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My book signing homecoming week

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I visited classes at two schools I attended as a kid, Riverview Elementary and Chippewa Hills High, during a four-day homecoming week capped by a book signing at ArtWorks in downtown Big Rapids.

I also was a guest on Carlleen Rose’s radio show on Sunny 97.3. The show focuses on people from the community and events.

The trip was a great chance to revisit my roots in Big Rapids, growing up as a Ferris State and Michigan State fan, and my dream since middle school to become a sportswriter, thanks to Mrs. Grafmiller.

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Purchase links: Raye of Light and The Right Thing To Do.

Childrens book: Bubba’s Dad, Duffy and College Football’s Underground Railroad

Vanderbilt Sport and Society endorses The Right Thing To Do – Tom Shanahan Report

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Mrs. Grafmiller was my eighth-grade English teacher at Big Rapids Intermediate School. She validated my desire to become a sportswriter after I wrote a story for her class. She invited us to write about any subject we chose.

I wrote about the New York Knicks on their run to the 1970 NBA title after they acquired Dave DeBusschere in a trade from the Detroit Pistons. DeBusschere turned out to be the missing piece to a championship team along with Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley and Dick Barnett.

When she handed out papers, mine had a big red “E” with “PLEASE SEE ME AFTER CLASS!” She proceeded to highlight stories she liked, including my friend Byron Kramer’s funny story about Cecil and Terry Mund as inner-city hoods (a running joke on campus). I sat devastated.

When everyone was gone, I approached her near tears. She told me she thought I had copied the story from a magazine. Since she already knew she was one of my favorite teachers — I always sat up front -and go A’s for grades — when I told her I wrote it and my tears flowed, she pulled me into a big hug and switched the grade to A-plus. My tears were enough proof for her.

At Riverview, Chippewa Hills, on Carlleen Rose’s radio show and at the ArtWorks book signing, I also was happy for the opportunity to tell Gideon Smith’s story as a trailblazer. He was the first Black player at Ferris State, Michigan State and one of the first Black players in the NFL. Jim Thorpe was his teammate. As a coach at Hampton, an HBCU, he won a Black national title as in 1922.

He was born the son of former slaves in Virginia. So, how did he make it to Big Rapids in 1910? Ferris founder Woodbridge Ferris brought 12 students from Hampton to Ferris after he read Booker T. Washington’s book, Up from Slavery. They were educated and transferred to other schools. Smith came as a student and left his mark as an athlete, coach and trailblazer at three schools and in the NFL. The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, recognizes Smith’s contributions to the league.

Great people and great moments have come out of our little community, a great Norman Rockwell small town.

A Riverview third-grader asked me to sign her Michigan State cap.

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At Riverview, I read my children’s book, BUBBA’S DAD, DUFFY AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. The fourth graders and third graders met with me in the gym in separate sessions. I explained Michigan State’s college football integration leadership under Duffy Daugherty in the 1950s and 1960s.

The fourth and third graders now know more about the true story of college football integration than national book publishers and national editors and writers who still believe the myths and fiction that Alabama coach Bear Bryant led the crusade in the 1970s. College football integration, thanks to Duffy Daugherty and the true pioneers, it was fait accompli by then.

Another third grader — I learned the next day — sent his dad to my afternoon book signing at ArtWorks with instructions to buy my children’s book. The father also bought a copy of THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

I’m standing with Riverview Elementary principal Renee Kent by a plaque in the school lobby honoring education excellence.

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If there were such award programs in my day at Riverview, our teachers deserved equal recognition. Mrs. Huxtable, Mrs. Lindenmeyer and Mrs. Long were a great influence on me — especially Mrs. Long for cultivating my interest in history. I couldn’t put down Mrs. Long’s books about the Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln.

I told kids to listen to their teachers — they want to help you learn — to not let classmates bully anyone and to treat substitute teachers with respect.

I enjoyed my Chippewa Hills High homecoming speaking to Ms. Geryl Loebert’s sophomore and senior English classes. The above photo is with the sophomore class and the below photo is with two students from the senior class.

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I explained the history behind my books — RAYE OF LIGHT and THE RIGHT THING TO DO. I also showed videos from my website about Michigan State football’s leading role behind college football integration under College Football Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty.

I was asked to name my favorite writers and books. I told them, “Anything by David Halberstam and David Maraniss. They write about history and sports.”

Maraniss says, “History writes people out the story. It’s our job to write them back in.”

Maraniss quote has become my mantra, and explains my quest to tell the story of Duffy Daugherty. His fingerprints are coast to coast leading college football integration, but he has been unjustly overshadowed by Bear Bryant fiction. Popular culture celebrates the wrong man. Bryant and dragged his feet into 1970s. Duffy Daugherty led the way in the 1950s and 1960s.

I told the story of Michigan State’s leading role at a book signing on February 23 at ArtWorks in downtown Big Rapids, Michigan.

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How did Bryant’s apologists get away with revised history at the expense of true pioneers? It’s a tough hurdle to overcome without a major book publisher’s promotion budget to support me. The national media is comfortable with Bear Bryant hagiography.

As I state on videos on my website, I’ll put my research up against anybody, anytime, anywhere.

How Duffy Daugherty and the MSU Team Changed College Football History (youtube.com)

I explained to the class how Halberstam’s book, “THE COLDEST WINTER, America and the Korean War,” influenced me to challenge Bryant myths and defend Duffy’s legacy. When I concluded the myths and fiction about Bear Bryant sent Duffy Daugherty players didn’t add up, I set about deconstructing Bryant myths. There was no truth and no attribution to Bryant sending Duffy players and no evidence he should be remembered as a benevolent segregationist.

Yet, how could I dispute established myths surrounding Bryant as a sacred cow?

