The State Historical Society of South Dakota had a sports theme for its annual history conference last weekend in Pierre.
It was a fun two days filled with great information. It had been about 20 years since I last went to that conference, where I presented a paper I had done on the history of the State B boys’ basketball tourney.
This year, I was on a panel on covering high school and college sports in South Dakota with friends Mike Henrikson of Dell Rapids and Lake Norden native Mel Antonen. Mike and I talk often, and it was good to see Mel again.
Mike — the current South Dakota sports broadcaster of the year — co-hosts statewide daily (Calling All Sports along with KDLT sports director Mark Ovenden) and weekly (Sportsmax) radio sports talk shows, and is a regular announcer for South Dakota Public Broadcasting during state tournaments. Mel is a former Argus Leader sports writer and USA Today baseball writer who now writes for SI.com, broadcasts for the Sirius-XM Radio Network and does baseball analysis of the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles for MASN-TV.
In his spare time, Mel helps his family with the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in Lake Norden. Mel has covered every World Series since 1980.
It was great to hear Mike and Mel’s stories of covering sports and how the business has changed over the years. They are talented, award-winning veteran journalists who continue to ooze the passion of rookies. It was fun to be a part of such a lively panel.
It is like when my wife and I are out riding our scooters — I like to tell people we are a couple of Shriners short of a parade.
There were many other interesting speakers on the agenda such as Hecla-raised Marc Rasmussen of Bellevue, Wash., B. Byron Price of the University of Oklahoma and Wade Davies of the University of Montana.
Davies spoke on early Native American basketball in South Dakota and the tremendous teams from that era. One of his focuses was the team from St. Francis, which was a regular and one of the most successful and popular teams at the National Interscholastic Catholic Basketball Tournament in Chicago during the 1920s and 1930s.
Rasmussen talked about his book “Six” (local bookstores or sdshspress.com), where he told the story of the national record-setting six-man football teams of Claremont which won 61 games in a row. In nine seasons from 1947-55, Aberdeen Central graduate and Claremont coach Bill Welsh’s six-man football teams lost only one game. Rasmussen’s state sports Hall of Fame dad, Marv, played on some of those teams and went on to star in basketball at Northern State.
Price talked about the early days of rodeo in South Dakota, including the exploits of Bart Clennon, who was born Nov. 5, 1910, in Aberdeen. Hall of Fame cowboy Clennon started rodeoing in the 1920s and quit in the 1950s due to a broken neck. Price said when doctors told Clennon that his neck was broken, Clennon in true cowboy fashion refused to the let the doctors put any kind of brace or cast on him because he felt it would interfere with a haying job he had been hired to do.
During his career, Clennon won rodeo events at the Boston Garden and Madison Square Garden in New York. Price also talked about one of South Dakota’s most famous rodeo horses, Tipperary, who was raised near Camp Crook in Harding County. The dark bay gelding Hall of Fame saddle bronc earned the title of “World’s Greatest Bucking Horse” in his 20-some year career that ended in 1928. Only four cowboys were said to have successfully ridden Tipperary five times — Yakima Canutt did it twice.
There were other fascinating stories shared. I did not hear Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s talk on pheasant hunting, but I read and heard it was very entertaining. Good job, governor.
The South Dakota State Historical Society keeps history alive in South Dakota, and its staff does a great job. To donate, become a member or more details: history.sd.gov.
READY TO RACE
The South Dakota horse racing season will start at 1 this afternoon (Saturday) at the Stanley County Fairgrounds in Fort Pierre.
Races there will continue at the same time Sunday, April 28-29 and May 5-6. Races then will move and continue at 1:30 p.m. at the Brown County Fairgrounds May 12-13, May 19-20 and May 27-28 in Aberdeen.
YANKTON COACHING CHANGE
Randy Gross has resigned after 10 years as head coach and 27 years with the Yankton High School boys’ basketball program.
“The responsibility of a head coach will wear you down,” Gross told Veblen native and Yankton Press & Dakotan sports editor James D. Cimburek. “After 10 years, I felt it was necessary to step aside and recharge my batteries.”
Gross will remain as a teacher and will serve as seventh-grade boys’ basketball coach. Yankton sophomore coach Chris Haynes will replace Gross. Haynes is a 2002 graduate of Winner High School and 2006 graduate of Dakota Wesleyan University.
Dakota State Fair Speedway in Huron will host its season opening auto races at 7 tonight (Saturday). Kent Arment, who won his 500th career feature race last season, of Aberdeen is the defending champion in the Late Model and Modified divisions. Details: dakotapromotions.com.
The quarter-mile National Hot Rod Association drag strip Oahe Speedway will kick off its 2012 season Sunday with its Shootout Races.
The speedway is 14 miles north of Pierre on South Dakota Highway 1804. Details: oahespeedway.com.
Winning class championships at the speedway in 2011 were Duane Soper (Street Trophy class) of Gettysburg; Jonathan Huse (Jr. Dragster Minor) of Onida; the Rapid City duo of Rick Meier (Super Pro) and Carly Ellingson (Jr. Dragster Major); and Pierre residents Randy Hirsch (Pro), Chris Boom (Motorcycle/Snowmobile), Travis Falcon (Sportsman) and Stephanie Holm (High School).
FREE USD FOOTBALL
The free University of South Dakota spring football game will begin at 1 this afternoon (Saturday) in the DakotaDome at Vermillion.
John Papendick is the managing news-sports editor for the American News. Readers tell and email him with stuff plus he reads all the daily newspapers in South Dakota on a daily basis. Reach him at email@example.com. Blog: aberdeensports.net/inthehuddle.