If I can survive one more day, I will celebrate my 30th anniversary of Tribune-Star employment Saturday.
It seems like weeks ago that an Indiana State classmate of mine, Sherry Hinton, led me around the old Terre Haute Star newsroom on Wabash Avenue. She introduced me to staff members Gladys Seltzer, Liz Ciancone, J. Blaine Akers, Nelson Kinnett, Mike Russell, Dick Tuttle, George Wardell, Ray Cronin, Bill Mabin and Dave Cox, to name a few, on my first day Nov. 1, 1978.
Originally hired by Star editor-in-chief Lawrence Sawyer, I worked part-time as an obituary writer and fill-in police reporter my first few years in the business. After the labor strikes of 1980, I switched departments and became a part-time sports reporter.
Still a college student through most of the 1980s — I tried to make that a full-time job, but it didn’t pay enough — I finally earned full-time status at the Tribune-Star in May 1988. By that point, the morning Star and afternoon Tribune had merged into the one morning newspaper we all know and love today.
Over the decades, I’ve covered countless fun games, races and other forms of competition. But there were a few I wish could have gone smoother — such as the June 1996 night that I witnessed my first race at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Soggy track conditions from recent rain showers forced so many delays that the 30-lap T.H.A.T. Classic didn’t end until 2:46 a.m. That’s when 25-year-old Tony Stewart took the checkered flag.
It was a chilly night and I didn’t own a recording device, so I was scribbling notes with cold, numb hands. Midway through my post-race interview with the winner, Stewart asked — perhaps half-jokingly, perhaps not — “Can’t you write any faster?”
“Can’t you be any taller?” was the first reply that entered my mind. But I remained professional and politely told Mr. Stewart that my hands were cold and I didn’t want to be there at 3 a.m. any more than he did.
The most tragic event I covered was the April 8, 1995, high school baseball game between North Vermillion and Rockville for the Banks of the Wabash Classic championship at Riverton Parke.
On a rainy Saturday afternoon, Rockville was leading 4-3 and batting with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth inning when a lightning bolt flashed from the dreary sky. As startled spectators looked up, they saw North Vermillion left fielder Kirk Gentrup lying motionless on the field.
Gentrup, 16, was rushed by ambulance to Vermillion County Hospital in Clinton and pronounced dead.
There I was, expecting to write a run-of-the-mill baseball game story, and instead I was hurrying to finish a front-page death story for the Sunday paper.
I’ll never forget that horrible day.
Now let’s get to the fun stuff that I mentioned earlier, shall we?
Being the numbers nut that I am, I ranked my top 10 favorite covered events or interviews from the past 30 years:
10. South boys in state finals — On March 23, 1991, Terre Haute South played in the IHSAA state finals for boys basketball during the pre-class era.
Coached by Pat Rady and led by senior Brian Evans, the Braves lost to No. 4-ranked Brebeuf 52-39 in the semifinals inside Indianapolis’ Hoosier Dome.
9. Indianapolis-Denver AFC playoff game — On Jan. 9, 2005, the Indianapolis Colts clobbered the Denver Broncos 49-24 in the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs inside Indianapolis’ RCA Dome.
Reggie Wayne caught 10 passes for 221 yards, Peyton Manning threw for 457 yards and four touchdowns and ran for one TD and the Colts couldn’t have looked better.
Too bad they lost at New England one week later.
8. Indianapolis-Pittsburgh AFC playoff game — On Jan. 15, 2006, Indianapolis cornerback Nick Harper scooped up a Jerome Bettis fumble near the Colts’ goal line and set his sights on sprinting the length of the field for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of a wild AFC second-round playoff game.
But Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made the tackle on Harper and Mike Vanderjagt later missed a 46-yard field goal that would have forced overtime, allowing the Steelers to escape the RCA Dome with a 21-18 victory.
It’s no secret that I’m a Colts fan, so this wasn’t the finish I had in mind and interviewing happy Pittsburgh players in their lockerroom wasn’t the column idea I had in mind. But helping cover (with Tom James) an NFL playoff game so exciting that it will be talked about for decades was truly an honor.
7. Indiana-Orlando NBA playoff game — On June 2, 1995, back when I cared more about the Indiana Pacers than I do now, I watched them pummel the Shaquille O’Neal-led Orlando Magic 123-96 in Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals inside Market Square Arena.