In Halberstam’s book on the Korean War, he explains Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the great American who won World War II in the Pacific, walked his men into a Chinese ambush, The Battle of Chosin Reservoir. They retreated in bitterly cold weather with the Chinese gunning them down from advantageous positions above canyons.

This was my example to follow. I’m no David Halberstam and Bear Bryant is no Gen. MacArthur, but I presented the MIchigan State facts that told a different story from accepted Bryant folklore.

The question prompting me to mention Halberstam’s book reminded me of a high school teacher in my days at Chippewa Hills, Mr. Nelson. He was a small, wiry guy who always helped out on things such as running the scoreboard at basketball games. But you didn’t think of him as a tough guy.

One day at school, Mr. Nelson stopped by to talk sports briefly while I chatted with Mr. O’Neill, a history teacher. As Mr. Nelson walked away, Mr. O’Neill told me, “There goes a tough guy.”

I asked what he meant.

He told me Mr. Nelson was among the “Chosin Few” — the Americans who survived the retreat from MacArthur’s blunder underestimating the Chinese. It wasn’t until I read Halberstam’s book many years later i fully understood Mr. O’Neill’s comment. Now, instead of reading about faceless soldiers trapped in a carnage, I read the pages with a face that I knew that was caught in the middle of the horror.

And he survived. I regretted having not understood the respect Mr. Nelson deserved from students, and I shared that with the class.

THE RIGHT THING TO DO: http://tinyurl.com/3dfystkj

I’m with two seniors from Chippewa Hills teacher Geryl Lobert’s senior English clash.

Ferris State and Illinois high school coach legend Tanya Johnson with Rex Schuberg (R) and me.

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I had a chance to visit with Ferris State Hall of Famer Tanya Johnson and Rex Schuberg, the quasi- mayor of Big Rapids. We had dinner at Schuberg’s Bar and Grill, a Big Rapids institution since 1933.

Tanya was our classmate at Riverview Elementary, and she always played in kickball games with us. We staged epic kickball games throughout third, fourth and fifth grades. Remember, this was before Title IX, and she was the only girl who played sports with us.

I explained to the young girls at Riverview they don’t know how lucky they are to be able to play sports. I told them, “When we grew up, we looked up to Art Tetzlaff, a star at Big Rapids High, leading the Cardinals to a District title and Regional final. Then, he went on to star at Ferris State on legendary coach Jim Wink’s best teams that qualified for the NAIA Nationals in Kansas City. Tanya didn’t have anyone as a role model.”

Then I added the irony that we all of dreamed of following Tetzlaff into the Ferris State Hall of Fame, but the only one among us who made it was Tanya.

She was a legendary player on Ferris’ early women’s teams and played women’s pro basketball. Then she went into coaching. She won two state high school titles in Illinois and when the McDonald’s All-Star Game came to Chicago, she was a local coach picked to coach one of the girls’ teams.

None of us have a resume to match.

Another point i made to the Riverview class and the Chippewa Hills classes was I enjoyed writing about girls and women’s sports, although in the early days of Title IX many male writers resisted covering games. They didn’t respect girls’ sports. They consequently missed great stories of human persistence that I wrote.

A Chippewa Hills girl who competes in wrestling asked me a question, so I hope my response pleased her.

I also explained in addition to Tanya’s example, another reason I accepted covering girls and women’s sports was my background included taking golf lessons at Meceola Golf Course (now Clear Lake) from the pro, Norm Bennett. The lessons combined girls and boys and we played rounds with girls. In other words, I grew up accepting girls were part of the sports world and appreciating their talent. Roxanne Hall, Bunny Anderson and Becky Southworth were good players.

I caught up with old times with three Chippewa Hills classmates who attended my book signing at ArtWorks (L-R), Lesley Welsh, Lynn Jehnzen and Don Kern. After the event, we had lunch across the street at Schuberg’s Bar and Grill.

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I invite you to follow me on Twitter @shanny4055

Below are links to click on to purchase my books focused.

My books tell the true story of college football integration in the 1960s and address the myths and fiction that allowed a false narrative surrounding the 1970 USC-Alabama game to usurp the credit from the true pioneers. As I said when I spoke at the National Sports Media Association book festival, no two books provide an accurate portrayal more than RAYE OF LIGHT and THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

I’ll put my facts up against anybody, anytime, anywhere. Watch here.

Click here for my story on the 1962 Rose Bowl and Segregation awarded first place by the Football Writers Association of America. I tell untold stories on Michigan State’s leading role and the true pioneers of college football integration. Click here to read the summary as a first-place story.

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Click here to purchase The Right Thing To Do

THE RIGHT THING TO DO

The True Pioneers of College Football Integration in the 1960s

Foreword by Ruffin McNeill

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Click here to purchase Raye of Light.

RAYE OF LIGHT

Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the 1ntegration of College Football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans

Foreword by Tony Dungy

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Click here to purchase my children’s book, Bubba’s Dad, Duffy and College Football’s Underground Railroad

The book for now is only a Kindle version on Amazon. Print and audio platforms available soon.

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My next children’s book coming soon: How Duffy Put Hawaii on the Football Map

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Paul Fickes

    Tom, A nice read and very refreshing read upon getting back on the grid after a couple of weeks deep in the Amazon back country. Have been avoiding any news these past two days since being back. So pleased for you on the success of the homecoming I know you were very much looking forward to. Some happy looking grad schoolers for sure!! And great photo with Tanya and Rex. Anticipating becoming familiar with both Halberstam and Mariness. Thanks for sharing all, Paul Fickes

  2. Tom Shanahan

    Thanks, Paul. I appreciate support. I talked about our epic kickball games at Riverview.

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