Entry Category: Individual and Team Sports - Starting with B

Barber, Miller Westford Jr.

Miller Barber was a successful professional golfer who played on both the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour and the Senior Tour. While perhaps best known for his unorthodox swing, he had many accomplishments, including multiple tournament victories on both tours while accumulating over $5.6 million in career earnings. He was a graduate of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1975. Miller Westford Barber Jr. was born on March 31, 1931, in Shreveport, Louisiana, to Miller Westford Barber and Susie Mae Lawrence Barber. He grew up in Texarkana, Texas, living with his mother, who ran a grocery store. He began playing golf when he was around eleven …

Barnes, Jim “Bad News”

Velvet James (Jim) “Bad News” Barnes was an American basketball player and Olympic gold medalist originally from Tuckerman (Jackson County). Barnes enjoyed great success in his collegiate career, which later led him to be the first pick in the 1964 National Basketball Association (NBA) draft. As a professional athlete, Barnes played for five different teams over seven seasons until an Achilles tendon injury largely forced his retirement. Regarding the nickname “Bad News,” Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach said he was so named “for the damage he did to opposing teams and players.” Jim Barnes was born on April 13, 1941, in Tuckerman. As a child, Barnes picked and chopped cotton and played basketball wearing socks, since his family was too …

Barnhill, John Henry “Barnie”

John Henry Barnhill was a successful head football coach both at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) but left the most lasting imprint in Fayetteville as UA’s athletic director. John Henry Barnhill was born on February 23, 1903, to James Monroe Barnhill and Margaret Alice Bryan in Savannah, Tennessee. His parents were farmers. Barnhill’s services were so greatly required on the family farm that they caused an interruption in his attending high school. He graduated from Savannah High School in 1923. He was nineteen when he enrolled at Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) in 1923. He transferred to the University of Tennessee in 1924 and excelled as a …

Baseball Players, Major League

The game of baseball developed in the nineteenth century and became, along with hot dogs and apple pie, a classic element of American culture. Although the state of Arkansas has never been home to any major league team, Arkansas has contributed in many ways to the sport and its professional roster. While some players from other places developed and improved their skills as college or minor league baseball players in Arkansas (playing for teams such as the Arkansas Travelers and the Northwest Arkansas Naturals), more than 150 major league baseball players have been born in Arkansas. Earliest Players and Newest Players Chick Carroll is the earliest major league player born in Arkansas. Carroll played outfield in four games for the …

Basketball

Basketball, a uniquely American invention in the history of sports, is one of the most popular sports in Arkansas, both for participants and for spectators. Because basketball can be played either indoors or outdoors, and because it requires less equipment than most team sports, basketball rapidly acquired the attention and affection of many Arkansans. Most high schools and colleges in the state field competitive basketball teams, and the state has produced several high-caliber professional basketball players. Basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith, who was seeking a form of recreation that would keep competitors active while indoors during the winter months. He introduced the sport in a Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) facility in Springfield, Massachusetts, in December of …

Battle of the Ravine

The Battle of the Ravine is the name most frequently used for the annual football game at Arkadelphia (Clark County) between Henderson State University (HSU) and Ouachita Baptist University (OBU). The cross-town rivalry has received widespread national media coverage through the years due to the fact that the football stadiums of the two schools are just across U.S. Highway 67 from each other. The game is promoted as the only college football rivalry in the country for which the visiting team walks rather than flies or buses to a road contest. The first game in the series was played in 1895, with Ouachita winning by a score of 8–0 on Thanksgiving Day. (At the time, Henderson was known as Arkadelphia …

Bearden, Henry Eugene (Gene)

Gene Bearden was a major league baseball player in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Despite major injuries suffered in World War II, he was still able to craft a seven-year career that was highlighted by his role as a starting pitcher on the 1948 Cleveland Indians team that won the World Series. Henry Eugene (Gene) Bearden was born on September 5, 1920, in Lexa (Phillips County) to Henry and Ella Bearden. With his father working as a machinist for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, the family moved a number of times, but Bearden spent much of his youth playing sandlot baseball in Tennessee. Graduating from Technical High School in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1938, the left-handed pitcher whose boyhood hero was …

Bell, Earl Holmes

Earl Holmes Bell of Jonesboro (Craighead County) is one of the most renowned U.S. men’s pole vaulters and coaches, a three-time Olympian, and five-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) record holder. His achievements include setting the world’s outdoor record in 1976; qualifying for the Olympic Games in 1976, 1984 and 1988; and winning the bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics. He was the U.S. national champion in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s—a remarkable three-decade achievement for an athlete. After turning to coaching by founding Bell Athletics in Jonesboro, he was named the 1998 National Olympic Coach of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee. In 2004, Bell Athletics alone produced half of the U.S. Olympic pole-vaulting team. Earl Bell was …

Benson, Jesse N. “Buddy”

Jesse N. “Buddy” Benson earned statewide recognition in Arkansas athletic circles, first as a football player for the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and later as the head football coach for thirty-one seasons at Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkadelphia (Clark County). Benson was a 1993 inductee into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and was inducted into both the Ouachita Sports Hall of Fame and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame. Buddy Benson was born on November 9, 1933, in Wright City, Oklahoma, to Jesse Benson and Louise Pate Benson. He was one of the nation’s most actively recruited football players after he graduated from high school at De Queen (Sevier County). …