Reggie Miller fired in 36 points for the Pacers that night, although they ended up losing Game 7 at Orlando.
6. Interviewing 1979 NCAA finalists — In 1999, I did a nostalgia series on the 1978-79 Indiana State men’s basketball team that finished 33-1 and lost to Michigan State in the famous NCAA championship game.
I was able to interview almost all of the Sycamores from that team, including then-Indiana Pacers coach Larry Bird over the phone.
Assigned to conclude the series with a feature on Bird for the sports section and a recap of the ’78-79 season for the front page of the news section, I used a connection with Fox Sports to get a one-on-one, in-person interview with Magic Johnson inside Market Square Arena.
That means I’ve interviewed Bird, Magic and Michael Jordan at various times in my career.
Hey, maybe this is a fun job.
5. North Vermillion, South win girls state titles — On March 2, 2002, North Vermillion (Class A) and Terre Haute South (Class 4A) each won the state championship in girls basketball inside Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse.
In the morning, North Vermillion — coached by Ken Gentrup — slipped past No. 2-ranked Hebron 45-42. At night, the Alan Maroska-coached Braves routed South Bend Riley 63-42 as Reicina Russell posted 31 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
That was a loooong Saturday for me and Andy Amey, but worth every second.
4. Ray-Keene title fight — On Oct. 8, 1994, 12 rounds of brutal, knock-down, drag-out, legalized war ended with Kenny Keene of Idaho winning a controversial majority decision over Terre Haute’s Terry Ray inside Hulman Center.
At stake was Keene’s World Boxing Federation cruiserweight championship, which CBS cared enough about that it televised the matchup live across the country on a Saturday afternoon.
Knowing in advance that I’d be seated next to the ring, I decided to buy a new white shirt from Bachrach’s the night before the bout.
In one of the middle rounds, blood splattered toward ringside spectators and, naturally, a few drops landed on my new shirt. Believe it or not, I had no idea who it came from because both fighters were bleeding so badly.
3. ISU beats IU in men’s basketball — On Nov. 29, 2000, senior Michael Menser sank a 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left, enabling Indiana State to edge Indiana University 59-58 in men’s basketball inside Hulman Center.
Menser had hit another 3 with nine seconds remaining to pull the Sycamores within 57-56. This was the second straight year that ISU had beaten the Hoosiers.
When the final buzzer sounded, I had to restrain myself from running on the court to celebrate with ISU students.
2. Interviewing Harmon Killebrew — On Aug. 9, 2000, I felt privileged to meet my childhood hero for the first time and write a column about him being in Terre Haute.
With little advance fanfare, Baseball Hall of Famer Harmon “Killer” Killebrew — serving as national spokesperson for VistaCare — came to be honored at a private dinner and visit health-care patients at Wabash Valley hospitals and nursing homes during his two-day stay.
As I wrote back then, learning he was a better person than he was an athlete certainly made my long wait worthwhile.
1. Indianapolis-New England AFC championship game — On Jan. 21, 2007, Tom James and I covered the greatest comeback in NFL conference championship history.
Trailing the New England Patriots 21-6 at halftime of the AFC championship game on a Sunday night inside the RCA Dome, the Indianapolis Colts rallied to win 38-34 and earn a trip to the Super Bowl. When Joseph Addai ran for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, ushers were dancing and high-fiving fans in the crowd.
Don’t tell anybody, but even I accepted a high-five from a delirious Colts fan near the pressbox door.
After the game, I raced down to the Colts’ lockerroom to interview Jeff Saturday and Dan Klecko for my column, which needed to be finished in about 15 minutes to beat deadline.
As you might guess, those 15 minutes went incredibly fast.
So did the last 30 years.
David Hughes can be reached by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by fax at (812) 231-4321; or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If I can survive one more day, I will celebrate my 30th anniversary of Tribune-Star employment Saturday.
- Hughes News & Views
Terre Haute runner sets up race to help Boston
Having competed in the Boston Marathon once before in 2003, 35-year-old Majel Wells of Terre Haute thought she should give it another try in 2013.
“My goal was just to finish and enjoy Boston,” she reflected this week. “I had an injury [runner’s knee] beforehand, so I wasn’t too worried about beating my time from 2003 [4 hours, 10.20 seconds].
