Like It Is:

A dazzling dozen, Arkies born and raised

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, June 15, 2014
Former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones accounted for 116 of the Razorbacks' 157 yards in overtime in the seven-overtime 2001 victory over Ole Miss.
Photo by Michael Woods
Former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones accounted for 116 of the Razorbacks' 157 yards in overtime in the seven-overtime 2001 victory over Ole Miss.

When it was announced here two weeks ago that I was seeking votes to determine the greatest Arkansas-born athlete, I had no idea there would be so much interest.

Votes, more than 1,400 by email, fax and letters, have been counted, and here's your top 12 vote-getters.

1.Donnie Kessinger, Forrest City -- During a radio commercial break, Pat Bradley, co-host on The Zone, KABZ-FM, 103.7, asked -- off the record -- who was leading the poll and when I told him he asked for a definition of athlete. Kessinger, Bradley was told, taught himself to switch-hit early in his major league career with the Chicago Cubs. "Whoa, that should be your winner," he said.

He was, but it was a close race for the top spots.

2.Brooks Robinson, Little Rock -- He earned the nickname "The Human Vacuum Cleaner," for his play at third base for the Baltimore Orioles. He was quick, acrobatic and won 16 consecutive Gold Glove Awards.

3.Keith Jackson, Little Rock -- A wide receiver in a tight end's body, Jackson was a two-time All-American in football at Oklahoma and upon graduation finished second in a national slam-dunk contest. He lettered in every sport in high school.

4.Matt Jones, Fort Smith -- The most exciting quarterback the Arkansas Razorbacks have ever had. He could beat you with his arm or his legs, and he also lettered two years for the Hogs in basketball.

5.Sidney Moncrief, Little Rock -- A cornerstone of The Triplets, who put Arkansas Razorbacks basketball on the map. Had a long NBA career, and while he focused on basketball, he could have played football or baseball.

6.Darren McFadden, Little Rock -- Just the best running back to ever play for the Razorbacks, even though his high school coaches always said his natural position was safety. Some would tell you he was a natural as a boxer, too.

7.Basil Shabazz, Pine Bluff -- A high school legend who once told a football official he needed to move either right or left, because he was getting ready to return a punt for a touchdown and the official was in the way. Recruited by numerous colleges to play football but signed a professional baseball contract out of high school.

8.Ken Hatfield, Helena -- Known for his long, successful career as a head football coach in college, but he was a starting safety and punt returner on Arkansas' undefeated 1964 team. In high school he ran track, played basketball and baseball, which some claim was his natural sport.

9.Bobby Tiner, Morrilton -- You had to see him play to understand how talented he was as a playmaker for the old Arkansas State Teachers College Bears football team. He was heralded as a baseball player, too, and recently was named a softball All-American for active players 65 or older.

10.Scottie Pippen, Hamburg -- Grew 6 inches his freshman year at UCA, where he started out as a walk-on. Pippen developed into perhaps the best basketball player this state has ever produced. He was part of the Chicago Bulls' six NBA championships and was a seven-time NBA All-Star.

11.George Kell, Swifton -- Played college ball at Arkansas State before becoming a 10-time All Star in the major leagues, batting over .300 nine times. Became a Detroit Tigers radio broadcaster after retirement but lived in Arkansas fulltime until his death five years ago.

12.Everett Bolton, Paragould -- An all-around athlete who started his football career at LSU but is an ASU Letterman Club Hall of Honor Member. Played football and ran track for the Red Wolves. Once held the world record for sit-ups. Died in 2011 at the age of 94.

I would be remiss to not mention Clyde Scott, a former Razorbacks football star and 1948 Olympic medalist who had enough votes to be in the Top 12. Scott, however, was born in Dixie, La., but he's an Arkie through and through.

Basketball player Hazel Walker (Little River County) and pro golfer Stacy Lewis each garnered several votes. Lewis was born in Toledo, Ohio.

This poll was fun, and a deep-felt thank you to all who participated.

Sports on 06/15/2014