Each week, Oklahoma Sports Milestones will recognize athletes, coaches, support staff, fans — the people it takes to produce game day experiences.
*ADDED: To the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame, former State Fair Speedway promoter Lanny Edwards. A 52-year veteran of dirt track racing, Edwards has been instrumental in building the sport throughout the Southwest. He created the famed Chili Bowl Nationals for midget sprints held each winter inside the Tulsa Expo Pavilion. He owns and operates Lawton Speedway and the Devil's Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas. Edwards has previously been inducted to the National Sprint Car and National Midget halls. He is joining NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, NASCAR team owner Richard Childress and late Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon in the 2012 class.
*DIED: At age 86, Carl Stevens, an American hero and exceptional athlete. The Stilwell native left high school at age 17 and joined the Navy to help the U.S. fight the Axis in World War II. While serving as a landing craft coxswain for the U.S.S. War Hawk in the Pacific Theatre, Stevens held the 160-pound division boxing championship for sixth months in Guam. After the war, he was a receiver for the Northwestern State football team in Alva. Stevens continued to box and won the Golden Gloves championship, including one title match in which he suffered a broken hand. After college, he became an Army Ranger, worked for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and served as an undercover agent for the U.S. Treasury Department.
*HONORED: For accomplishments during a long career in football, Edmond resident Bob Cortese will be inducted into the St. Thomas Aquinas High School Athletic Hall of Fame. The Rochester, N.Y., native has made Oklahoma home after a successful coaching career that included college and high school football in Colorado. Cortese coached several Arena Football League teams, including the Oklahoma Wranglers during the 2000 and 2001 seasons. The coach has been a color analyst for high school football broadcasts in Oklahoma.
*DIED: At age 20, baseball player Conner Russell. Played high school ball at Norman North; he scored the winning run in a playoff game that sent the Timberwolves to the Class 6A state tournament in 2010. Russell received a scholarship to play baseball at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala. He pitched during the 2011 season but returned to Norman after suffering an injury. Russell planned a career in broadcast journalism, with a focus on working for ESPN.
*OTHER: Oklahomans with sports backgrounds who died recently include: Jerry Vanderpool, 51, drag racer. ... Patricia Geurin, 76, retired from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. ... Thomas Enyart, 86, bull rider.
*SPECIAL RECOGNITION: For best friend Jack, age 12. Short-distance sprinter from the sofa to the kitchen for a dab of peanut butter or another morsel of goodness. Named after Hall of Fame Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert — both were missing teeth and tough as nails — he had sports writer's hours, 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. Jack followed the Steelers, Texas Rangers, hockey, sprint cars and anything else that involved competition. Win or lose, Jack always had a smile and a wagging tail for the Oklahoma Sports Milestones' author. So long, pal.
40: The Oklahoma City Barons have won at least 40 games during their first-two seasons in the American Hockey League. Impressive, yes. What's more, Oklahoma City is the first home base for an Edmonton Oilers top farm team to have back-to-back 40-win seasons since 1980; that was Oilers' first season in the National Hockey League.
Voice of reason
Jack Peavey, the director of football operations at Oklahoma Baptist University, had a brief stint in the NFL. He played three games at center in 1987 for the AFC champion Denver Broncos, then quarterbacked by John Elway. Nowadays, Elway is the Broncos' executive vice president of operations and played a lead role in Denver signing free agent quarterback Peyton Manning. Denver then traded the popular Tim Tebow to the New York Jets. Peavey offers an opinion on one of the NFL's most talked-about offseason moves:
“I have to echo the sentiments of our youth in being disappointed Tim Tebow is leaving Denver. He is our best witness to our young generation on how to live for Christ. My children and many high school and college-age adults love Tim Tebow; he is this generation's icon.
“I was disappointed that Tim Tebow was traded. I was hoping for a Aaron Rodgers situation for him to learn behind a first class person and great football player in Peyton Manning. Having played in the Meadowlands, I can tell you New York has the most ‘what-have-you-done-lately' fan base in the world. I would not want to be Mark Sanchez. Everything he will now do, however slightly wrong ... the chants of ‘Tebow' will echo loud.”