay tuned for those upcoming posts.

 

*My oh my how the Oregon State basketball program has fallen, going from No. 1 throughout much of that 1980-81 season to around 500-to-1 odds to win the 2018 national championship according to some betting lines.

Muhammad Ali’s 1969 Visit to Philander Smith College

In 1969, Muhammad Ali visited the historically-black Philander Smith College in downtown Little Rock during a five-day swing through the capital city, Pine Bluff and Fayetteville. Ali’s primary purpose on the trip was to advocate for key tenets of the Nation of Islam’s pro-black philosophy, which included segregation of the races. As I write in my book African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks and other Forgotten Stories, he said:

“Black and white people do not hate each other, but it is the nature of the two races to oppose each other. When you try to integrate, you have weakened the the races because you have bucked the law of God….”

Ali certainly struck notes far from the conciliatory tone of earlier civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr. when he told the Philander Smith students they were not free and “here you don’t own a thing. You don’t even belong here. You have nothing with which to identify. This country only becomes ‘your country’ at draft time.”

The Arkansas Democrat reported large cheers greeted this statement.

Here’s a student newspaper clip of Ali’s visit, courtesy of the Philander Smith College Digital Archive:

Philander Smith

About a month after Ali’s visit, Philander Smith student Robert Edgerson penned an editorial in The Panthernaut pushing back against the idea of racial separation. The column, excerpted below, provides a good historic lens through which we can learn what “Black Power” meant to at least one socially engaged African-American male in late 1960s Little Rock:

Continue reading Muhammad Ali’s 1969 Visit to Philander Smith College

LeBron James vs. Larry Bird vs. Kevin Durant vs. Julius Erving

Heading into Game 5 of the NBA Finals, here’s how 28-year-old Kevin Durant’s career statistics stack up against three of the top small forwards of all time:

Kevin Durant 

Overall Career

PPG: 27.2

RPG: 7.2

APG: 3.8

SPG: 1.2

BPG: 1.0

FT% 88.2%

FG% 48.8%

3PT% 37.9%

 

Advanced 

PER 25.2

eFG% 53.5%

TS% 60.8%

WS/48 .219

 

Career Playoffs 

(105 games)

PPG: 28.7

RPG: 8

APG: 3.8

SPG: 1.0

BPG: 1.2

FT% 85.2%

FG% 46.6%

3PT% 34.1%

Career Playoffs Advanced*

PER 24 (26.9 with GS this postseason)

eFG% 51.5%

TS% 58.5% (.669 with GS this postseason)

WS/48 .189 (but .275 with GS this postseason)

 

LeBron James

Overall Career 

PPG: 27.1

RPG: 7.3

APG: 7

SPG: 1.6

BPG: .8

FT% 74%

FG% 50.1%

3PT% 34.2%

 

Advanced 

PER 27.6

eFG% 53.6%

TS% 58.4%

WS/48 .239

 

Career Playoffs

(216 games)

PPG: 28.3

RPG: 8.8

APG: 6.9

SPG: 1.8

BPG: 1

FT% 74.3%

FG% 48.4%

3PT% 33%

Advanced Career Playoffs

PER 27.8

eFG% 52.1%

TS% 57.4%

WS/48 .241

 

Larry Bird 

Overall Career  

PPG: 24.3

RPG: 10

APG: 6.3

SPG: 1.7

BPG: .8

FT% 88.6%

FG% 49.6%

3PT% 37.6%

Advanced Career 

PER 23.5

eFG% 51.4%

TS% 56.4%

WS/48 .203

Career Playoffs 

(164 games)

PPG: 23.8

RPG: 10.3

APG: 6.5

SPG: 1.8

BPG: .9

FT% 89%

FG% 47.2%

3PT% 32.1%

Advanced Career Playoffs 

PER 21.4

eFG% 48.5%

TS% 55.1%

WS/48 .173

 

Julius Erving [includes first 5 seasons (through 1975-76) played in ABA]

