219.com’s Region Hall of Fame: (3) Jean Shepard vs. (6) Glenn ‘Bigg Dogg’ Robinson

We’re on to our next match-up in the 219.com Region Hall of Fame brackets.

There have been a few surprises already as you Region Rats continue to weigh in with your votes already. Just as a reminder to everyone, this is just our first section of the bracket…the plan is to have four different brackets similar to a final four pairing. So total, 219.com plans to have 32 total Region rats in our little ‘tournament’ here.

This bracket has given us some interesting match-ups so far, but for the sake of the integrity of this whole wonderful process, we will aptly deem this bracket the ‘Old School vs. New School’ Region. So far, we have the New School finding some success, but we have to figure the New School voters are coming out in legions with their addiction to social media and the internet. Regardless, let’s do this thing anyway, for at least the sake of the democratic process.

So buckle up, this one could take a bit, just like all good things. After all, we are determining who is our Mount Rushmore of the Region, amirite?

(3) Jean Shepard

Many of the younger Region rats out there are quickly becoming familiarized with some of the legends of Northwest Indiana here, and our third seed is no exception. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Shep’, the late Jean Shepard was a radio personality who was raised in Hammond, Indiana and graduated from Hammond High in 1939.220px-Jean_Shepherd_1970

What he is perhaps best known for is his influence on A Christmas Story, which was written based on his days growing up in Hammond as a kid. Shepard’s first job is about as classic as a NWI resident from that time period could get- a mail carrier at the steel mills. This exposure to the steel industry ingrained that perspective on Shepard which manifested throughout his life. Shepard is said to have obtained his amateur radio license around the age of 16 years old, inspiring his passion for telecommunications across a variety of broadcasting networks.

Shepard represents some of the challenges of the older generation’s career paths with some of the events that presented themselves at this period in history. The kids these days have no way of knowing the way a world war impacts society, just as it did Jean Shepard. But true to his career choice, even though Shepard served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War 2, he did it as a radio operator. If he can handle the chaos of operating a radio during a war, it certainly prepared him for the mild craziness of society once he got back.

Upon returning from the war, Jean Shepard landed his first radio gig in Cincinnati in 1948. From there, his career as a radio personality spread across different cities in the U.S., from Philadelphia to New York and back to Cincinnati. He was beloved by listeners for his candid recollections and the frequently contrived comedic stunts with his listeners, a prequel to today’s popular radio pranks heard by many on the airwaves today. Fans fondly remember his Sunday night show named ‘Shepard’s Pie’, which he frequently did without any script or outline. The show also landed him in hot water for his criticism and disregard for some of the commercial sponsors of the program. In true Region rat fashion, Shepard called out sponsors and producers of the show for too many commercials, which eventually lead to his termination. But his dedicated listeners eventually made their voices heard when they demanded that Shepard return to the airwaves.

Here’s a good glimpse into Shepard’s style over a full program if you really want to have a good perspective into how unique of a radio personality he really was:

Shepard’s legacy also includes a chapter as an author, most notably for a series of reflective short stories highlighting his childhood experiences in Hammand. They were separately published in Playboy, but were eventually complied together to form a collection titled In God We Trust. True to his diverse personality, Shepard ended up publishing pieces in magazines like Car and Driver, the Johnson Smith Catalogue, and over 30 other stories based on his famous radio stories from his life experiences. And we would be ignorant to overlook his many live appearances he made with his radio program in NYC’s Greenwich Village and the variety of different recordings he made as a narrator with his soothing voice. He even made a following in the underground network of Ham radio, where he went by his alias ‘Shep’ to communicate with all kinds of other users from his base point in New York.

xmas story

But most every Region rat will know, at least now, his role as the narrator and inspiration for ‘A Christmas Story’. On top of that, he has been inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame and Hammond has given him the honor of naming their community center after him. Jean Shepard’s entire story cannot be fully summed up in this post, but you’ll definitely want to put his career monologue on your ‘to-read’ list- Excelsior, You Fathead! The Art of Enigma of Jean Shepard, written by Eugene B. Bergmann. Here’s a bit of an excerpt of the kind of examination the book takes in its appreciation for Shepard’s style and status as a radio personality:

