News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

April 16, 2014

An ambassador of Wabash Valley sports

Long-time Tribune-Star sports reporter entering ISSA Hall of Fame

TERRE HAUTE — Veteran Tribune-Star sports reporter Andy Amey will be inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame on Saturday in Indianapolis.

“This is a great honor for a man who richly deserves such recognition,” said Tribune-Star editor Max Jones. Amey has worked at the newspaper for 43 years, initially at the Star and later the Tribune-Star.

The Hall of Fame honor shows that Amey is known and respected not only in the Wabash Valley, but also throughout the state “as a top-notch reporter and writer who has notched a fantastic career in his chosen field,” Jones said.

In 2004, Amey received the ISSA Sportswriter of the Year Award.

Mark Bennett, formerly the Tribune-Star’s sports editor and now a columnist and feature writer, knows first-hand Amey’s skills. “Nobody comprehends the details of a game like Andy. He’s like a six-man stat crew rolled into one,” Bennett said. “Any game he covers — no matter what level — gets his full attention, and he treats it as a special event with its own story to tell. As a result, he’s written some of the best game stories I’ve ever read.”

Amey, originally from Lowell in northwest Indiana, came to Terre Haute to attend Indiana State University. He graduated in 1971 and his goal was to teach and coach (emphasis on coach), although those jobs were not plentiful at the time, he found.

He had been a sports editor for his high school paper and at the Indiana Statesman at ISU, and he also had taken a few journalism classes at ISU. He wasn’t really considering a career in sports reporting, but fate had different plans.

“It was a job that picked me more than anything else,” said Amey, who is 66.

He worked as a cab driver in summer 1971 and was waiting in his cab in an alley behind the Terminal — which really was a bus terminal back then — and he saw Tom Reck, the Star’s sports editor, who he knew because they had covered many sporting events together.

Amey asked Reck if the Star had any sports writing jobs available, and Reck hired him part-time in August 1971. Amey remained part-time until 1987.

To make ends meet, he at one time had six part-time jobs, he recalled, “which I don’t really recommend.” They included reporting, coaching, substitute teaching and working at a department store.

He decided to stay in Terre Haute, and the newspaper, because he was familiar with the community. “I knew people,” he said.

While the job has gotten more challenging in recent years because of newspaper staffing cutbacks — some things don’t change. “The games are always good … and the people at the games are still good,” he said.

Among his most memorable assignments was assisting with coverage of ISU’s 1978-79 basketball season, when Larry Bird led the Sycamores to the NCAA finals. Amey did a lot of the road games because he was willing to drive to them, he said.

He covered the NCAA Final Four that year and was there, along with Reck, for the final game between ISU and Michigan State. Amey was up in the auxiliary press area. “It was fun, but it would have been a heck of a lot more fun if we would have played better and won,” he said.

He described that period in Terre Haute and ISU basketball as “incredible,” with the community’s enthusiasm and support for the hometown team.

One of his favorite stories to cover was when Turkey Run won the state softball championship in 1996 — and that was before class sports came into play. Turkey Run beat Center Grove.

He has a place in his heart for those kinds of stories. In Lowell, which is in Lake County, his high school was one of the smaller ones  “and we were always an underdog. … I’ve always probably had an underdog mentality.”

Some people have given him credit for “the Stephanie White phenomenon,” he said. White is an Indiana basketball legend who played basketball at Seeger High School in West Lebanon and was named Indiana’s Miss Basketball for 1995; she also led Purdue University to the 1999 NCAA women’s national championship.

But before she became well known, Amey wrote a Sunday Special about her while she was in high school. “I  introduced her to the people around here. I made sure she got noticed,” he said, even though Seeger was not in the Tribune-Star’s coverage area.

After that Sunday Special, no matter where White played, the gym was full and even overflowing. People would drive from far away to watch her play.

While Amey has covered many sports assignments through the years, he is perhaps best known for his coverage of high school sports throughout the Wabash Valley.

Pat Rady, former long-time basketball coach at Terre Haute South Vigo High School, said the recognition for Amey is “a well-deserved honor and long overdue. I think an awful lot of him.”

Amey supports and promotes Wabash Valley athletes and “has always been in their corner,” said Rady, who now coaches at Cloverdale High School.

Amey also is “very knowledgeable of the games he covers, whether it is football, basketball or baseball. It’s easy to talk to him because he understands the game so well,” Rady said.

Reck, the sports editor who hired Amey, notes that “from day one, Andy has proven invaluable with his ability to meet deadlines” for morning editions of the newspaper — with accuracy and stellar reporting.

Reck described Amey as a “good ambassador for the newspaper” at high schools and communities with his coverage of their teams.

The association inducted Reck into its Hall of Fame in 2002.

Bennett believes the Hall of Fame wouldn’t be complete without [Andy]. Few, if any, people in this state have seen more sporting events, and nobody tells the stories of what happened better.”

Amey, who once wrote a 35-inch story in 35 minutes (this story is about 30 inches), notes that technology has changed greatly during his newspaper career. When he started, he used a typewriter and would dictate road games by telephone.

In 1991, he won an award for a story “I dictated off the top of my head over the phone.” The game was Duke winning the men’s basketball national championship in Indianapolis.

Amey has been married to his wife, Jenny, for 20 years, and they have two adopted children, Darcy and JoJo.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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