Overall Career 

PPG: 24.2

RPG: 8.5

APG: 4.2

SPG: 2

BPG: 1.7

FT% 77.7%

FG% 50.6%

3PT% 29.8%

Advanced Career

PER 23.6

eFG% 50.9%

TS% 55.8%

WS/48 .192

Career Playoffs 

(189 games)

PPG: 24.2

RPG: 8.5

APG: 4.4

SPG: 1.7

BPG: 1.7

FT% 78.4%

FG% 49.6%

3PT% 22.4%

Advanced Career Playoffs 

PER 22.1

eFG% 49.9%

TS% 55.3%

WS/48 .176

While Durant’s time with the loaded Warriors this season has hurt his scoring average, the numbers show above his actual shooting efficiency has skyrocketed. He’s also averaging a career-high in rebounding (8.3 per game) and blocked shots (1.6) while averaging a career-low in turnovers (2.2) per game. And, of course, Kevin Durant is winning at a higher clip than ever before.

“He’s probably going to win a title this week and he’s inordinately happy [according to] everyone who knows him well” NBA analyst Kevin Arnovitz said on Slate’s Hang Up and Listen podcast. “He’s the happiest he’s ever been professionally. He’s a guy who’s one of the best in the world at his craft who hadn’t really had a choice where to work, which firm to work for and under which circumstances. I think we’re going to see more of this—until the league decides we’re not going to have a max salary under the cap structure, so if you want Durant you’re going to have to pay him $80 million out of the $110 million available under the cap, and you’re not going to have room for another guy like that.”

Arnovitz added: “It started with LeBron in 2010. Stars are realizing that their value is driving the league and they want their work situations to be of a certain kind. It wasn’t that Durant wanted to stack the deck,” Arnovitz said. Kevin Durant “wanted it to be an attractive market, he wanted to play with a certain temperament of guy and he found a place to work that he really likes.”

Footnotes:

  1. *All statistics according to baskeball-reference.com.

PER = Player Efficiency Rating.

eFG% = Effective Field Goal Percentage

TS% = True Shooting Percentage

WS/48 = Win Shares Per 48 Minutes

Definitions are here.

2. Down 3-1, the odds are stacked against Cleveland to win Game 5 on the road despite the fact that LeBron James’ significantly raises his game in do-or-die situations. Five Thirty Eight forecasts Golden State still has a 98% chance to win the series overall, and the Warriors are 6-point favorites at home for tonight’s NBA Finals game, according to basketball lines for major sportsbooks.

That Time Black Muslims Interviewed Chicago Bears Legend George Halas: Part 1

The integration of the NFL followed a jagged path, starting with a trickle in the 1920s, coming to a halt in much of the 1930s through mid 1940s and then slowing building in steam again. By 1963 every team had at least one black player. At that point, however, none of them played quarterback.

This was all the more surprising given not only were black quarterbacks excelling in traditionally black colleges, but they had also led major college programs like Michigan State, Minnesota and UCLA to national renown.

The question of why blacks in the early 1960s hadn’t yet gotten regular playing time at quarterback inspired a series of interviews which ran in Muhammad Speaks, then the name of the periodical produced by the Nation of Islam led by Elijah Muhammad. To tip off the series, a Muhammad Speaks writer spoke to George Halas, the longtime Chicago Bears founder/coach/owner and “O.G.” among NFL patriarchs.

Below is the first part of the interview, which originally published on January 31, 1963*:

“I don’t care what color a man is. I’m interested in winning games,” the Chicago Bears’ George Halas told Muhammad Speaks last week. Halas, whose 1962 Bears finished third in the National Football League western division with a record of nine wins and five losses, said: “I’ll use any man who can best play the position, regardless of his color.”

Whatever political complexities have entered the field to dilute this position on player use, the aging, active Halas would not say. However, so glaring is the discrimination against Negro quarterbacks and so important is this key position to the psyche and status of Negro players—it remains for galvanized fan pressures and a football “Jackie Robinson”** to break the barrier.

“Sandy Stephens (University of Minnesota’s All-American quarterback) was good, admitted Halas, known as “Papa Bear” throughout the sports world. “There’s no doubt in my mind Stephens could have made it. I would have used him myself if he could have beaten out Bill Wade.” (Wade is the first-string quarterback).

