It’s a term thrown around almost too cavalierly these days: “Future Hall of Famer.” Meant to be the highest praise, it also can be presumptuous. Who knows how voters will react, once a Hall of Fame ballot is put in front of them? There’s a long list of athletes from all sports who can make a case for enshrinement but have gone unrewarded.
Right now, though, we can use the term with certainty when it comes to the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame. That’s because on Wednesday, June 8, the Hall will welcome seven more athletes and contributors who did some of their best work in the Commonwealth:
Rex Chapman, the former Owensboro Apollo and UK star;
Artis Gilmore, who helped lead the Kentucky Colonels to the 1975 ABA championship;
George Tinsley, who played in four Division II national championship games with Kentucky Wesleyan, winning three;
Jerry May, the University of Louisville athletic trainer for three decades, who led the push for state certification for athletic trainers across the state;
Phil Roof, the Paducah native who spent nearly 50 years in professional baseball as a player, coach and manager;
Ed Kallay, the first television sportscaster in the state;
Bunny Daugherty, who coached 13 state championship teams in four different sports at Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville.
All will be recognized at a banquet in Louisville Wednesday, June 8. Kallay and Daughtery will be inducted posthumously.
Chapman was known as “The Boy King” as he soared to the rim for two seasons with the Wildcats, but his coronation came well before that. Tickets to Apollo games were coveted items throughout his career with the Eagles. Fans packed high school gymnasiums, hoping the high-flying Chapman would do something, anything, phenomenal, and he rarely disappointed.
He appeared to be heading for Louisville until UK hired Eddie Sutton, who made signing Chapman priority one. And when King Rex cast his lot with the Wildcats, it touched off a fervor the Big Blue Nation had never encountered (but has several times since, in this day of over-hyped recruiting).
During Chapman’s sophomore season, the Wildcats appeared to be headed to the Final Four, winning both the Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament championships. But the Wildcats fell short, upset by Villanova in the NCAA regional tournament.
A few weeks later, Chapman announced he would leave for the NBA, citing a dearth of big men coming out that year and a slew of post players due to arrive the following season. The expansion Charlotte Hornets made him the first pick in franchise history, which led to a 12-year professional career.
Gilmore spent 12 seasons in the NBA, after five years in the ABA with the Colonels. It was a team that had been built around the inside play of former UK All-American Dan Issel and the outside shooting (from beyond the three-point arc, at that point used by the ABA but not the NBA) of another ex-UK All-American, Louie Dampier, and Darrell Carrier, the former Western Kentucky star.
Gilmore’s arrival coincided with the hiring of head coach Hubie Brown, who had been an assistant on the Milwaukee Bucks team that won an NBA title with a rookie center out of UCLA named Lew Alcindor. Brown installed the offense the Bucks had used to capitalize on Alcindor’s talents, and the focus of the Colonels’ offense shifted from Issel to Gilmore. Issel made the change to power forward seamlessly and the Colonels, who had added a defensive stopper at guard named Ted “The Hound” McClain , went on to win the only major league professional championship in the history of the state. In fact, the Colonels were inducted as a team into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.
Gilmore will enter on his own individual merits. He spent five all-star seasons in the ABA, where he was Rookie of the Year and MVP. He was the first pick in the NBA dispersal draft after the ABA folded, and went on to be named an All-Star six times with the Bulls, Spurs and Celtics. He retired with combined (ABA and NBA) totals of nearly 25,000 points and nearly 3,200 blocked shots. Gilmore is now a member of the basketball Hall of Fame, and is the all-time leader among NBA players in field goal shooting percentage.
Tinsley was a product of Louisville Male who arrived at Kentucky Wesleyan back when the Panthers played in the smaller of two divisions of college basketball. Division II included the likes of Southern Illinois, featuring a future Hall of Fame guard named Walt Frazier; Evansville, with a tough, talented forward named Jerry Sloan (future NBA player and longtime coach of the Utah Jazz) and Winston-Salem, coached by Paducah native Clarence “Big House” Gaines and featuring a small guard known for his wizardry with the basketball – Earl “The Pearl” Monroe.
But it was Wesleyan that dominated during the years Tinsley played in Owensboro, making the championship game four times, winning three (the only miss coming on a night Tinsley was ill and suffering as well from an allergic reaction to the penicillin he’d been administered).
Tinsley played a few years of professional basketball, including a stop with the Colonels, but it was in business where he hit it big. He got in on the ground floor with Kentucky Fried Chicken, and eventually opened the first African-American owned TGI Fridays. He also has become involved in real estate development and telecommunications.
UK fans know how vital Bill “Mr. Wildcat” Keightley was to the Kentucky program. That’s how much Jerry May was ingrained in Louisville athletics. In the early days, May was the lone certified athletic trainer on campus, meaning he had to attend as many events as possible. When he finally got some help, he concentrated on men’s basketball, where he was also equipment manager and traveling secretary, overseeing all aspects of the team’s road trips.
May also spent countless hours with the state legislature in Frankfort on behalf of his craft, leading the move for better education, training and certification for athletic trainers caring for high school and college teams throughout the state.
Roof was a baseball lifer, spending parts of 15 seasons with eight major league teams as a player and later, a coach and minor league manager in the Minnesota Twins organization. He played with two different expansion teams, the Seattle Pilots (who later went bankrupt and moved to Milwaukee, becoming the Brewers) and the Toronto Blue Jays, Roof’s last stop as a player before retiring in 1977. That’s when he turned to coaching and managing, and he’s still active. The Twins asked him to come to spring training this year to fill in for their pitching coach, who’d suffered a shoulder injury and undergone surgery. At age 70, Phil Roof pitched batting practice.
Kallay was Mr. Louisville when it came to sports on the air. He anchored the sportscasts on WAVE-TV and also did radio play-by-play for U of L and the Louisville Colonels minor league baseball team (often shooting film for TV highlights AS he broadcast the game). He was known as “Uncle Ed” to those of us who were kids at that time, growing up in Louisville, because he also hosted a midday cartoon show for kids, known as “Funny Flickers.” He shared his desk with two puppets, a duck named “Sylvester” and a little guy who, if memory serves, looked like a garden gnome, named “Tom Foolery.”
Only Ed Kallay could move seamlessly between the sidelines of a major college basketball game and a cartoon show.
Bunny Daugherty coached at Sacred Heart for 49 years for more than 200 seasons, including 40 in basketball, 37 in field hockey and volleyball, 25 in track, golf and tennis and 10 each in gymnastics and swimming. She won state championships in basketball, field hockey, tennis and golf.
All seven will join the long list of inductees at the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame banquet Wednesday, June 8 in the Crowne Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Louisville Hotel (formerly the Executive Inn West) on Phillips Lane, near the Watterson Expressway. Call 502-367-2881 or go to kyathletichalloffame.org for more information.
(Former WKYT Sports Manager Dick Gabriel is a 22-year veteran of the UK radio and TV networks. He reports from the sidelines during Wildcat football games on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network. He can be heard each evening from 6-8 p.m.ET on “Sports Nightly,” on 630 WLAP-AM.)