Indianapolis is often recognized as one of the premiere sports cities in the world. This past Saturday night, the Indianapolis sports neighborhood welcomed its newest resident, the Associated Press Sports Editors’ Red Smith Hall of Fame. Even with the storied histories of such athletic proving grounds as Hinkle Fieildhouse and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the new kid in town just may be the most distinguished of all the Circle City sports sites.
The APSE Red Smith Hall of Fame–located in the student center on IUPUI‘s downtown campus–is just the latest offering from a newly formed alliance between the APSE and Indiana University‘s sports journalism program. While its primary function is to pay homage to the Mount Olympus of sports writing greats, it is also there to dare students, and future sports journalists, to be great.
For those unfamiliar with the Red Smith Award, it is a distinction given by the Associated Press Sports Editors for outstanding contributions to sports journalism, and was first awarded to its namesake, Red Smith, in 1981. Smith is best known to many for his amazing sports writing contributions to The New York Times.
Red’s immortal quote, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” lays prominent on the award-winner’s wall, and greets all who enter. The Red Smith Award is often dubbed the Pulitzer Prize for sports journalism.
Many individuals had a hand in creating the Red Smith Hall of Fame, but the two most influential individuals in the Hall’s inception are Garry D. Howard, current president of the APSE, and Tim Franklin, director of the National Sports Journalism Center. Howard came up with the concept, and Franklin helped bring it to fruition on the IUPUI campus. The two men worked tirelessly to make this dream a reality, and neither could hold back the ear-to-ear smiles once the doors swung open.
It was an important night for Howard, whose lists of accomplishments include being a husband, a father, the assistant managing editor in charge of sports at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the first African-American to hold the position of President of the APSE in the organization’s 36-year history. Howard is a man who can write and speak as eloquently as anyone you’ll ever hear, but put the evening in perspective by simply saying,”it’s one of the greatest days of my entire life.”
When asked where his inspiration for the project came from, Howard replied, “Tim Franklin came to me and mentioned a possible alliance between the IU sports journalism program and the APSE. I thought it would be a good idea for us to be on campus so college students can learn the history of sports journalism and be better prepared for their future.” He added, “The first thought that came to my mind was establishing a Red Smith Hall of Fame.”
It was important to Howard that such a site be built, to give credit to all the great sports writers who came before him. “Before we established the hall of fame on campus, it was just a list on a Web site. It was unbelievable to me that an award detailing the greatest sports writers in history was just somewhere in cyberspace,” he said.
Howard went on to talk about why establishing the Red Smith Hall of Fame on a college campus was the APSE’s best move. “It’s so kids can come here and actually see this history. It illustrates how strong the field of sports journalism is, there is no denying that it is the greatest collection of sports journalists ever.”
The evening started off with a reception in the actual Red Smith Hall of Fame, where guests included past winners like Dave Kindred (1991), Ed Storin (1992), George Solomon (2003) and Vince Doria (2009). Other honored guests in attendance included Kit O’Mera, daughter of Red Smith, and Bill Plashke of the Los Angeles Times who gave the keynote speech at the evening’s banquet.
When guests weren’t catching up with old friends and colleagues, they could be seen staring at the wall emblazoned with the plaques of past Red Smith recipients. Even in a crowded room, almost all seemed to close their eyes for a moment or two and recognize the presence of sports’ greatest scribes, some in body, some in spirit.
The night culminated with a banquet across the street from the student center, at the University Place Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. Afterwards, the guests hung around in the lobby of the hotel talking with one another. You could sense that no one wanted to be the first to leave for fear that they might miss out on another great moment the night repeatedly produced.
*Photos courtesy of Zach Hetrick
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