With that vintage gleam in his eye and a quivering voice overcome by emotion, Dutch Huseman thanked the Fort Dodge Senior High family from the bottom of his heart at the inaugural Dodger induction banquet last week.
At that moment, the school's Hall of Fame officially - and finally - came to life.
Fittingly, it was the 91-year-old Huseman who first brought the crowd of over 200 to its feet in a poignant moment of clarity for the school. FDSH had been honoring its ''Hall'' recipients for over 40 years, but this was the first formal ceremony of its kind, with friends, family and fans paying their respects to the inductees in an intimate environment.
Fort Dodge's athletic history is incredibly rich. In the 1980s alone, the Dodgers captured six state team championships between the wrestling, boys basketball, girls basketball and volleyball programs. Yet enough time has passed to create a potential disconnect with current students and the community in general. A Hall of Fame banquet is a perfect way to resurrect the past, personifying the names on the plaque.
Bringing Fort Dodgers young and old together bonds generations of elite student-athletes in a way that has never been experienced before. More importantly, it allows each Hall of Famer a chance to return the favor. The night began with the intention of recognizing eight individuals separately. It ended as a collaborative effort that resembled a family reunion.
Grand View national champion football coach Mike Woodley - a former Fort Dodge resident himself - was in attendance. He called it the ''best Hall of Fame ceremony I've ever experienced.'' All in all, this was a big win for the Dodgers moving forward - and a night long overdue.
TRULY ELITE: A creative imagination and the top screenwriters in Hollywood couldn't come close to matching the non-fiction journey of Livermore native Dallas Clark.
The Twin River Valley graduate arrived on campus at the University of Iowa in the fall of 1998 with nothing more than a work ethic and a dream. He left the game of football on Wednesday, retiring as a former Hawkeye All-American, a Pro Bowler, a Super Bowl champion and one of the most well-respected tight ends ever to play in the modern era.
Clark accomplished so much on the field, but his character and loyalties never wavered away from the gridiron - even when fame and fortune arrived on his doorstep. He has remained true to his roots and close to our area through the years.
We were fortunate enough to experience the life and times of Dallas Clark the football player. We're even luckier to have Dallas Clark the person on our side for the next chapter in his life.
SHARE THE WEALTH: Score one for team basketball.
The altruistic San Antonio Spurs captured the NBA title earlier this month, injecting the me-first players' league with a much-needed dose of old-school reality.
Gregg Popovich's teams have always been poetry in motion to watch. San Antonio became an endangered species of sorts, though, when guaranteed contracts and endorsements flooded the NBA and drained its competitive spirit.
The Spurs have always employed the tried and true methods of basketball's basic fundamentals, which often translates into making the extra pass and finding the open man to benefit the squad as a whole. Even in the days of Bird, Magic and Michael, stars were motivated by winning first and foremost. That meant valuing and relying on their teammates.
The league desperately needed a reminder that it isn't a sport of individuals and isolationism at its core. Thankfully, San Antonio offered a refresher course just in time. The Spurs put on an absolute clinic in the Finals, and reign today as deserving champions accordingly.
ODE TO MR. PADRE: As a baseball kid of the 1980s, I automatically idolized Tony Gwynn. He made a very difficult objective look routine, building a Hall of Fame Major League career by turning hitting into an artform.
From 1993-97, Gwynn batted .358, .394, .368, .353 and .372. He struck out a total of 434 times in 20 years - a span of 9,288 at-bats. Gwynn didn't K more than 20 times in a single season once between 1991 and '96.
Take a look at today's leaders. If a hitter eclipses the .300 mark, he typically ranks in the Top-10 of the entire league. Gwynn could've gone hitless in 1,182 consecutive at-bats and still held a career average over .300.
Let that sink in for a minute.
It's hard to believe that Gwynn passed away earlier this week. Cancer took his life of just 54 years. Continuing with the theme of this column, Gwynn was a total class act as both a ballplayer and a man. He will be sorely missed both by the game itself, but more importantly, in the real world.
Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org