Shepherd’s oral narrative style was a precursor to that used by Spalding Gray and Garrison Keillor. Marshall McLuhan in Understanding Media wrote that Shepherd “regards radio as a new medium for a new kind of novel that he writes nightly.” In the “Seinfeld Season 6″ DVD set, commenting on the episode titled “The Gymnast” Jerry Seinfeld says “He really formed my entire comedic sensibility—I learned how to do comedy from Jean Shepherd.” Furthermore, the first name of Seinfeld’s third child is “Shepherd.” Jerry Seinfeld was interviewed for the hour and discussed how Shepherd and he had similar ways of humorously discussing minor incidents in life. He confirmed the importance of Shepherd on his career.

(6) Glenn Robinsonglenn robinson

For our “New School’ representative in this bracket (and yes, the Big Dog is new school, bar none) we have Glenn ‘the Bigg Dogg’ Robinson, NBA All-Star and pride of Gary basketball. In a career that spanned over a decade, Robinson was notorious for his physical, hard-nosed play on the block and his sweet shooting touch outside the paint.

While he didn’t begin playing basketball till the age of 14, Robinson ended up being the 1991 Indiana Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school. He lead a Gary Roosevelt squad to a state championship to cap off a decorated senior season which parlayed him to Purdue University to play under legendary head coach Gene Keady.

In his 1st full season on the team, Robinson stepped up and lead the team averaging 24 points and just under 10 rebounds per game while the team finished 18-10 overall. The next year, the team elevated to the level of Big Ten Champions behind Robinson’s stellar play, leading the Big Ten Conference in scoring (30.3 ppg) and rebounding (11.1 rpg). These beastly numbers earned Robinson the Wooden and Naismith Award as national player of the year, the first Purdue Boilermaker to every earn such an honor.

Here’s some of his highlights as a Boilermaker:

Robinson declared for the 1994 NBA draft where he was made the #1 overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks, the team he played the majority of his career with. In the big-money world of the NBA today, Glenn Robinson still has the highest paying rookie contract ever, holding out for a ten year contract worth upwards of $68 million bucks. The Bigg Dogg lived up to it early, averaging 21 points a game his rookie season while being named to the All-Rookie team. Over the next 8 seasons in Milwaukee, Robinson put up some his most gaudy numbers of his career and made two All-Star appearances in 2000 and 2001. IF you look at the kind of players who were in the league at this time in their prime (Shaq, Kobe, David Robinson, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, Reggie Miller, Allan Iverson, Vince Carter) it’s very impressive he was chosen for those squads in back-to-back years.

After bouncing around from Atlanta to Philly and missing significant team due to his bad knees, Robinson ended his career in 2005 by winning a championship with the San Antonio Spurs under coach Gregg Popovich. The NBA ring was a fitting way of capping up Glenn Robinson’s solid NBA career, where he eventually averaged 20 points and 6 rebounds over that time. He was also a very adept passer in the paint, averaging an impressive 2.7 assists over his career, a very high average for a forward of his style.

For all of those Region basketball fans who are nostalgic for the Bigg Dogg playing in the NBA, you might not have to wait much longer for the next best thing: Glenn Robinson III. Glenn’s son is now a sophomore at Michigan, who also hails from the Region (Lake Central High School). A three-star prospect coming into school, Glenn Robinson III was named to the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team last year. And like father, like son, III shoots the rock as well as anyone in the college game on a good night, and teamed up with fellow Region rats all over on that Michigan team, you can expect to hear the name ‘Glenn Robinson’ on a basketball broadcast as soon as the season kicks off. If you’re a hardcore Region basketball fan, make sure you follow Glenn Robinson III on Twitter @grob_1 where you’ll find updates on all the Region rats playing ball at Michigan University this upcoming season.

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