“But nobody cares about what your time is at Boston anyway.”
From what I’ve heard over the years, she’s right. Unless you’re a super-serious runner, the Boston Marathon has been more about taking in the atmosphere and having fun than placing in the top 50, although Wells was pleased that she beat her previous time by finishing in 3:55.19 on April 15.
Obviously, her race time wasn’t the most vivid memory that Wells took away from her 2013 Boston experience.
Former South players to play in Saylor benefit game
I had my first phone conversation with Mike Saylor since mid-February on Thursday and he sounded good.
The former Terre Haute South High School boys basketball coach, who’s been battling cancer this year, has been traveling back and forth to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for chemotherapy treatments.
Recent South swimmers Roach, Bray heading to DI nationals
I’m sure most of you with office jobs can relate.
When work gets busy, sometimes it’s easy to skim over our emails. After all, how many times do we need to read the same nonsense from alleged Nigerians wanting to make us rich if we’ll send them several thousand dollars first?
So after having three consecutive days off, that almost happened to me when I returned to work Tuesday. Then I realized that the message from Jeff Thompson, Terre Haute South High School’s boys and girls swimming coach, contained significant news.
NCAA Division III basketball tournament returns to Rose-Hulman
The last time Rose-Hulman served as host for the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament, its game was played inside an old World War II airplane hangar.
You “old-timers” should know the building I’m talking about and the matchup wasn’t really that long ago — March 6, 1997, to be exact.
DAVID HUGHES: Childhood friends use faith, sports to get them through
When I learned in February 2009 that a rare form of appendix cancer would devastate my life and cause me to miss work for several months, Mike Saylor was among the first to offer assistance.
Book review: Thumbs up for ‘Trophies and Tears’
Now might be too late for giving Christmas presents, but the book “Trophies and Tears: The Story of Evansville and the Aces” is a fascinating read for longtime Indiana basketball fans, particularly those older than 40.
Written by award-winning Kyle Keiderling of Henderson, Nev., and released in hardcover format in mid-December, the 480-page “Trophies and Tears” documents the rich tradition of the University of Evansville men’s basketball program through recent interviews and research of old yearbooks and newspaper/scrapbook clippings.
The book contains many cheery moments — behind-the-scenes details of all five NCAA College Division (now known as Division II) championships won in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s by the Purple Aces and their legendary coach Arad McCutchan — although some of those moments don’t seem so cheery from an Indiana State perspective when the Sycamores found themselves on the losing end of scores.
Hughes, News & Views: Wishing for Colts-Broncos playoff matchup from Santa
There’s plenty of tragedy in the world to bring us down if we let it, so let’s have a light-hearted column today — my annual Christmas gift requests for Santa Claus.
I already know one of my gift wishes is becoming less likely to happen. That would be for the Indianapolis Colts to face the Denver Broncos in the AFC playoffs.
Colts' loyalty tested by Manning, Broncos
We’re approaching the halfway point of the NFL season and so far it’s been surprisingly enjoyable.
I wasn’t sure how I would handle following two favorite teams — 1a.) the Indianapolis Colts and 1b.) Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos — but the new arrangement hasn’t caused me any loyalty conflicts yet.
HUGHES NEWS & VIEWS: Sorting out the sports air waves
My name isn’t attached to them, but I’m the one who usually puts together the “Sports on the air” television/radio listings that appear daily on this newspaper’s Scoreboard Page.
Hughes, News & Views: North junior ready to go racing
When we last visited 16-year-old Rachel Gutish, she was finishing sixth in the Women’s Enduro X race in the nationally televised Summer X Games at Los Angeles.
HUGHES NEWS & VIEWS: Yelovich still striking the ball long on LDA Tour
In June 2011, I wrote a feature story about former Indiana State basketball center Mick Yelovich making a name for himself as a golfer on the Long Drivers Association (LDA) Tour.
HUGHES NEWS & VIEWS: Colts? Broncos? Maybe there’s more than enough room for both
I’ve got a longtime buddy who I’m fairly sure rarely, if ever, reads this column.
HUGHES NEWS & VIEWS: Point of Jones’ return
Since May 14, Indiana high school basketball fans have wondered why Jim Jones would want to come out of retirement at 74.