Below are my own notes:

*The Bears were then on the cusp of an 11-1 season in 1963, which would be the last NFL championship team Halas coached. Don’t look for glory to be reclaimed in 2017. Most prognosticators have Chicago finishing with a losing record that starts early on: the Bears are a 6.5 underdog to Atlanta in Week 1 according to football lines in major sportsbooks.

** Technically, the NFL’s first black quarterback was Fritz Pollard in the 1920s. He played, however, before an unofficial ban against blacks beginning in 1933. Coincidentally, Kenny Washington, a UCLA football teammate of Jackie Robinson himself, was the first black to play in the NFL post-ban. It had taken Washington seven years to break through in 1946 after not being picked in the 1939 draft, “even though Chicago Bears coach George Halas tried to convince NFL coaches to lift the ban on black players for the Bruin star,” according to this ucla.edu press release.

Here’s a teaser for the film made about Washington and three other pioneering Bruin teammates:

Read Part 2 here. Subscribe to be notified of future interesting historical/sports posts.

Bert Williams: Nolan Richardson’s Friend & Giant of College Basketball History

Former El Paso Bert Williams was in the middle of two of the most important cultural landmark events of the 1960s: the first major city in the South to officially integrate post-Reconstruction, and the first NCAA Championship basketball team to start five black players. About a week ago, this civil rights giant suffered a heart attack and was put into an El Paso area hospital’s cardiac arrest unit, according to my author friend Rus Bradburd. Bradburd is a former UTEP assistant basketball coach who wrote the biography of Razorback coaching legend Nolan Richardson, an El Paso native who alongside Bert Williams’ played a central role in paving the path to Texas Western’s 1966 NCAA title.

Their stories began to intertwine in the late 1950s, when Bert Williams was an El Paso alderman who helped Richardson get into his first college, Eastern Arizona, as a baseball player. After Richardson returned to El Paso, Williams got him to join his fast-pitch softball team, according to Bradburd’s Forty Minutes of Hell: The Extraordinary Life of Nolan Richardson. After one game, Williams convinced Richardson to go with him to a popular local restaurant, the Oasis, despite the 19-year-old Richardson’s protest he wouldn’t be served there.

Williams insisted they enter anyway, given his connections in city government and Richardson’s status as the best athlete at Texas Western, now known as UTEP. Sure enough, the waitress refused to serve them the beer and Coke they ordered. Williams tried to force the issue but failed. He grabbed Richardson by the elbow and headed for the door, then warned the owners “I’ll be back.”

The incident shook Williams up. He immediately began drafting legislation to officially end segregation of El Paso hotels, theaters and restaurants. Williams told Bradburd: “The city was divided by railroad tracks, but the laws were enforced more arbitrarily for Mexican-Americans, and there were places were they could eat without trouble.” But attitudes were not so permissive for blacks. Williams rallied fellow aldermen to his side, revised the wording of the ordinance and got it to pass an initial vote.

“Both El Paso newspapers, the Times and the Herald-Post, published editorials condemning the progress,” Bradburd wrote in Forty Minutes of Hell. “The mayor vetoed the ordinance, but Williams had enough votes to override him. ‘It was just by coincidence that Nolan was there that night at the Oasis,’ says Williams, who was subsequently elected mayor himself. ‘After I witnessed the way he was treated, such a great kid and the star of the college, I knew I had to do something.’

Bert Williams’s heroic act made El Paso the first major city in the Old Confederacy to officially desegregate. Yet Williams’s courage—he ignored numerous threats and enormous pressure—was barely reported nationally and remains nearly forgotten even in El Paso*. [Texas Western coach] Don Haskins took notice though. The town’s new progressive status would have a profound effect on Texas Western’s ability to recruit black athletes,” including Arkansas native Jim Barnes**, who would become the 1964 NBA Draft’s No.1 overall pick.

