Montgomery County’s Iconic Sports Reporter
Reporter: Eddie “Bud” Barnett
Jim was born February 23, 1921 in Clarinda IA on Logan St. He lost his mother at the age of 2 and eventually his father James, remarried Grace Morgan, daughter of Tom Morgan. He attended Clarinda Schools through the 4th grade. When the stock market crashed and times started getting really tough, Jim’s father lost his job and subsequently moved his family to the Wales Community north and west of Red Oak. They lived 1 mile north and 3/4 mi east of Wales.
Since Clarinda’s schools were ahead of Wales in certain areas, Jim was moved forward to the 5th grade, while his brother Jack also was advanced to a higher grade. (Jim also had a sister – her name was JoAnn.) Some of Jim’s classmates while at Wales were Berl Morris, Max Bauer, Alfred Anderson, Clyde Sellers, Walter Shamblen, and Curtis Steiner. After just one year at Wales, the Logan family moved to Red Oak and Jim would finish his secondary education at Red Oak, and graduating in 1938.
A great deal of Jim’s high school athletic years involved “work”. Times were tough for a lot of the local area folks and in many cases, high school kids had to work to help support the family. In Jim’s case, he spent at least two or three nights a week setting pins at the local duck pin alley. For those that may wonder, the bowling alley was no more than 2 or 3 lanes and was on the northeast corner of 5th and Reed, which is currently the home of “Pit Stop Bar and Grill”. There was bowling (probably) every night…like what else would there have been to do in these tough times. At any rate, Jim would start after school and generally would not get home before midnight. He did work out the schedule to accommodate basketball and baseball during the particular season. The night was always very short because Jim would have to get up before 5 a.m. in order to deliver newspapers. Starting from home at 604 E Elm, Jim would go to the train station, which would have pitched off a bundle of newspapers as the train passed the station (never stopping). His first stop would be at the bottom of the hill on 2nd Street at the Evans House, which was a hotel for many train passengers that were coming and going on the train. Eventually he would cover the entire city, either on his bicycle or with his sled – depending on the season. He delivered over 140 Omaha World Herald newspapers and had the entire town to cover. This was an everyday task of newspaper delivery and was in some way a link to Jim’s future in the newspaper business.
During his high school years, Jim played a lot of basketball and baseball. Jim’s first sports love was(still is) football, but having had a broken neck in the 3rd grade, he could never pass the physical for football. Basketball was Jim’s high school sport of choice and fit in with his love of sports. In the case of baseball, this was a period of time when nearly every town of any size not only had “town team” baseball for the mature athletes, but they also had American Legion, which included “Junior Legion” Baseball for the high school and slightly above group. (This could be considered the “select” teams of the day). This was a great time for baseball and Jim would have a much grander experience in the sport later during his military career. During his American Legion Junior baseball, teams were made up of the better baseball athletes in the area and in the case of Red Oak, there may have only been a few boys that made this team. The rest came from surrounding neighboring communities, such as Don Beeson from Coburg, Mervin Laire from Stennett and Don Bryson from Grant. Another local Red Oak boy that played a lot of Legion ball was “Rip” Fisher.
Jim had a friend living in Fort Smith AR, so following high school, Jim rationalized that this would be a good opportunity to “explore the world” (figuratively speaking) and get some higher education and find out things beyond the local community that had been Jim’s entire focus for the first 18 plus years. He enrolled in the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville Arkansas and very soon DID find out a lot about some portion of the “rest of the world”. The period was in the late 30s and for those that may have lived during that time, particularly in the Deep South, you might recognize some of the experiences that Jim confronted. In this period of time and in that part of the country, there was still a prevailing “Civil War” attitude. Of course many are aware of the discrimination of the time with “White Only” restaurants, bathrooms, and more. He saw segregation first hand that few kids from Iowa would know or understand unless they did see it for themselves…he saw it for himself. For those that do know Jim, it may go without saying that this attitude did not match with Jim’s values and spirit. One year was all that was needed in Arkansas before Jim decided that maybe he could get that journalism higher education in Iowa. He enrolled at the University of Iowa the next fall to major in Journalism.
This move to his “state roots” proved to be a valuable time because with his love of sports, he got the opportunity to cover sports for the “Daily Iowan”. The Daily Iowan was a daily student newspaper that every student received as part of their tuition fees. This would also be a huge step towards Jim’s ultimate goal of being in the newspaper business.
During his late high school days, Jim had joined Company M and during his college period, he was enrolled in the ROTC program. In March of 1942 Jim married Ruth Miller and by August of 1942, he was in the Army. Company M had mobilized for federal service and since Jim had been in the ROTC program, he was discharged from the National Guard and joined the Army. One little problem was detected while he was taking the physical for officer training that kept Jim from joining the North African tour as an officer …his eyes! With this physical limitation, Jim would be stationed at various places in the states, including Fort Crook in Omaha (later known as Offutt Air Base), as well as bases in California, Washington and Missouri. In April 1945 he was shipped to the Philippines to Base X, which was the Pacific Headquarters, as a Message Center Sargent – 316th General Hospital. During this period in the war, many correspondents were either getting killed or ending their tours. Discovering Jim’s journalism training and education led to his being transferred into the public relations company as a correspondent covering everything from houses of “ill repute” to opera. But his love of sports further directed him to his real desire to reporting on sports.
Most of what the public (then and now) know of WWII was “war”, and yet one of the major activities of the troops involved sports – how else would you expect to maintain a high spirit and moral among young men? Nearly every company had their own sports team, depending on the season.
