Monday, May 6, 2013.
It’s a big day in Vale for an icon of Bronco football. Dave Wilcox, who went from Vale High to Boise Junior College to Oregon and on to a Hall of Fame career with the San Francisco 49ers, will be honored today as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s “Hometown Hall of Famers” program. Wilcox will have a plaque bearing his name mounted on the wall of the Vale High gym, and a street sign noting Wilcox’s Vale roots also will be constructed. His brother John, who also played for the Broncos and Ducks and helped the Philadelphia Eagles win the 1960 NFL championship, will present Dave with his plaque.
The coolest thing about the day—Wilcox said on Idaho SportsTalk last Friday he’s going to pick up his 97-year-old Bronco coach, Lyle Smith, this morning and drive him over to Vale for the festivities. “I was a fundamental football player; that’s how I survived,” Wilcox said. “And those fundamentals started in Vale, then Boise, then Oregon. I had great coaches.” He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
Gary Stevens’ return to the Kentucky Derby was far from a letdown. The most famous Idahoan in horse racing finished sixth aboard Oxbow in his first run at Churchill Downs in eight years Saturday. Joe Posnanski of NBC Sports.com wrote an excellent profile of Stevens for race day. “I don’t know how long this will last,” Stevens told Posnanski Friday. “I’m enjoying it now. I think that’s what matters. Right now I feel really good. But who knows? I can tell you if my knees start barking again, it will end.”
Stevens will always keep his options open, though. “Hey, I might ride in the Kentucky Derby and decide that’s it, and you will see me up in the booth announcing for the Preakness,” he said. “One thing you will never see is a story saying that Gary Stevens is retiring. That won’t happen.” He then smiled and said, “I will call it a leave of absence.” Well, Stevens is going to keep riding. He has tweeted that he and Oxbow will ride in the Preakness Stakes in two weeks.
The only hole bigger in a seven-game series than two losses out of the gate at home is the dreaded three games-to-none crevasse, and the Idaho Steelheads are faced with avoiding the latter now. The Stockton Thunder, after seeing the Steelheads tie the game with two third-period goals, knocked home a long rebound 11½ minutes into overtime to win 4-3 in Game 2 of the ECHL Western Conference Finals last night in CenturyLink Arena. The Thunder picked up where they left off Friday night when they stifled the Steelies 3-1, getting every break along the way. Idaho’s Adrian Foster was finally able to change the karma with two goals in the third, the second one knotting the game with 5:43 left. But the Steelheads are in dire straits as the go to Stockton for Game 3 Wednesday night.
It’s great day for golf, as U.S. Open Local Qualifying tees off today at Ridgecrest Golf Club in Nampa. Prominent locals in the 34-player field include one-time PGA Tour pro Tyler Aldridge of Nampa, Jim Empey and Jesse Hibler, both of Boise, and T.K. Kim, Boise State’s top player and the defending Idaho Men’s Amateur champion. Kim finished fifth individually at the Mountain West Championships yesterday with the second-best three-round score in a conference tournament in school history. Things didn’t go as well for the Broncos as a team—they finished tied for seventh out of the nine Mountain West schools.
Troy Merritt really needed to play a final round at the Stadion Classic in Athens,GA, yesterday—to atone after blowing up with a seven-over 78 Saturday. But he never got the chance, as the final day was wiped out by rain. So Merritt’s six-over total for the tournament stood, as did his tie for 32nd place. Merritt collected $1,890 and is now 36th on the Web.com Tour money list (the top 25 at the end of the season earn PGA Tour cards for 2014).
The College of Idaho women’s softball team is headed for the NAIA National Championships for the first time since 2009. The Lady Yotes will learn their first round opponent and destination tomorrow. The C of I has won 14 of its last 15 games after blasting Oregon Tech 8-0 Friday in the Cascade Conference championship game. Also, Coyote runner Hillary Holt recorded the fastest women’s 1,500-meters ever by a collegiate runner in the state of Idaho in the Oregon Twilight meet at Hayward Field, a 4:11.62 that broke the record set by Niamh Beirne of Boise State in 1997. The junior from Meridian thus becomes the first C of I athlete ever to qualify for the U.S. Track and Field Championships. Holt’s time would have been enough to make the U.S. Olympic Trials last year.
A lot happened Friday that I haven’t been able to touch on. Don Hill, one of the state’s top 2014 college football prospects, committed to Washington. The 6-4, 235-pound defensive end plans to graduate early from Timberline in order to greenshirt and join the Huskies for spring football next March. UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has been in town for his dad’s ceremony today in Vale. Probably not a coincidence.
When Wyoming media relations director Tim Harkins visits Bronco Stadium with the Cowboys in November, maybe there should be a pregame ceremony honoring him. Harkins was credited with saving the life of veteran sportswriter Natalie Meisler while she was conducting a phone interview of Harkins from her home last Wednesday. Harkins recognized that Meisler was suffering a stroke, got her address from Colorado State associate athletic director (and rival and friend) Gary Ozzello, and reached the police in Meisner’s hometown of Boulder. The police arrived in time and rushed her to the hospital, where she is in stable condition.
A renovation to Nevada’s Mackay Stadium was announced Friday, one that will cost $6-8 million once the funds are raised. It’ll be the first significant improvement made to the 48-year-old facility since 1996. Added would be new suites, a club seating level, and chairbacks in at least five sections. The money would come from private fundraising. The goal is to have the project done in time for season opener in 2014. Mackay Stadium needs something—originally seating 5,000 fans, it expanded several times during the Chris Ault era, in a scotch-taped-together kind of way. It’ll take more than $6-8 million.
This Day In Sports…May 6, 1998, 15 years ago today:
Chicago Cubs rookie Kerry Wood ties Roger Clemens’ major league record for most strikeouts in a game, fanning 20 batters in a complete game one-hitter, a 2-0 victory over the Houston Astros. He would go on to be named National League Rookie of the Year, but his career would be marred by 16 stints on the disabled list. Wood, who also pitched for the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees, would finish his career with the Cubs, retiring early in the 2012 season. Oh by the way, Willie Mays is 82 years old today.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)