Don Haskins, son of an Arkansan and Hank Iba protege, had arrived on the UTEP campus in 1961 and would go on to become Richardson’s mentor. Haskins leaned on Richardson, the team’s only black local native, to become the social host for black recruits—given he knew the lay of the land and where to go to avoid unofficial Jim Crow sites. Although Richardson graduated from UTEP in 1963, he would stay around the area and play a big role in helping Haskins’ recruit many of the players who formed the 1966 title team.

Although El Paso itself was now officially integrated, Richardson preferred taking recruits to far more racially tolerant Mexico.

“In Juarez, black men could eat thick steaks, dance with whomever they wanted, and stay out as late as they pleased,” Bradbury wrote. “Heroes from the 1966 team, such as Harry Flournoy, Orsten Artis, Bobby Joe Hill, and Nevil Shed all socialized in Mexico with Richardson and had a lively time. As such, Mexico as well as Bert Williams hold a place in the history of American college basketball; they were largely responsible for the recruitment and comfort of the historic Texas Western team.”

 

*In 2009, the city of El Paso did officially honor Bert Williams.

**To learn more about Jim Barnes’ roots in Newport, make sure to read this segment from Untold stories: Black Sport Heroes Before Integration.

Hank Iba called Houston Nutt, Sr. “a black man in a white man’s body.”

At least four Arkansans have played basketball at the University of Kentucky. I’ve already written about three of them—Bob Burrow, Archie Goodwin and Malik Monk— though just briefly touched on the first: Houston Nutt, Sr. While question marks hang over how well Monk and Goodwin will be able to reintegrate themselves into Arkansas after having turned down the Razorbacks in favor of the Wildcats, no such question marks hung over Nutt, Sr. after he came home from college to establish life in Little Rock.

Relatively speaking, he had been every bit the high school phenom Monk and Goodwin were, and yet apparently the Razorbacks of the early 1950s were not in contention for his services when the likes of Kentucky—then a powerhouse under coach Adolph Rupp just as it is now under John Calipari—came calling. (The big difference was that in that era Rupp got the majority of his players from inside Kentucky.)

So, how good was the 6-feet-2 Nutt Sr. as a basketball prodigy?

Let’s let Jim Bailey, the longtime Arkansas Gazette (and then Democrat-Gazette) sportswriter, explain: “Quite simply, Houston was several basketball generations ahead of his competitive time,” he wrote in a 2008 letter to Emogene Nutt quoted in You’re the Best: Reflections on the Life of Houston Nutt. “A tall guard, he amounted to what coaches called the ‘The Total Package,’ handling the ball, shooting from outside, driving for the basket, rebounding and, above all, doing everything with intensity, flair and enthusiasm. He often scored 30 to 40 points, and this was in a period of time when 40-50 was a fairly typical high school basketball score.”

In terms of quickness and leaping ability, Nutt, Sr. was no Archie Goodwin—and definitely no Malik Monk. But he was far from shabby, too, according to Hank Iba, the legendary Oklahoma State basketball coach who coached both Nutt, Sr. after a transfer from Kentucky. Decades later, Iba also coached Nutt Sr.’s son Dickey Nutt. “I will never forget him saying, ‘Your dad was a black man in a white man’s body,’ referring to his athleticism,” Dickey Nutt recalled in You’re the Best, a biography of Houston Nutt Sr. written by his widow Emogene Nutt.

This book is a must read and treasure trove of Arkansas history trivia. Here are some other highlights from its first quarter:

A Family Home Built on Sandwiches?

When Nutt Sr. was a child, he banked mad money off the side hustle of selling chicken sandwiches drizzled with Heinz 57. His mom, May, made the sandwiches and then Nutt Sr. sold them at 25 cents apiece at the bus station and train depot. “Houston could sell the sandwiches literally faster than his mother could prepare them,” the story according to Emogene Nutt goes. “I’ve heard that the money was used to help buy the land on Moro Street in Fordyce where the family home is today.”

