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Southeast Missouri State hall-of-fame inductees express gratitude

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Newest members of the Southeast Missouri State Athletic Hall of Fame inducted during Friday’s ceremony at the Show Me Center are, from left, Ron Hines, Christine (Ridenour) Vanatta, Galen McSpadden and Beverly Slaughter. The late Jim Hamby was also inducted.
The beaming faces told the story for the people comprising Southeast Missouri State's 11th Athletic Hall of Fame class.

They expressed tremendous pride and honor, thanking the university they still hold in such high regard for deeming them fit for induction into the exclusive club.

"It is a great honor. I'm very humbled," said Ron Hines, who served as Southeast's sports information director from 1980 through his retirement in 2009.

Added Galen McSpadden, a baseball standout from 1971 through 1974: "Oh my, I can't think of anything being bigger. I've had a lot of things happen to me and this is one of the best."

Others inducted during Friday night's ceremony at the Show Me Center were Christine (Ridenour) Vanatta (cross country/track & field, 1982 to 1984); Beverly Slaughter (track & field, 1981); and the late Jim Hamby (assistant football coach, 1958 to 1968).

Hines helped bring publicity and notoriety to Southeast as the school's sports information director for 29 years.

"I never threw a pass or hit a basket or scored a goal, but I worked as hard as I could to bring as much attention as I could to this wonderful university," Hines said.

Hines worked 851 consecutive men's basketball games, an all-time Division I record for an SID. He wrote and produced 21 award-winning publications, including four judged "Best in the Nation" by the College Sports Information Directors of America, and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from CoSIDA.

"It was a great ride. I was around for most of these athletes and teams who are in the hall of fame," Hines said.

The only regret for Hines, who lives in Carterville, Ill., is that his beloved wife Mary couldn't be with him Friday.

Mary spent more than 25 years assisting Ron with statistics, media guides, game programs, posters and other publications. She passed away in August after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

But Ron took comfort in the fact that Mary joined her husband in the hall as an honorary member.

"Her absence makes it a bittersweet occasion. But I'm happy that Mary Sue is going in with me. We were a team," said Hines, choking up. "When she was sick, she said on her bucket list she wanted to see me in the hall of fame. She knew [he had been selected] before she died. She was so happy."

McSpadden, a left-handed pitcher, remains the only player in school history to lead Southeast in ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts and wins in back-to-back seasons (1973, 1974).

The Zalma High School graduate still ranks in nine of the school's single-season and career categories. His 12.14 strikeouts per nine innings led the nation in 1973 and is a school record, while his 1.47 ERA in that season ranks fourth. McSpadden boasted a 1.53 ERA, fifth-best in school history, as a senior.

McSpadden posted 18 career victories, notable because Southeast played only 91 games during his four years. He was a sixth-round draft pick, the highest in program history, and played parts of five seasons in the San Diego Padres organization, reaching as high as Class AAA. He is in his 32nd season as baseball coach at Seward County Community College in Kansas, where he also serves as athletic director.

"SEMO has meant so much to me," McSpadden said. "This gives me a chance to come back, share it with my family and to say thanks to a lot of people that I never really had a chance to thank."

McSpadden said the night held special significance because of the fact his 88-year-old father, who still lives in the area, was able to attend. It's the first of McSpadden's four hall-of-fame induction ceremonies that his dad was able to be at.

McSpadden, who entered this season with a 1,065-591 coaching record to rank 23rd in junior college history for most career wins and seventh in active wins, is also a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association Baseball Hall of Fame, the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame and the Seward County Hall of Fame.   

"My dad being here makes it even more special," he said.

Ridenour highlighted her athletic career at Southeast by winning the 1984 NCAA Division II women's cross country championship, leading her team to a third-place finish. She was a three-time Division II All-American in cross country and a two-time Division II national qualifier in track & field.

Ridenour set school records in the 1,500 meter, mile, 3,000 meter, 2-mile and 5,000 meter events. She is married to Southeast Hall of Famer Michael Vanatta, a member of the university's inaugural hall class in 2002 and also a former track and cross country standout.

"It's very humbling. I was very surprised. I'm thrilled to be a part of the hall of fame," she said.

Ridenour, who lives in Denver and teaches school, could not pin down one specific highlight of her athletic career.

"Just looking at all the friendships that still endure today. All the fun we had as a team," she said. "I'm a teacher, exactly what I came here to do."

Slaughter was one of the first great female athletes at Southeast. She held the long jump record at 20 feet, 5 inches for 17 years and still ranks third on the school's all-time long jump list. She was an All-American in 1981 and won numerous MIAA titles.

"I never in my wildest dreams thought about this. First of all, even being offered a track scholarship. ... It's a tremendous honor," Slaughter said.

Slaughter grew up in Cape Girardeau and graduated from Central High School. She said competing collegiately in her home town made things extra special.

"My family was there carrying me through everything," said Slaughter, who now lives in Chicago.

Hamby, after a four-year duty in the U.S. Air Force, accepted the assistant coaching position at Southeast under Kenneth Knox. Hamby taught both offensive and defensive line play as Southeast won MIAA championships in 1958, 1959, 1962 and 1967.

"He was a great coach. As far as we were concerned he was a legend," said 2004 Southeast Hall of Fame inductee Ryland "Dutch" Meyr, who played for Hamby.

Hamby coached three players who were drafted in the NFL.

"I think he would be very humbled. He would be overwhelmed," said Hamby's son Kip, who accepted the induction for his late father.

Southeast's Athletic Hall of Fame now includes 76 individuals and 15 teams since its inception in 2002.

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