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February 19, 2013

RONN MOTT: Clyde

Kudos to Mike McCormick for a great series of articles about Clyde Lovellette. It’s hard to lose someone who is nearly seven feet tall, but it would appear Clyde Lovellette has been the forgotten hero of Terre Haute basketball. (Of course, it didn’t help that he went to Kansas instead of an Indiana school.) As Mike explains, Clyde was just about Mr. Everything collegiately, including the hero of the 1952 Olympics.

I was the program director of the WTHI Air Force when Clyde joined WTHI as sportscaster and we got to do some ballgames together. He also was responsible for starting a WTHI basketball team, which the Air staff and some very good “ringers” would play high school faculties, service clubs, etc., to raise money for charities.

At the old Indiana State Arena, which burned down, we defeated the All American Redheads 123-60. It was supposed to be no fast breaks to give the girls a chance, but Clyde said to me, “Listen, little man, after they shoot you head down to our basket. I’ll get the rebound, just make sure you catch the ball and score.” Obviously, Clyde got the rebounds and making a non-contested lay-up was easy.

The All American Redheads’ coach wouldn’t let the girls go to the locker room after the game. Instead, he made them practice for an hour. You have to ask how many times this lady’s team might have to face someone as tall and as good as Clyde Lovellette. I guess their coach thought all things were possible.

My kids were very young at this time … 6 and 4, and Laura, my 4-year old, was having books read to her by her mother. In one of the stories was a giant. For some reason, the story of the giant peaked Laura’s curiosity and she wanted to know from me if there were giants and where did they live. I, of course, told her there were no giants, and that being the case, they didn’t live anywhere. That seemed to quell her curiosity.

Then one day, both girls came to visit me at the radio/TV station. And in those days the only way to the second floor where the radio studios were located was to climb a very long set of stairs. So, Laura and her older sister Katie were standing on the first landing with me holding their hands. At the very top of the stairs about to come down was Clyde Lovellette looking as if he was eight feet tall.

The little girl who had asked the question about the giants screamed, “Daddy, it’s a giant!” She jumped into my arms nearly knocking me over and needed some comforting and explaining about tall people versus giants. Clyde may not remember that, but Laura Mott and I did. For a little girl of 4, and Clyde standing at the top of the stairs, he was certainly a giant.

Then there was the time we were broadcasting in Roberts Stadium, a semi-final game, Garfield playing (I believe) Evansville North, Clyde was leaning out over the open gondola of the broadcast booth, and he almost fell out. I grabbed the back of his belt and held him steady until he could get control.

Of course, Clyde would never admit he was in any danger. Such memories!

Clyde and his Garfield Eagle team, when he was a junior, came to play Clinton at the Clinton gymnasium to a packed house. We had a very good team that year at Clinton, but Garfield’s outside shooting buried the Wildcat hopes for a victory and would beat us by 35 points.

A big thanks to Mike McCormick for stirring up all these memories. 

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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