A Tennis Ball and Coffee Can

Houston Nutt Sr.
Fay, Houston and Clyde (circa 1950)

Houston was born in 1930 and had two older brothers: Fred, born 1922, and Clyde, born 1928. His youngest brother Fay was born in 1932. All four brothers loved to play basketball but in the Great Depression had trouble finding an actual basketball to do so with. So they used an old tennis ball instead. Their basketball goal “was a coffee can with both ends cut out and nailed to the wall,” Emogene Nutt wrote after Nutt Sr.’s passing in 2005.

According to her book, Fred Nutt went on to play on undefeated basketball teams at the Arkansas School for the Deaf. Clyde Nutt played for the same school and made All-State in 1947, 1948 and 1949. In 1949, the brothers led the deaf school to its first state basketball title. Fay, meanwhile, played with Houston on the Fordyce Redbugs team.

A Strong Pryor-Nutt connection

David Pryor Houston Nutt
David Pryor, Dennis Nutt and Houston Nutt    Sr. at War Memorial Stadium in 1986

In the 1940s former Arkansas governor David Pryor starred for the Camden Panthers, a rival to the Redbugs which Nutt Sr. quarterbacked. The two competitors became good friends over the years and when Pryor was elected as a U.S. senator and moved to Washington D.C., his son Mark Pryor lived with the Nutts while he finished out his semester at Little Rock Central High School. Nutt Sr. and Pryor even had major heart attacks on the same day—Houston in Little Rock and David in Washington D.C., Emogene Nutt recalled. During their recovery, they jokingly blamed the delicious hamburgers of the Redbug Cafe in Fordyce and Duck Inn Cafe in Camden for the heart attacks.

MLB GMs Gushing Over Andrew Bentintendi’s Potential, Dan Shaughnessy Says

The follow excerpt is from an interview between sports talk show host Bo Mattingly and Dan Shaughnessy, a longtime Boston Globe sports columnist. They discussed the rapid rise of outfielder Andrew Benintendi, the former Razorback who has gotten off to a successful 2017 season start with the Boston Red Sox.

Dan Shaughnessy: He wasn’t in the major league clubhouse last spring. You know, the star of the year at single A and then just about to take these three games at double A and then he’s in the big leagues and he’s not a very big guy… I was dazzled that he was so major league ready — a 21, 22 year old kid walking in to that situation and he made everything look fairly easy, he’s a fluid player.

I don’t have to tell you guys, but to see him perform at this level with the same ease and ability that he’s had at all the other levels I thought was quite and achievement. He was a guy we watched really closely at spring training and the job was his. He was the left fielder, and then he went out and double earned it on top of that, and then of course, [had] a big opening day.

I just want to see more. I’m so impressed and I’m kind of a tough mark on this stuff. I didn’t think it would be so seamless, this transition, with so little professional baseball under his belt and very little above single A… It’s like the higher you put him, the level, he raises his game. So I just want to see more. He’s beautiful to watch.

If you get a chance, there’s a picture by Stan Grossfeld. He’s a two time pulitzer prize winner, and he’s been attending at the end of his game yesterday and that home run. He looks like the top of every baseball trophy you’ve ever seen; he’s got both hands on the bat, perfect follow through, head tracking the ball and the way his feet are angled and twisted, it’s just a beautiful shot and again that would be his baseball card if you had to do one right now.

…We’ve had guys come through but generally … with Nomar [Garciaparra] there was a larger sample and Nomar was hitting .370 in the big leagues, right-handed his third year in at a really young age. Brady Anderson was sort of a phenom when he came up and it didn’t really happen for him here. He struggled like most young players.

And Andrew—they all struggle, he will at some point. The comparisons can be unfortunate when we [media] do this, but the Fred Lynn thing is unfair to him because Fred Lynn hit .331 and was MVP in his rookie year, and that’s too much to ask anybody to do. He was playing center field, which is of course Andrew’s natural position. And he’s a little bit bigger. But he had the pedigree of being [from] USC and triple A. I don’t know whether he was MVP but he spend quite a bit of time down in the bushes while they were waiting his turn up here. So this is just a more expedited path and you don’t want to put too much on them.