The main sport was baseball and nearly every company had a team and played games nearly every day. In ’45, after the Americans recaptured Manila, Jim’s baseball team for which we was the scorekeeper and reporter was the Manila Dodgers. The Dodgers were made up of many players that had already come from the professional ranks in some lower levels, to players that would later BECOME professionals… nothing but the best players, as the pictures and documents herein contained would verify. One of the true highlights of Jim’s military career was being able to cover the Pacific Olympics, which was basically a tournament of the best teams from all over.
During December 1945, the Manila Dodgers competed for a place in the following month’s Pacific Olympics. And on December 27, 1945, Higbe (Dodgers manager as well as pitcher) hurled an 8-0 shutout over Leyte Base K to clinch the Philippine Olympics title and a place in the Pacific bout scheduled to start January 26, 1946.
On January 2, 1946, Higbe pitched for the Manila Dodgers against a team of National League all-stars that was beingled by the legendary Chuck Dressen and featuring Frank McCormick, Bill Voiselle, Tom Seats, Clyde King, Whitey Kurowski and Red Barrett. In front of a crowd of 25,000 at Rizal Stadium, he was beaten, 5-4, on two home runs by Reds first baseman Frank McCormick.
As noted, games were held on nearly a daily basis with huge crowds and in fact it was during one of these game day events that the word came through to Jim to prepare to “ship out”. Needless to say, when the opportunity was presented to “go home”, that became the priority…Jim was not sure what the final score was for that game, because within a very short time, he was on the “Billy Mitchell” troopship and headed for Frisco. In February of 1946 he was headed home.
After getting stateside, his “relaxing” time didn’t last long because he didn’t muster out with a lot of money, so “a job” was priority. Returning to his roots in Red Oak, he went to work for The Red Oak Express on March 1, 1946. He would be the editor of the newspaper, as well as to handle the duties as the sports editor. During this late 40s period, Jim served as president of the Tall Corn Baseball League, which later became the Southwest Iowa Baseball League.
Now here is part of Jim’s story that can not wait until the end to be reported – he would retire from this position 38 years later (retiring in 1984) without ever taking time off from his job. Indeed, Jim does confess that there were three times of hangovers that did not break the string. Who among us can claim 38 years without a lost day of work?! Incredible! Or for that matter, who can claim only 3 hangovers in 38 years! 🙂
But Jim’s story does not end here. The fact is that The Express did not really have a formal “sports page” when Jim joined the paper. Up until this time, for the most part, sports news was literally splattered all over the newspaper, although it may have been more concentrated than it had been in prior years. During that period of time, if you played in any organized sport in Montgomery County Iowa (as well as surrounding areas), you would have encountered Jim. Even though his primary focus was on Red Oak, that did not eliminate other county teams, at some point from being reported upon by Jim. The smaller area schools in Montgomery County, Mills County, and even Page, Adams and Cass Counties, would be subjects of Jim’s reporting – particularly during tournament time in basketball, either at the County Tournament time or during sectionals and districts which were very often held in Red Oak for a very logical reason.
One story that Jim recalls in vivid detail was during the 1952 football season. For the preceding 10 years, it had been either Shenandoah or Atlantic that had won the conference and Shen was the defending champion. Both Shen and Atlantic, along with Red Oak were expected to compete for the Conference championship in the 1952 season. Both Shen and Red Oak were undefeated in the conference when they were to meet for the championship on the last game of the season. Both were ranked very near the top in the state and 2nd and 3rd in Southwest Iowa. Prior to the BIG GAME, Jim had it worked out with his Corning newspaper editor friend, Paul Gauiether, to print a story that “reportedly” had come from Shenandoah. (shown here at the left).
That article would be posted in the locker room for all Red Oak Tiger Footballers to be able to read. Only the Lord knows what incentive this “jab” provided, but the result was that over 5000 fans from all over the area saw Red Oak romp by a score of 33-6 with the only Shen score coming from a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Jim remembers Homer Weis being the coach and his assistant was a young man named Russ Benda, for whom the current football stadium is named. Names of some of the players on that state ranked team were Chuck Krumme, Don Kampe, Dick Schantz, John Abbott, Ross Pilkington, Tommy Ballard, Larry Cooper, Freddie Maher, Jack Matthews, Henry Hart…Jim recalls that Cooper was selected on the all-state football team that season.
Shortly after Jim’s retirement in 1984, the notable Des Moines Register correspondent, Chuck Offenburger made comment on Jim’s inciting his Tiger football team and he even called Jim a Rascal (an affection, competitive label if you know that Chuck is from Shenandoah.)
Jim is also “accused” by his now good neighbor, Donna (Wetzel) Corliss (Wales, class ’55) of (nearly) always picking Elliott girls over the Wales Lassies for the County Tournament.(I think Jim preferred to call all girls teams “Lassies” rather than the “something-ettes” as most were called) Now, whether or not this was a ploy can not be confirmed, but according to Donna, it did always give the Wales girls a big incentive and none more so than during the County Tournament of 1953 when the Wales girls were only 10-7 at tournament time while the Elliott girls had only lost a couple of games all season and both of those were to powerhouse Oakland. The Wales girls used Jim’s prediction to win their 8th tournament in the preceding 10 years (the Everett Fuller era).
Reporter editorial note: Wales folks always did have a feeling that Jim had it in for them because they “recruited” Dick Cornelison away from Red Oak and Dick would become a basketball standout at Wales and would eventually earn All-Southwest Iowa for Wales in 1951…just kidding Jim!.. we really do love you.
In addition, I do not feel worthy of reporting on such a local reporting icon as Jim, but it was my great pleasure to do so, even if he is a big Cub fan!
I do strongly suggest that you read more of the war story on the Manila Dodgers. If the following link is no longer available, please contact us.
This is a fascinating story into itself.
…for more on the story of Manila Dodgers, click here