Like It Is:

Arkansas has produced dozens of greats

By: Wally Hall
Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Central Arkansas head coach Corliss Williamson talks to guard Robert Crawford (0) and guard Lenell Brown (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball against Oklahoma State game in Stillwater, Okla., Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Central Arkansas head coach Corliss Williamson talks to guard Robert Crawford (0) and guard Lenell Brown (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball against Oklahoma State game in Stillwater, Okla., Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

There was an element of surprise each day when votes were tallied on the question of naming the best athletes ever born in Arkansas.

A few guys who I thought would have been locks to make the top 12 garnered votes, but not enough.

I had already decided the only way I was voting was to break a tie. My vote was never needed, but I'm certain I would have cast votes for Corliss Williamson and Derek Fisher.

Williamson led the Arkansas Razorbacks to the 1994 NCAA championship in basketball, and Fisher, from UALR, has appeared in more NBA playoff games than anyone.

During the voting, by the way, it was rumored, correctly, that Fisher would be the next head coach of the New York Knicks.

Again, Williamson and Fisher got lots of votes, just not enough.

After the poll was released in Sunday's paper, the immediate reaction, judging by emails, was good. No one argued any of the selections. A few suggested someone else should have made it, but never said who their candidate should replace.

One email said he couldn't believe his choice didn't make it, but admitted he forgot to vote.

A good friend said he couldn't take any list seriously that didn't include Hot Springs native Bobby Mitchell, who did deserve strong consideration. Mitchell was a standout at Illinois and in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins. He was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

Don Hutson, Pine Bluff, was another who probably deserved more consideration. He was named to six different All-America teams after his senior season at Alabama. He played 11 years with the Green Bay Packers and still holds records for most seasons leading the league in pass receptions (8), yards gained (7) and total touchdowns (8). Plus, Hutson holds the record for most consecutive seasons to lead the league in receptions (5), yards gained (4) and scoring (5).

Bear Bryant, his teammate at Alabama, once said he would never accept induction into any Hall of Fame that hadn't already inducted Hutson.

A couple of Arkansans who moved away when they were young got some votes. Lou Brock, El Dorado, and former world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, Sand Slough (St. Francis County), are not forgotten.

There were multiple votes for Muscles Campbell, Bauxite, and Wear Schoonover, Pocahontas, the first Razorback to be named an All American.

Dizzy Dean, from Lucas, was very close to making the top 12 as well.

Denny Flynn, Charleston, was one of the all-time greatest bull riders, and the rodeo fans supported him with votes and emails.

Torii Hunter and Joe Johnson are two other guys I thought might get more votes. Hunter, Pine Bluff, is in his 18th season as in the major leagues, and Johnson, Little Rock, has been named an NBA All-Star seven times in his 13-year-career.

The list of great athletes who were born in Arkansas goes on and on.

Bill Dickey, Little Rock, played 19 seasons with the New York Yankees, holds the major-league record for catching 100 or more games for 13 consecutive seasons and was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame in 1954.

Golfer John Daly and race car driver Mark Martin, Batesville, got multiple votes, though Daly was born in Carmichael, Calif.

Betty Fiscus Dickey, one of the all-time great Lady Razorback basketball players, got votes, too.

Goose Tatum was known around the world as part of the Harlem Globetrotters, but the Forrest City native was a heck of basketball player and athlete.

Cliff Harris, Des Arc, played in five Super Bowls for the Dallas Cowboys and Caldwell Jones, Rohwer, played 14 years in the NBA.

The idea was never to leave out anyone anymore than it was to name the great Razorbacks, an accusation that came up several times before the final ballot.

The idea was to have some fun and that was accomplished thanks to everyone who voted.

Sports on 06/17/2014

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