[Andrew Benintendi] did get bigger in the off season by design. He claims that does not sacrifice any of his speed but he’s a good 15 pounds more muscular than he was. He doesn’t need to be that physical; as a corner outfielder you want more than 12, 15 home runs. He looks capable of being that, but when we first saw him last year that was my first thing. It’s like, you just don’t see corner outfielders that are that short, that slight.

Bo Mattingly: When you talk the scouts and front office types, what is it about Andrew Benintendi that they think gives him a chance to be not just a flash, but a long term all-star kind of player in major league baseball?

Dan Shaughnessy: …That’s one of the reasons I’m so in on this guy. Not this many people can be wrong, and the folks you’re talking about—they don’t make their judgements based on one game, they see a larger sample that’s telling us he will get the power of the big leagues and he can be a five-tool guy. They’re all in, too, pretty much.

You get [picked] seventh in the country, you’ve got something there. I’m heartened to see that people who are not mutants can still play this game and get it done. When you stand next to Reggie Jackson now, I mean, you’re like “God, he was was never that big.” He was really stacked and muscular, but Reggie’s not that tall, he’s shrank a little bit in his old age but he’s  not big, not much bigger than this kid. You didn’t used to have to be enormous, and most of them are now. Especially the pitchers. They draft 6’5, you know. That’s what they look for and I understand that. That’s why there’s so many guys throwing 96 coming out of the bullpen.

So, it’s nice to see the game, you know, an outfielder come to the big leagues and Mookie Betts is another example of course because he’s not a superhuman physical specimen. …With Benintendi they talk about the usual hand eye coordination, his ability to recognize pitches, to wait to adjust, doesn’t seem to get fooled that much with the big-league pitching…

He hit the exact same in the big leagues that he hit in the minors last year. He had more power this spring. I talked to him about it and he says that was due to the strength and the weight, that the ball’s going further to left center for him. Edge velocity is better. It’s just a lot to look forward to. I think the fans here are really going to be jumping on this and anxious to see more.

***

Make sure to listen to the entire interview at sportstalkwbo.com.


The above excerpts have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. In every case, the speaker’s original meaning has been maintained.

Are Kentucky Freshmen Hurting SEC Basketball’s Overall Rankings?

In November and December, Big Blue Nation struggles more than other blue blood programs. 

Kentucky consistently starts more freshmen than any other program in the nation. It’s been this way since John Calipari arrived seven years ago and instituted a philosophy which embraces the “one and done” m.o. of so many of today’s high school prep stars who have designs on NBA riches and fame.

Playing this many Kentucky freshmen has, for the most part, panned out well on the backend of seasons. In the Calipari era, Kentucky has gone to four Four Finals and won a championship. But freshmen, no matter how gifted, take time to gell. And so, on the front end of seasons, Kentucky underperforms relative to nation’s other best programs.

That is, since 2011-12, Kentucky has “only” won 61.3% of its November/December matchups against non conference, Power 5 opponents. That’s at the bottom of the recent best of the best, as you can see below.

Duke: 20-6 (.769)

Villanova 15-5 (.750)

Kansas: 24-9 (.727)

North Carolina: 17-10 (.630)

Kentucky: 19-12 (0.613)

Below is a breakdown of each program’s season-by-season records. All data is taken from sports-reference.com.

Kentucky In Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 3-2

2015-16: 3-2

2014-15: 6-0

2013-14: 1-3

2012-13: 1-4

2011-12: 5-1

Kansas in Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 4-1

2015-16: 3-1

2014-15: 5-1

2013-14: 3-3

2012-13: 4-1

2011-12: 5-2

North Carolina in Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 3-2

2015-16: 4-1

2014-15: 3-3

2013-14: 2-1

2012-13: 1-2

2011-12: 4-1

Duke in Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 3-1

2015-16: 2-2

2014-15: 3-0

2013-14: 3-2

2012-13: 4-0

2011-12: 5-1

Villanova in Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 3-0

2015-16: 3-2

2014-15: 4-0

2013-14: 3-1

2012-13: 2-1

2011-12: 0-1

Kentucky’s early-season struggles have hurt the SEC’s overall cachet as a basketball conference.  Consider Kentucky has been the league’s marquee program these last six years, while other SEC programs don’t play nearly as many high-profile early-season games. If Kentucky struggles to rack up significant wins pre-conference, because it more often loses head-to-head matchups with the titans of other conferences, then few other SEC teams have schedules which give them a chance to make up the difference.

