12 Dec

The Elliot Ness-Inspired Gang Which Frequented LR Mann Games

Mann football

Arkadelphia-Warren saw one of the most bizarre endings in Arkansas prep football history. Good thing “The Untouchables” weren’t involved…

This Saturday, Arkadelphia High beat Warren High to win its first state title in 30 years in one of the most bizarre endings Arkansan football fans have ever seen. Warren, the defending Class 4A state champion, was down 28-27 in the waning minutes but drove the ball to Arkadelphia’s 8-yard-line with  a few seconds left in the game.

Then, after Warren attempted to spike the football to stop the clock after a run by Treylon Burks, a 16-year-old fan from Warren’s student section ran onto the field from the west side of War Memorial Stadium. The student gave a thumbs down gesture toward the Arkadelphia fans on the east side of the stadium, the Democrat-Gazette’s Jeremy Muck reported, before being promptly tackled by two Little Rock Police Department officers and an Arkansas State Parks ranger at the 25-yard line.

Before the fan’s intervention, Warren sophomore Jesus Tinoco was lining up to attempt a 25-yard field goal. But, because of the fan, the officials penalized the team a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, backing the Lumberjacks up to the Arkadelphia 23 yard line. On second and goal from the Arkadelphia 23, Warren ran another play instead of attempting a 40-yard field goal, Muck reported. With four seconds remaining, junior quarterback J’malachi Kinnard’s pass was intercepted in the end zone.

Afterward, Warren head coach Bo Hembree said the officials “hurt our kids. They weren’t helping our kids. Was that helping kids? I’ve never seen that in college,” he added. “But it’s sad when you work 15 weeks to get here and you let something like that take it away from a group of kids who worked their tail off all year. How do I go talk to them?”

This ending will go down as one of the most controversial and chaotic in recent memory. At least nobody was actually hurt, though. Things were different in some parts of the Arkansas state football scene in the 1960s—especially at Little Rock’s Mann High School.

The trouble stemmed from a street gang known as “The Untouchables” who frequented Mann High football games. According to graduates of the school* from the 1960s , these teenagers wore long trenchcoats and often carried sawed-off shotguns in an homage to law enforcement legend Eliot Ness and his federal agents who fought against gangsters in the Prohibition Era.

Ness’ autobiography The Untouchables, which published in 1957, inspired television shows, movies and, apparently, the name for street gangs in bigger cities. Members of the Little Rock version committed crimes in southeast Little Rock, but were not responsible for the homicides which would become so prevalent when big cities gangs like the Bloods and Crips emerged in the area more than two decades later. The Untouchables, it appears, were motivated primarily by defending turf and didn’t frequently engage in homicidal gun fights which sparked retaliation killings. With the infiltration of drug money, the monetary stakes would become higher during the bloodier 1980s/1990s “gangbangers” era in Little Rock.

Some of the LR Untouchables were Mann High students, and they attended road football games. Jackie Paradise**, who played football for Mann in 1960-1962, recalled one game in which an Untouchable shot at someone in or near the stadium of Langston High School (Hot Springs). He doesn’t recall the specifics, such as to what extent anybody was injured, but he recalls the event happening after the game.

The event, apparently, inspired a legend in which not only did a shooting happen, but the opposing was shot during the game itself—while running into the end zone. It’s unknown whether such an incident has ever happened anywhere in Arkansas.

The Untouchables intimidated opposing players in other ways, Merrill High alum Larry Williams told me. Williams, now 70 years old, was a Merrill High football player who visited Mann around 1967. During the game, the Untouchables beat up members of Merrill High’s band. Afterward, the Merrill High football team always needed a police escort by its bus to help make sure it back on the road back to Pine Bluff, Williams added.

Fortunately, things have simmered down significantly since that wild era. As aggravating as Warren’s state title game loss surely is for Lumberjack fans, nobody—not even the 16-year-old numbskull whom the police tackled—was seriously injured.

Mann High football


*Fun factoid: I took an advanced math class at UALR with Chelsea Clinton in the early 1990s. She ended up attending Little Rock Mann, by then a junior high, as her last in-state school before heading to Washington with her newly elected president dad.

**In case you didn’t notice, this guy’s name is Jackie Paradise. I vote this in as one of the Top 10 coolest last names in state prep sports history — and the best possible title for a Quentin Tarantino movie made on the topic.

28 Nov

The Razorback Fan Who’s More Hardcore Than 99.999% Of Y’all

Razorback tattoo

What drives a man to such porcine pride?

How far would you go for your favorite team? Chances are, not as far as Shane, whom I met yesterday in front of the salsa bar at a Taco Bueno in Fayetteville.

