By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Laurel and Hardy.
Abbott and Costello.
Wendell and Don.
Providing coverage first for Joplin Junior College and later Missouri Southern, Wendell Redden and Don Gross were lumped together. Appropriately, they were inducted together in the first Joplin Sports Hall of Fame class in 2001.
“Wendell and Don were locked at the hip,” former Missouri Southern athletics director Jim Frazier said. “You didn’t get Mutt without Jeff.”
Redden covered the local college for most of his 44 years as sports editor of The Joplin Globe. He started working for The Globe in 1950 when he was a junior in high school, was hired as assistant sports editor in 1951 and became editor the next year.
Gross came to Joplin in 1950 as a radio broadcaster, and he later became a television sportscaster.
“I just remember the great stories I think more than anything,” said Dennis Slusher, the Missouri Southern sports information director from 1984-96. “Just the sense of history that they could tell about the university from the juco days all the way to the NCAA days.
“I think they were kind of war horses. I can remember taking road trips to Hays or Kearney or someplace like that ... Wendell getting off work at the paper and we’d drive all night and go cover a game the next day just like it wasn’t any big deal. It always impressed me with their ability to go all day and all night. I remember sleeping in the back seat, but I don’t know when they slept.
“There were times Don and I drove to basketball games. Once the basketball team had a Thursday-Saturday trip in Arkansas. The team stayed and we went back and forth. The Saturday game we had to get to Henderson State, and going through the Boston Mountains, there was a truck load of cabbage that had turned over and we couldn’t get through on the highway.
“We backtracked and stopped someplace to see if there were any other roads we could go down. They said there is this cow path ... and there we are cutting through the back woods and we finally pop out on the other side where the truck had turned over. We got to the game 30 minutes before tipoff.”
Both covered numerous high school games, and Redden regularly covered Missouri and Arkansas football games before budget cutbacks. Gross filled in two games one season for Missouri football broadcasts when Mahlon Aldridge, the voice of the Tigers, had to have surgery. Gross also regularly went to the NAIA Tournament in Kansas City and broadcast games back home for teams that did not send a radio crew.
“For the things they have covered, you would never know it unless you got them telling the stories and talking about it,” Slusher said. “There was never an ounce of anything else except being a regular guy.
“I thought the standards that Wendell set as sports editor were unparalleled as far as anyone I ever worked with. The sense of professionalism, willing to go the extra mile for an accurate story, a good story, a complete story.
“As Don was phasing out of his broadcast career in TV, he still lent a sense of professionalism to the radio side of it. He served as a good mentor for the young sports guys in the TV market and some of the guys trying to break in the radio side.”
Gross died on Sept. 27, 2002, and Redden passed away on Feb. 17, 2011.
“I always thought the world of them as individuals,” Slusher said. “I couldn’t have been blessed with two better people to work with as a young SID. The fact that they both were so approachable, always willing to help if someone needed something, they are two of the greatest guys I ever worked with.”