So, the SEC’s strength of schedule ratings as a conference (relative to other conferences around the nation) suffers. This is one factor in the reason the SEC might have been underrated as a basketball conference until this March Madness, when three SEC teams broke into the Elite Eight for the first time since 1986.

Look for SEC programs to raise the number of their high-profile early-season games soon. The league office has mandated that in the coming years each program must play non conference opponents with a three-year RPI average of 150 or above.

History of Arkansas’ All-Black High School Sports Association

Below are the earliest known references to the Arkansas Colored Athletic Association, which was the governing body for sports between the state’s all-black high schools before the 1966 integration into what’s now the Arkansas Activities Association.

By that time the 1960s rolled around, the predominantly-black schools’  association was called the Arkansas State Athletics Association, while the predominantly-white schools belonged to the Arkansas Athletics Association.

Got questions, or something to add? Contact me at evindemirel[at]gmail.com for more details.

Arkansas Gazette September 25, 1938 – Page 13

The Dunbar High School (Negro) Bearcats will play Morrilton (Negro) High School eleven in their first home game of the season at Kavanaugh Field Friday afternoon. The Dunbar team defeated Texarkana (Tex.), 14 to 6, at Texarkana last week.

J.M. Sutton, Morrilton mentor [coach], is a former Dunbar athlete. Sutton is a graduate of the Tuskogee Institute.

A meeting of the Arkansas Colored Athletic Association was held at Dunbar High School yesterday. They were: Pine Street of Conway, Miller High of Helena, Corbin of Pine Bluff, Langston of Hot Springs and Morrilton.

Date: Sunday, March 19, 1939   Paper: Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas)   Page: 35 

The first annual Arkansas Colored Athletic Association basketball tournament will be held at Arkansas AM and N College, Pine Bluff, March 24 and 25. The conference now in its third year, has nine of the outstanding high schools on its membership roll. Teams that will compete for the first conference crown are Camden, Corbin, Dunbar, Fargo, Merrill, Morrilton, Langston, Conway and Jonesboro.

Date: December 9, 1940 Paper: Hope Star Page 6

The Yerger football team, Hope and Corbin High of Pine Bluff dominated all-state negro selections of the Arkansas Colored Athletic Association announced Saturday. Yerger headed the list with four all-state placements:

O.W. Jackson of Dunbar was reelected president of the association for the first consecutive year. Other officers elected were: C.W. Dawson of Corbin High, vice president, and A. Logan of Langston High, secretary-treasurer.

Corbin High is recognized as the unofficial conference champions.

Date: Sunday, March 8, 1942   Paper: Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas)   Page: 35  

The Arkansas Colored Athletic Association will hold its annual basket ball [sic] tournament at Cotton Plant Saturday. The first game will start at 10 a.m.

The association is composed of the 18 leading high schools of the state. The winner will be awarded the state championship trophy.

The schools participating are Augusta, Blevins, Childress, Camden, Corbin, Cotton Plant, Dunbar, Fargo, Jones, Langston, McRae, Merrill, Miller, Morrilton, Moton, El Dorado, Texarkana and Yerger.

Date: Saturday, February 19, 1944   Paper: Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas)   Page: 7  

First round play was completed in the Arkansas Colored Athletic Association basket ball tournament at Jones High, North Little Rock, yesterday. Results in the girls division:

Merrill High 13, Stuttgart 11

Dunbar 21, Fort Smith 12

Augusta 28, Cotton Plant Vocational 12

Jones 17, Morrilton 5

Menissee [Menifee] 12, Helena 5

Results in the Boys Division:

Carbin [Corbin] 23, Fort Smith 14

Jones 47, Augusta 18

Cotton Plant Academy 22, Cotton Plant Vocational 10

Menissee [Menifee] 24, Merrill 18

Stuttgart 20, Helena

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