Arkansas tattoo Razorback tattoo

Shane, as anyone with even a sliver of sight can see, straight up got a Razorback and the word “Arkansas” tattooed on his skull. The northwest Arkansas native did that a year ago, and he added the  football program’s struggles since then haven’t dinted his passion in the least.

Indeed, he may take his inky zeal to yet another proverbial level. Shane is considering getting an aerial shot tattoo of Razorback stadium, he proudly said, softly touching the top of his noggin.

Shane’s a rare bird. Below are the only two instances the Internet knows about folks doing something like this, and I’m pretty sure the bottom one has something to do more with eastern Europeanized wild boar love than the kind of Hog love Arkansans know.

Razorback tattoo Hog tattoo

Shane builds bridges for a living. Here’s to hoping that whoever the U of A hires to fill the AD and head coaching vacancies can do the same with Razorback Nation.

PS: If you’re also considering getting a Razorback tattoo and want to do something not too boring, check out these boars for inspiration.


 

Black Razorbacks

Preview African-American Athletes in Arkansas on Amazon.com.

19 Nov

Jerry Franklin Speaking on a Sports & Social Justice Panel

Jerry Franklin

The Arkansas football legend to discuss the intersection of sports and civil rights with a philosopher and law school professor.

Well, they don’t get much more unique than this.

This afternoon, former All-SEC linebacker Jerry Franklin will speak on a diverse panel touching on first amendment rights and sports as an agent for social justice movements. I’m sure they will touch on the  ongoing national anthem protests in the NFL, as well as the ramifications of last year’s “Kneeling Razorbacks” protest at Bud Walton Arena. I highly recommend anyone interested in these issues to watch this clip, which Krystal Beachum of Student-Athletes Unite helped produce:

Most the student-athletes interviewed here are still in school. Their identities are masked for their protection.

The panel takes place at 3 p.m. at the ALLPS School of Innovation just off of Interstate 49 Exit 62 in Fayetteville:

ALLPS

Here are some brief bios on the panelists:

Jerry Franklin

Franklin was one of Arkansas’s best defensive players in the Bobby Petrino era, helping the Hogs reach the Sugar Bowl in 2011. He played about five years in the NFL, and now works in the logistics industry in Lowell. He and I recently spent a good couple of hours catching up  for this OnlyInArk.com feature.

Bobby Howard

A PhD philosophy student at the University of Arkansas who as an undergraduate majored in political science with minors in history and religious studies. Also works as a writer, editor and consultant for a Christian publishing label.

Angela Courage

A corporate consultant with BA in Human Resource Development, an MA in Communication with emphasis in Intercultural/Interracial and Organizational Communication, and a Doctorate in Higher Education with emphasis in College Teaching and Faculty Leadership. Also works as an assistant director of institutional research at Ecclesia College, and instructor at the UA.

Danielle Weatherby 

A UA law professor who researches First Amendment jurisprudence and its impact on student speech, hot-button school law issues, and emerging legal protections for transgender individuals. Serves on the AALS Section on Labor Relations and Employment Law’s Executive Board.

***

NB: Before the kneeling Razorbacks, other Arkansans played large roles in using sports social justice protests. At the height of the Vietnam War era, Sparkman, AR  native Fred Milton sparked freedom of expression protests within the Oregon State football team.  And Pine Bluff native Ivie Moore helped do the same at the University of Wyoming. Moore’s story is one I feature in African-American Athletes in Arkansas:Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks & Other Forgotten Stories. John Kirk, the director of UALR’s Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity, recently highlighted my Moore chapter on public radio.

Ivie Moore

Finally, below is one last relevant video to the issues at hand. It involves the  Cynthia Nance Chapter of the Black Law Student Association at the UA School of Law, along with The Sam M. Walton College of Business and UA’s African and African American Studies Department:

07 Nov

Sports & The Arkansas Public History Gap

Arkansas public history

Looking at how past inequities shape the Arkansas public history terrain of today with Tara Carr of KDIV (98.7FM).

Tara Carr, the host of “Tara Talks” KDIV 98.7 FM in Fayetteville, was kind enough to have me on her show recently to discuss some what compels me to dig so deeply into local African-American history through the context of sports. In the interview below, I discuss how inequalities in the early-mid 1900s—namely, the state gave far less money to public all-black schools than public all-white schools—have shaped much of what today’s generations know, and don’t know, of their past.

For example, better funding meant all-white schools could more consistently print annual yearbooks whereas all-black schools could only afford to produce them during certain years—if at all. This is one small reason the heritage of all-black schools is relatively well-chronicled, while huge gaps exist in the public history of black communities.

