Despite its smallness, South Dakota has produced numerous nationally known journalists.
One of its finest, Chuck Raasch, brought South Dakota basketball to the forefront with his recent column in USA Today. Raasch is a South Dakota State graduate from the Brookings area (Castlewood). He is the brother of Langford Area teacher and coach Paul Raasch.
Paul has left his own footprint in state history as the iron man of South Dakota amateur baseball. The hall of famer set a state record by playing in 765 straight games during a 25-year career. Paul had a .375 batting average with 201 home runs and 154 pitching wins during his career.
Paul also coached the Langford Lions boys’ basketball team to their second straight State B appearance last month. He also got basketball career win 400 this past season.
Before the NCAA tourney started last month, Chuck Raasch wrote a great column about college basketball and the recent success of the SDSU teams.
Raasch warned his readers, “I am a virtual resident of Jackrabbit Nation.”
He told the story of the SDSU players: “In Brookings, basketball is a hometown story. Three of the five Jackrabbit men starters grew up within a half-hour drive from campus; the other two are from neighboring Iowa and Minnesota. Players on the 13th-seeded South Dakota State women . . . mostly grew up within a half-day's drive, or less, of Frost Arena.”
Raasch also injected his clever sense of humor, writing, “The South Dakota State University Jackrabbit men, also a No. 13 seed, have a point guard, Nate Wolters, who likes to pass as much as score, and some lanky three-point marksmen around him. The state motto could be: ‘Only three electoral votes, but we can sure shoot the three.’ ”
Chuck is a Gannett national correspondent, with bylines from 49 states and four continents and having covered six presidential campaigns. Wife, Sandy Johnson, also a SDSU graduate, worked for The Associated Press for almost 30 years, where she oversaw the wire service’s coverage of the federal government, elections and politics as Washington bureau chief from 1998 to 2008. Johnson is a former Pulitzer finalist.
This is a big week for another well-known South Dakota journalist, Lake Norden native Mel Antonen. He is one of Major League Baseball’s most respected reporters and is a triple threat with TV, radio and Sports Illustrated (SI.com) credentials.
Another busy man this week is ESPN baseball expert, best-selling author and honorary Aberdeen resident Buster Olney. He spent significant time in Aberdeen researching his 2011 book about former Northern State coach Don Meyer, “How Lucky You Can Be.” Olney will be “coming home” to deliver the spring commencement address at 10:30 a.m. May 4 in the Barnett Center in Aberdeen.
Two other nationally known journalists, both deceased, called Aberdeen their hometown:
Bob Oates covered 39 consecutive Super Bowls (1967-2005) and was the last surviving member of the original Pro Football Hall of Fame selection panel.
Loel Schrader covered University of South California athletics for almost 40 years as well as 12 Super Bowls, 10 World Series, 32 Rose Bowls and the 1984 Olympic Games. When Schrader was inducted into the 24-member 2007 USC Hall of Fame class, two were Aberdonians. Justin “Sam” Barry was born Dec. 17, 1892, in Aberdeen, and was the winningest basketball coach in USC history. His 1932-41 Trojan teams posted 38 consecutive wins over crosstown rival UCLA. He was the USC head football, basketball and baseball coach in 1941.
There have been plenty of other famous journalists from South Dakota. Plenty have stayed in the state and shared their talents with readers such as the Woster brothers, the Argus Leader tandem of John Egan and Bruce Conley, the famous Rapid City Journal trio of Don Lindner, Ron Woods and Roger Toland and people like our own recently retired Ron Feickert and Cindy Eikamp. Feickert and Eikamp gave American News readers a combined 83 years of effort.
John Papendick is the managing news-sports editor for the American News. Reach him at email@example.com.