News and Tribune

November 8, 2011

KOESTERS: Please check out ‘50 in 50’

By MATT KOESTERS
Matt.Koesters@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — If you read the print edition of our sports section, you may have noticed advertisements for something called “50 in 50,” coming in November.

It’s a project that we’ve done our best to keep the lid on since we started working on it during the summer, although there have been a few leaks here and there.

Unavoidable, really.

With a project of this size involving so many people — both writers and subjects — it’s impossible to keep something so big a secret.

In the newspaper business, we live and breathe the present. With the 50 in 50 project, our challenge was to look to the past and appreciate the rich sports history of this region. And believe me, as a non-native to the area, I was nothing short of amazed by how much talent has come out of Clark and Floyd counties.

The question we sought to answer with 50 in 50 was a simple one — Who are the greatest athletes to come out of Southern Indiana?

We realized we needed limits to our search. There might have been some great athletes back before 1950. But the sports we play today differ from those back then, both in terms of style and intensity. Comparisons between athletes of the 30s and athletes of, say, the 90s would be too apples-and-oranges for our tastes. Besides, we preferred to get first-hand accounts of these players if possible.

We also knew that we wanted to have a cooling-off period for our more recent athletes. There have been plenty of strong performers in this region in the last decade. But comparing someone who just graduated a year ago to an all-time great seemed unfair.

So we limited our search to athletes who graduated between 1950-2000 and we limited the number of candidates to 50.

Hence, 50 in 50 — 50 athletes in 50 years.

This was no easy task, and neither myself nor Kevin Harris — a 13-year veteran sportswriter — have the expertise to identify those athletes. So instead, we assembled a panel of experts to make those calls for us.

We brought in longtime broadcasters like Ted Throckmorton, Charlie Jenkins and Gene Coomer, all of whom have called Southern Indiana home for decades and have seen the best this area has to offer.

We brought in sports historian Pat Hennegan, who took our evaluations beyond memories and anecdotes and brought real numbers into play.

Stan Denny — an outstanding athlete and coach in his own right — has played with some of these greats, and photographed others as a member of the working media later in life.

And Perry Hunter, the current boys’ basketball coach at Henryville, ensured that athletes from our area’s small schools had a voice.

To each of them, we owe a great debt of thanks for their assistance in identifying these great athletes and giving us insight into what made them special. We also owe our thanks to Geo. Pfau’s Sons Company, the signature sponsor that made this entire project feasible.

Even with the help of these historians and experts, we know that there will be plenty of discussion about who may have been deserving but excluded, and that’s fine. I welcome feedback from our readers, who I’m sure by now will be anxious to find out who made the 50 in 50 and who did not.

On Nov. 18, you can purchase copies of the magazine from the schools represented or a pick a free copy up at many high-traffic businesses in Clark and Floyd counties, including the News and Tribune offices in Jeffersonville and New Albany.

The following schools will have magazines for sale to help raise funds: Jeffersonville, New Albany, Floyd Central, New Washington, Clarksville, Charlestown, Providence, Silver Creek.