I want my book and interviews like these (and my talk at the Clinton School of Public Service) to help spur the launching of a public history project chronicling the heritage of all-black schools. This wouldn’t be sports-centric. It would start out as a simple online locator map of every all-black high school in the state with some basic info, and slowly fill in with details as we crowdsource material (e.g. scanned images of the schools themselves, pages from yearbooks, newspaper snippets). The Butler Center’s George West is very interested in coordinating with his Arkansas History Hub on this front, so we’ll see if we can make that happen.

For more info, reach out to me at evindemirel@gmail.com.

 

 

26 Oct

Hiram McBeth: Little-Known Black Razorback Pioneer

Razorback B-Team

While Darrell Brown and Jon Richardson are more well known, did you know Pine Bluff’s Hiram McBeth was the first African-American to play in a varsity-level football game? He did so in the red-white game in the spring of 1969, a few months before Little Rock’s Jon Richardson arrived on campus as a heralded freshman (and the first scholarship black Razorback in football) from what was then Mann High School.

Here’s a snippet on McBeth (in the right paragraph) from Orville Henry’s column in the April 27, 1969 Arkansas Gazette:

Hiram McBeth

And here’s a follow up from the September 9, 1969 Arkansas Democrat, by which time the Richardson had made it to campus:

Jon Richardson

Notice there is a third African-American mentioned: Jesse Kearney. According to McBeth, Jesse Kearney enrolled as a freshman in September 1969. Like McBeth, he too walked on. He never played varsity ball. Both McBeth and Kearney are now practicing attorneys, McBeth in Dallas and Kearney in Pine Bluff.

Finally, below is a nice retrospect by the late Rick Joslin which ran in the old Pine Bluff News. If you’re interested in seeing more of it, just call/text me at 501.554.5039 or info@heritageofsports.com.

Black Razorbacks

***

Read more about race relations, state heritage and sports  in my new book: African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks & Other Forgotten Stories.

21 Oct

When Razorbacks First Competed Against African-American Football Players

1965 Cotton Bowl

The all-white Razorbacks finished their glorious 1964 with a landmark Cotton Bowl showdown.

For the most part, integration of big-time college sports in the South happened in phases from the 1950s through early 1970s. In 1965, for instance, SMU’s Jerry Levias became the first African-American football player in the Southwest Conference. Two years later, Kentucky’s Nat Northington became the first in the SEC.

With Arkansas, like with many other programs, there are multiple pioneers. Little Rock’s Jon Richardson, the first scholarship black Razorback, came aboard in the fall of 1969. In the spring of 1969, though, Pine Bluff’s Hiram McBeth had become the first black Razorback to play in a varsity-level Arkansas football game when he played in the red-white game.

Then there was Darrell Brown, the walk-on from Horatio who played on the freshman team in the fall of 1965 and spring of 1966. He quit after suffering multiple injuries and never made varsity.  This was right in the heyday of legendary Arkansas coach Frank Broyles, and Razorbacks were a force to be reckoned with. Broyles, who coached the team from 1958 until 1976, became an all-time Arkansas legend in 1964.

After finishing his previous three Southwest Conference Championship winning seasons 9-2, 8-3 and 8-3, Broyles led Arkansas to an 11-0 record in 1964, outscoring opponents by 231 to 64. He had an especially strong defense which pitched multiple shoutouts in the second half of the season. Exhibit A: Razorback linebacker Ronnie Caveness, who was selected to the 1964 College Football All-America Team, and was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Jimmy Johnson, the future Super Bowl-winning head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, also played for that team. So did Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who got pretty emotional this past summer when he learned he was going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Now if his team could overcome their 20/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, I’m sure he’ll get way more emotional.

It’s interesting to note that the Razorbacks’ legendary 22-game undefeated run that included this championship-winning season started with a victory over Texas Tech, a game that was played the day after President John F. Kennedy died in 1963. That was the only SWC game played that day, and the Hogs tried as best as they could to get with business as usual, future Super Bowl-winning coach Barry Switzer told me. That win started an incredible run extending throughout the 1965 regular season when Darrell Brown scrimmaged against the varsity as part of the freshman team.

The high point of the run, of course, was Arkansas’ 10-7 win over Nebraska in the January, 1965 Cotton Bowl. That victory cemented Arkansas as the national champions, according to the two major organizations.  It was also the first time Razorback football players took the field against an integrated football team.

***

While Razorback football players hadn’t officially competed against black football players before 1965, decades before the program had helped a group of African-American Fayetteville natives named the “Black Razorbacks.” I tell that long-forgotten story in my new book: African-American Athletes in Arkansas.

