Inductee spotlight: Art Hains, the Voice of the Missouri State Bears

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He used to act as a broadcaster on his buddies’ Strat-O-Matic games, even practiced in the basement of his parents’ home and, one day, walked into the radio station in his hometown of Marshall.

Before long, Art Hains made his radio debut at – get this – age 17.

“I’ve always said that I was lucky enough to live in a town big enough to have a radio station,” Hains said, “but small enough to let a high school kid on the air.”

That “kid” then chased – and lived – a dream, first by aiding on broadcasts of the Dallas Cowboys and Southwest Conference football back in the days of the SMU’s “Pony Express” and later as the Voice of the Missouri State Bears.

Now his call signal is MSHOF, as the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Hains with the Class of 2017 on Sunday, January 29. (For tickets & the full lineup, see below.)

Art Hains, left, with MSHOF Legend Ned Reynolds

Art Hains, left, with MSHOF Legend Ned Reynolds

Hains has called Missouri State and other Springfield sports for 35 years – and consecutively since 1985. All told, he has announced more than 2,200 Bears football, men’s basketball and baseball games.

He was the one on the air during: the Charlie Spoonhour era that featured five NCAA Tournament teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s, coach Jesse Branch’s 1989 and 1990 football playoff seasons, coach Steve Alford’s Sweet 16 team of 1999, coach Keith Guttin and the 2003 Baseball Bears’ College World Series season (part of nine NCAA regionals) and Cuonzo Martin’s 2011 Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship team.

“It’s tough on young broadcasters because these jobs don’t open very often,” Hains said. “You really do become invested in and identified with the program. I didn’t go to MSU, but I feel like I did.”

Art Hains, left, with the late Vern Hawkins.

Art Hains, left, with the late Vern Hawkins.

Hains got the job in 1985 as longtime Bears broadcaster Vern Hawkins was retiring, and it was his second stint in the Ozarks. The two actually had worked together in Springfield from 1977 to 1981, when each took a half calling basketball games on KGBX 1260 AM, with Hains serving there as sports director.

“He could have been resentful of this kid coming in, but he wasn’t,” Hains said.

Art Hains in the early days.

Art Hains in the early days.

Previously, Hains worked for his hometown radio station, KMMO in Marshall, and then headed off to Southern Methodist University’s journalism school in Dallas. There, Hains caught on as a student assistant in the sports information department, a place that put him face to face with some of the biggest broadcasting names in Texas and Arkansas.

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The SMU work eventually led to KRLD radio in Dallas hiring Hains away from the Ozarks in 1981. He was studio host for Dallas Cowboys broadcasts and the Southwest Conference Football Network, back at a time when SMU featured “The Pony Express” of running backs Eric Dickerson and Craig James. Hains also was part of the broadcast of SMU’s Aloha Bowl against Notre Dame, and assisted in on-course coverage of the Byron Nelson Classic and The Colonial – two of the biggest PGA Tour events.

Vintage Art Hains -- at a ballgame, this one at the old Arlington Stadium.

Vintage Art Hains — at a ballgame, at the old Arlington Stadium, home of the Texas Rangers.

However, a phone call from the Ozarks reached Hains in 1985, three years after then-Southwest Missouri State had jumped to NCAA Division I.

“Charlie Spoonhour himself called and said, ‘We are going to do some good things here and we want you,’” said Hains, who also credits longtime Missouri State athletic director Bill Rowe for his return. “The success of those teams really validated our decision (to return). But it was also a family decision, too. We are fortunate to live here. There are so many good things about living in the area.”

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Springfield is where he and his wife, Lisa, raised their son, Chris, and daughter, Kathleen. In fact, because Hains has become so popular – and a de facto Royals ambassador – many in the area were happiest for the Hains family when the Royals won the 2015 World Series.

To many, Hains is the most knowledgeable sports fan in the Ozarks. Since 1995, he has hosted the daily Sportstalk radio show since 1995, first on KWTO-AM and, since 2001, on KWTO-FM.

In 2003, Hains was inducted into the Springfield Area Sports Hall of Fame. In 2008, thanks to Mitch Holthus and Donna Baker, he added studio host duties for the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, a challenging role as Hains covers Bears games on Saturdays to the Chiefs on Sundays.

Art Hains, front far right, with the Chiefs Radio Network.

Art Hains, front far right, with the Chiefs Radio Network.

Hains appreciates his family for their understanding as his job took him away at times.

“There has to be an understanding,” Hains said. “It’s like the Marv Albert book where he says, ‘Madam, I’d love to, but I’ve got a game.’”

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ENSHRINEMENT IN SPRINGFIELD

When: Sunday, January 29

Early Reception: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, 3861 E. Stan Musial Drive in Springfield. Event is sponsored by Meek’s The Builder’s Choice.

Reception, dinner & ceremony: 4 p.m. at University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center in downtown Springfield, 5 p.m. dinner and ceremony. Sponsored by Killian Construction. Associate Sponsors are Advertising Plus, Hiland Dairy, Hillyard, Inc. and White River Valley Electric Co-op

Inductees: St. Louis Cardinals speedster Vince Coleman, Kansas City Royals outfielder Amos Otis, Chiefs quarterback Bill Kenney, the Voice of the Missouri Tigers, Mike Kelly, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane (University of Central Missouri baseball), former Mizzou football coach Warren Powers, Missouri State volleyball coach Melissa Stokes, Mizzou head athletic trainer Rex Sharp, B.A.S.S. champion Rick Clunn (Ava), motocross champion Jeff Emig (Kansas City), Missouri State basketball standout Kelby Stuckey, NFL referee George Hayward (St. Joseph), the Voice of the Missouri State Bears, Art Hains, track coach Rod Staggs (St. Louis Berkeley), Penney High School football coach David Fairchild and Glendale High School soccer coach Jeff Rogers. The Hall of Fame also will induct the New Bloomfield High School Baseball Program and its coach, the late Rod Haley, and the University of Central Missouri Mules Baseball Program. The John Q. Hammons Founder’s Award will be bestowed on Jack Henry & Associates, and the Hall will present the President’s Award to Leon Combs.

Tickets: Call 417-889-3100. A sponsorship table of 10 is $1,500 and includes an autographed print of the Class of 2017, sponsor recognition in the printed program and at the table. An individual ticket is $150. Numerous other sponsorships also are available, including congratulatory ads.