FORT WAYNE – Fort Wayne had lost its NBA team, the Zollner Pistons, and a PGA Tour event, when a group of civic leaders met at the Hotel Van Orman in 1957. What evolved out of that meeting were the Mad Anthonys, a group of business professionals, and their golf tournament, the Charity Classic for Children.
Bob Chase, former sports director at WOWO and the voice of the Komets hockey team for the last 57 seasons, was among those creators.
On Sunday, Chase and Tom Crean, the Indiana University men’s basketball coach, received the Mad Anthonys’ highest honor, Red Coats, as Hoosier Celebrities of the Year.
I never even put myself in a position to think I would get a Red Coat, said Chase, 84. A lot of people have been saying, Whoa, it’s a long time coming and should have been years ago.’ Then I say, Why, what have I done?’ I’ve worked here. I’ve loved the area and had a lot of contact with people. I’m honored to be a part of what happens. You know the feeling in your heart about your profession and who you are, and that was good enough for me. But getting this: wow.
Chase’s contributions haven’t just been at rinks. He has interviewed the likes of Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. He called the famed Milan high school championship game in 1954, which was the inspiration for the movie Hoosiers.
His role at WOWO, where he worked for 56 years, got him invited to that first Mad Anthonys meeting.
I was sort of instrumental in having a big voice in the area, Chase said. We had those people on (the air) a lot and helped bring the Mad Anthonys up to fruition. I was able to help.
But as the tournament grew – it had exhibitions with Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Ben Hogan in the 1960s and 1970s, and later adopted a celebrity format – Chase’s role became peripheral.
When they formed the Mad Anthonys, all the members of the working press were honorary members for the first five years, Chase said. Then it started growing toward the sky and the guys who kind of helped to really form it all, they were always told, Thank you,’ but it sort of ended.
Chase continued paying his own way to play in the tournament – at about $1,500 to $2,000 a pop, he said – until he could no longer afford it. But he always promoted the causes. Today’s tournament will benefit the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House, which provides minimal-cost lodging for families of hospitalized children.
I’ve always been a supporter because their cause is really just great, Chase said.
Crean became the third IU coach to receive the honor, joining Bob Knight (1976) and Mike Davis (2002).
It was one of those things early on that I learned that this was a big deal when we came to Indiana, Crean said. To get the opportunity to be presented with it and to be an award winner of it meant a lot. But not even close to what it meant to actually be here and live it for the evening. To watch the environment, watch the atmosphere and really just the passion that people have for helping others. Every trip I’ve made to Fort Wayne has been outstanding and this one takes a backseat to no one. This was a great, great night.
The Journal Gazette’s LaMond Pope contributed to this story.