10 Oct

Bret Bielema: “A coach is only gonna be allowed to coach to the level of what his personnel is.”

What Arkansas coach Bret Bielema Said Two Days After the South Carolina Debacle

Excerpts from Monday’s press conference

“I took over a winning program and took it to an even higher level to go to three three straight championships. I came here to a 3-9 program, we went three and nine and we’ve been on a steady ship trying to build this thing up. We were gonna be at the highest win total a year ago—lost two games at the end of the year that were very frustrating and haven’t been able to get back on track yet.”

“We’ve battled a lot with our injuries and with new players and new faces this year, that we haven’t gotten over the hump. But there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll get it to where it needs to be.”

“The good news is we have good kids who haven’t shown any bad signs of losing [hope], any lack of effort, any lack of discipline, any in fighting or going at one another. It’s more of a message of unity and persevering.”

On whether the problems which plagued the offensive lineman are again hurting Arkansas this year:

“I think the only thing that’s changed on the offensive line from a year ago was the departure of Skip [Dan Skipper] – a guy who played every position but center.

I felt good about where our guys were coming in depth-wise. Obviously, we would like guys to play better at certain time. Hjalte Froholdt is an improvement. Frank has been playing some pretty steady football. Colton [Jackson] does some things very, very well. Johnny Gibson has obviously been a nice continued surprise from where we got him to where we are today….I think he plays better at that guard position than he does at tackle.

It gets frustrating, but again—there are some guys we recruited three or four years ago who haven’t developed into what we want them to be…“My only regret is that four years ago we didn’t make the decision to recruit two more (in the O-line) in each class.”

A coach is only gonna be allowed to coach to the level of what his personnel is. And, again, if we just had a couple more guys depth[wise] that coulda matured and been in a position to play right now. I like the guys’ attitude.”

“I told our guys on Sunday night if I’ve ever been around a team that can change their path in a very short fashion, it’s these guys right here  right now. It’s not like they’re a million miles away — they’ve lost an overtime game, they lost a TCU game that went right down to the wire and [against South Carolina] there were in the third quarter of a game that got completely out of control.

Woulda shoulda coulda – I get it. Everybody’s gonna have commentary – I get it. But they really, truly are a team that is not very far away from being where they need to be.”

29 Aug

From Satchel to Mayweather, Racial Tensions Fuel Sports’ Most Lucrative Events

The rivalry between Satchel Paige and “Dizzy” Dean presaged the big-money boxing bonanza between Mayweather and McGregor

Rocky Marciano and Apollo Creed. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. And now, McGregor and Mayweather. In both fact and fiction, the spectacle of a great white athlete competing against a stellar black athlete often produces box office gold. Last Saturday night’s boxing match between the Irishman Conor McGregor and African-American Floyd Mayweather is only the latest proof. A traditional boxer, Mayweather drew from a sport followed by millions of Hispanic and black fans, while McGregor came from Mixed Martial Arts, a sport with a higher percentage of white fans. Together they made sports history, generating an estimated $700 million.

McGregor and Mayweather only occasionally played up the racial angle of their matchup in the months leading up to the fight. McGregor, at one point, told Mayweather to “dance for me, boy,” and used the term “dancing monkeys” in relation to an all-black gym from a scene in the 1982 movie “Rocky III.” Mayweather, meanwhile, said he was fighting “for all the blacks around the world.”

Despite such comments, McGregor, for his part, downplayed the racial aspect of the fight: “I’m not saying that there are not people on both sides that have this mind-set where it’s black versus white, and this type of thing,” he said. “But it’s certainly something I do not condone. I’m disappointed to hear the way sometimes it’s been portrayed. But I suppose it’s just the nature of the game, with the way things are going on in the world at the moment.”

Beyond the racial difference, what made McGregor-Mayweather especially enticing was the   two men’s common shared ground. Both men have stood at the top of their respective sports, and both flaunt outsized, arrogant personas. “McGregor is in many ways a cheap imitation of Floyd’s ‘Money Mayweather’ persona,” Todd Boyd, a professor who studies race and pop culture at the University of Southern California, told the New York Times‘ John Eligon. “But McGregor is white, he’s younger, and his clowning comes with an Irish accent. All of this seems to have endeared him to some in the media and many fans as well. McGregor is being celebrated for the same things that Floyd has been denigrated for.”