HUGHES, NEWS & VIEWS: Questions abound for Indy 500, Manning, baseball sectional
Phones are ringing less frequently in the Tribune-Star sports department this week.
Hughes, News & Views: Hutson getting ready for final stretch toward Olympic Trials
If Kylie Hutson were a cross-country runner, she’d be approaching the final stretch of her biggest race in about three weeks.
HUGHES NEWS AND VIEWS: Rose basketball alumni offer advice to current team
Bryan Egli and Joe Puthoff, both Rose-Hulman basketball starters I covered in the late 1990s, took their degrees from the prestigious engineering institute and found successful careers in the Indianapolis area.
Egli, also a former West Vigo High School multi-sport standout, lives in Carmel and works for Thieneman Construction in Westfield. Puthoff lives in Indy and works for Rolls Royce Aircraft Engines.
DAVID HUGHES: Super Bowl odds getting stranger and stranger
Today’s annual “Super Bowl odds column” feels special to me because I’ve been a diehard NFL fan since 1967 and next Sunday will be the first time the big game takes place in our great state of Indiana.
HUGHES NEWS AND VIEWS: Coach’s book a chance to remember North Vermillion state champs
Almost 10 years ago, February 2002 to be exact, the New England Patriots upset the high-powered St. Louis Rams to win Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans, the Winter Olympics entertained spectators in Salt Lake City and Terre Haute South High School’s girls basketball team started its tournament run toward a Class 4A state title.
HUGHES NEWS AND VIEWS: Plenty of sports-related gifts for columnist's wish list
Last week, I was all set to beg Santa Claus to give the Indianapolis Colts a certificate good for one NFL regular-season victory.
Then the 2011 Colts decided to play like the 2009 Colts and clobber the Tennessee Titans on Sunday for their first win of the season. So that present won’t be necessary.
HUGHES NEWS AND VIEWS: WTHI defends decision not to show Colts
When your favorite NFL team is threatening to finish 0-16, you have to figure a few fans will jump off the bandwagon.
HUGHES NEWS AND VIEWS: Former South coach Rady makes it look easy
Jack Butcher, Howard Sharpe and Bill Stearman.
HUGHES NEWS AND VIEWS: Wheldon's genuine personality a devastating loss to racing
Lori Wood, the Tribune-Star’s Indianapolis 500 correspondent since 2000, planned to visit a friend in California and take in the IndyCar Las Vegas 300 as a ticket-buying fan last weekend.
HUGHES NEWS AND VIEWS: Past greats proud of ISU’s recent improvements
Indiana State football alum Chris “Big C” Hicks will turn 58 Saturday and he knows exactly what he wants for his birthday.
HUGHES NEWS AND VIEWS: Rose-Hulman hungry for first football victory of season
The Engineers have not endured a losing season since 2004. But they’ve opened this season at 0-2, causing Sokol to admit they’re desperate for a win.
“We’re all very hungry for a victory,” he said after practice Thursday. “We all want to taste victory really, really bad.”
Valley semipro football team reaches championship of IFL
The West Central Wildcats’ semipro football team from Terre Haute has been written about before in this column space over the last two years.
HUGHES NEWS & VIEWS: Colts cheerleaders glad to get back on field
When I heard the NFL lockout finally ended this week, I looked for someone affiliated with the Indianapolis Colts to get a reaction.
Amateur boxing card set for outdoors at Show-Me's
We all know what Show-Me’s sports bar is famous for around Terre Haute, right?
Chicken wings, of course.
HUGHES NEWS & VIEWS: Porter’s persistence keeps his boxing career going
When I walked in Sweatbox Gym through the alley door Wednesday, I wondered if a time machine had taken me back to the 1950s, the glory days of boxing.
HUGHES, NEWS AND VIEWS: Seaton aces chance for more Div. 1 volleyball
Plagued by one injury after another after another, Kristen Seaton was ready to turn off the lights on her volleyball career.
In her mind, the party was over.
HUGHES NEWS & VIEWS: Semi-pro football team to kick off season today
If you’re worried about the NFL season being canceled and you can’t wait months for the college and high school seasons to begin, you can get your football fix tonight at Memorial Stadium.
- More Hughes News & Views Headlines
- Terre Haute runner sets up race to help Boston