Bergey, William Earl (Bill)

Bill Bergey, who was a top-rated football player at Arkansas State University (ASU), is considered by many to be the most outstanding player ever produced by the school since the first team was fielded in 1911. In 1976, fans voted him the top player in Arkansas State history. He established himself as one of the premier defensive players, both during his college days and during his twelve-year career with two National Football League (NFL) teams: the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles. William Earl Bergey was born on February 9, 1945, in South Dayton, New York. He was one of forty-seven students to graduate from western New York’s Pine Valley Central School in 1964. He participated in both basketball and football …

Big Dam Bridge 100

The Big Dam Bridge 100 (BDB100) is a 100-mile bicycle tour that takes place each fall in central Arkansas, traditionally on the last Saturday in September. The event has been held annually since the inaugural ride on October 1, 2006, and it has become the largest cycling event in the state. In addition to the 100-mile tour, several shorter routes are offered. The additional courses in the 2016 event included 68-mile, 50-mile, 32-mile, and 11-mile distances. The route has varied over the years, but, in 2016, the ride started at Riverfront Drive and Willow in downtown North Little Rock (Pulaski County), headed west toward Perryville (Perry County), and finished on Main Street in North Little Rock’s Argenta Historic District. The …

Biking

aka: Cycling
Arkansas is home to numerous dirt roads and trails for mountain biking, as well as paved paths and scenic highways for road biking, with nearly year-round use. The state hosts a number of noteworthy tours and competitions for all kinds of bicycling and for all levels of ability. Arkansas has a very popular series of mountain bike races for both experts and beginners through the Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship (AMBC) Series. Some of the better known are the Attila the Hun and the Womble (Trail) Mountain Bike Classic. Another popular mountain bike trail is the Syllamo trail system north of Mountain View (Stone County), with fifty miles of mostly single-track (wide enough for one bicycle) biking. A trail system at …

Bolt, Tommy

Tommy Bolt was one of the top golfers on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour in the 1950s. The winner of the 1958 U.S. Open, he was also a pioneer in the development of the PGA’s senior tour that emerged in the 1960s. He later retired and settled in Arkansas. Thomas Henry (Tommy) Bolt was born on March 31, 1916, in Haworth, Oklahoma, to Walker Jeter Bolt and Adreon Geneva Jones Bolt. Little is known about Bolt’s youth beyond the fact that his mother died when he was two. With his father working in construction, the family moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, when Bolt was six. Bolt dropped out of Byrd High School as a sophomore, and like many professional golfers, …

Brock, Lou

aka: Louis Clark Brock
Louis Clark (Lou) Brock, a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, played a major role in changing the way baseball was played by using the stolen base as an important offensive weapon. He retired as Major League Baseball’s all-time stolen bases leader, a record that stood until 1991. Lou Brock was born on June 18, 1939, in El Dorado (Union County). He was the seventh of nine children born to Paralee Brock, who worked as a domestic and a field laborer. After Brock’s father, Maud, left the family when Brock was two years old, Paralee Brock and her children moved to nearby Collinston, Louisiana, where Brock grew up in the poverty …

Broyles, Frank

aka: John Franklin Broyles
After beginning his administrative career as an assistant coach at Baylor University in 1947, John Franklin (Frank) Broyles became one of the most familiar and powerful figures in all of college sports. In his years at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), he built a diverse and excellent athletics program, plus a system of world-class athletic facilities in addition to establishing a winning tradition that includes the most football victories as head coach in Razorbacks history: 144 wins, far ahead of the runner-up coach, Lou Holtz, whose teams won sixty. Frank Broyles was born on December 26, 1924, in Decatur, Georgia, to O. T. Broyles and Louise Solms Broyles. Broyles became a star quarterback at Georgia Tech, where he …

Bryant, “Bear”

aka: Paul William Bryant
Paul William “Bear” Bryant is one of America’s all-time most successful college football coaches. At the time of his death, he had won more games than any other coach, including the legendary Amos Alonzo Staggs and Pop Warner. Arkansas-born Bryant remains an icon not only for athletic accomplishments but for personal strength, determination, and the will to win. Paul William Bryant was born on September 11, 1913, near Kingsland (Cleveland County) in south central Arkansas, to William Monroe Bryant, a farmer, and Dora Ida Kilgore Bryant, a homemaker. Bryant was the eighth surviving child (three died at birth) of a total of nine. He had four brothers and four sisters and was the youngest boy, with one sister born four …

Burgess, Franklin

Arkansas native Franklin Burgess earned All-American honors in basketball at Washington State’s Gonzaga University and played professionally before going on to a successful career as a lawyer and judge. Franklin D. Burgess was born on March 9, 1935, in Eudora (Chicot County) to Morris and Ollie Burgess. Burgess attended Eudora Colored High School and then spent one year at Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (AM&N), which is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, before joining the U.S. Air Force. After his discharge in 1958, he entered Gonzaga University. By this time, he and his wife, Treava Burgess, had twin daughters, so Burgess focused on the school’s academic offerings as well as its basketball program. He earned a …