While the phenomenon of McGregor-Mayweather will likely be contained to a single contest, in team sports interracial rivals meet multiple times.  This was certainly the case in the 1930s, when Arkansas native “Dizzy” Dean, a St. Louis Cardinals* superstar pitcher, led all-white barnstorming teams against all-black barnstorming teams headlined by the great Negro Leagues pitcher Satchel Paige. Dean led the Cardinals to the 1934 World Series victory, graced the covers of major newspapers and magazines and was arguably the world’s most famous pitcher. Paige, meanwhile, unleashed legendary speed and won multiple titles in the Negro leagues playing for the likes of the Kansas City Monarchs.

The two men were, in many way, alter egos: “underfed, loose-jointed boys from Dixie whose down-home demeanor belied the sagacity of a Rhodes Scholar and the cunning of a corporate titan,” Larry Tye wrote in Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend. “Each preferred his nickname to his real one, and his own rules to his team’s, league’s or society’s. Neither was the kind of guy to whom one would introduce his sister, although fathers and brothers were aching to meet them. Ol’ Diz pitched six of the Cardinals’ final nine games during the stretch drive in 1934, a work ethic only ‘Ol Satch could match.”

While Dean, son of Dixie he was, had no qualms about using the “N-word,” he also praised Paige’s baseball abilities in a national column he penned. At the height of his fame Dean wrote, for instance, “If Satchel and I played together, we’d clinch the pennant mathematically by the Fourth of July and go fishin’ until the Fourth of July.” This kind of praise, coming from a Southern native, was instrumental in breaking down racial barriers  in the Jim Crow era and laying a foundation for the Civil Rights movement.

To learn more about how this happened, and the bond between Dizzy Dean and Satchel Paige, read my book African-American Athletes in Arkansas.

Black athletes


*Circa 2017, the St. Louis Cardinals aren’t exactly catching the world on fire with a .500 record. Still, they are the fourth-most likely team to win the NL pennant, according to the latest betting on baseball.

24 Aug

“African-American Athletes in Arkansas” Book Signing @ Fayetteville Barnes & Noble

This Saturday, from 1-3 p.m, I’ll do my first book signing in Fayetteville at the Barnes & Noble across from the Northwest Arkansas Mall.

I’m looking forward to meeting fellow authors,* seeing friends and talking about my book African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks and Other Forgotten Stories. A large portion of the anthology involves Fayetteville history. Below’s an excerpted example:

thumbnail of Advance Copy July 17 35

thumbnail of Advance Copy July 17 36

Some of the  families involved in this story — as well as the one in the “Black Razorbacks of the 1930s” piece (illustration above) — are the same mentioned in this OnlyInArk.com feature I wrote on the history of the the African-American community in Fayetteville.

The book’s already gotten some good press, with mentions by the likes of sports columnist Wally Hall and Ozarks at Large host Kyle Kellams, but I feel like it’s time to get out and see folks in person. Make it out if you can!

Read More

21 Aug

Frank Broyles On John Barnhill & The Threat of Arkansas State University

Good stuff from a Mike Irwin and Frank Broyles interview back in 2007. The below excerpt is from around the 13-15 minute mark.

Mike Irwin: Now one of the things that I’ve also been told is that when you came in here, you were especially initially very respectful of the traditions that were already here. You didn’t come in and say “Well, that’s nice, but we have to do this, we have to do that.” You listened to what [Barnhill] had to say about why things are done the way they are around here. One of the things he told you was “We don’t play Arkansas State here.” There were just all these traditions and reasons why things are done the way they are and you, may have put your own stamp on the program, but initially you were very respectful of.

Frank BroylesHe had built—where Arkansas wasn’t very successful—he had built [a wall] around the state. He had gotten the eastern Arkansas people interested by starting to play more games in Little Rock. And we’ve developed a fan base from one border of the state to the other, which we had to have if we were going to be a national power. We had to have the fan base, where other schools had it close by, ours was going to be 250, 300 miles away—some of it… The one thing I learned from him is “We are not successful without a fan base from all over the state.”
They could support other universities and other colleges at that time. But when the Razorbacks played, everybody stopped and listened. And he had developed that and it was a wonderful opportunity for me. I took the job with the intention of staying. So It’s been 54 years.
Mike Irwin: Jeff Long still has that same philosophy. I mean he’s the A.D. now, but he didn’t change that. I mean you know there’s been constant pressure and constant talk about “When are you gonna play other schools? Other schools do this, other states do that.” The policy is still the same.
Frank Broyles: …The wonderful thing is that the [state] legislature has let us decide that… Right now our philosophy is that we don’t play so fans can support both of us—or three of us, or four of us. Whatever schools they want to support, they support us and them. And that’s why we’ve been successful.