Brady Gadberry

Brady Gadberry, longtime co-worker

Jim Elder has always been a part of my life. In many ways he is part of who I am. It was not only my great privilege to have had him as a mentor, colleague, and friend for twenty-three years of Arkansas Traveler radio broadcasts; he also was my uncle. Jim’s beloved wife Betty was one of my late dad’s sisters. I learned about integrity and sportsmanship from Jim as a child. He not only had great stories about his years as a baseball umpire but also about many of the high school football and basketball games he officiated. Jim loved to compete and he loved to win, but winning was never the most important thing to him. The most important thing was just being part of the game itself.

It did not matter that much what kind of game it was. Jim loved card games, board games, and television game shows. Games had structure and rules. If the game had strategy, history or statistics, Jim loved the game even more. This is part of the reason Jim loved all kinds of sporting events. If anything about the game could be quantified, Jim could find a way to analyze it. Numbers, patterns, and trends fascinated him. The tremendous storehouse of information that Jim had in his head came from the combination of loving both games and numbers. He watched or listened to every game he could; he read The Sporting News, the sports magazines, the wire stories, and many sports books and biographies. Then he crunched the numbers-and not just the Travelers or Razorback numbers.

Jim charted whatever he had time to chart. After every Traveler game, Jim would update all of the players’ statistics, including the opponents’, to be prepared for the next game. Often he did it that same night because he had other things to do the next day. Considering that he would get up around 3 to 3:30 the next morning to get to the station to be ready for the morning sports shows, it was a miracle that he ever slept. In the early years, Jim also had to sell advertising for the games during the day and had to go by and check on the clients. By the middle of a homestand, the statistics sheets would often have strange looking wavy lines down the middle of the page because Jim would drag his pen when he fell asleep doing the updates. Often I would try to get Jim to let me take the work home with me to give him a break, but he would rarely let me take it. He was always appreciative but seldom gave in because he believed that it was his responsibility.

Before we had computers, every season Jim had detailed information he put together on the PGA tour, major league baseball, the Razorbacks, the Travelers, and Oaklawn. Everyone marveled at Jim’s knowledge of sports statistics and trivia. Jim did not collect data or quantify anything to impress anyone; he did it because it loved it, and he lived it. He never wanted to retire because his job was his hobby. He would have paid others for the chance to do what he did and he knew he was blessed to have had the opportunity to live it as his career.

Everyone has favorite stories about Jim. He was notorious for losing his glasses. He had a habit of taking them off every few minutes and forgetting exactly where he had laid them. If we were doing a Traveler game, he would take them off and they would quickly get covered with statistics sheets which Jim kept on every player. He left them in a bank once, threw them out with trash on his tray at the Clarksville McDonalds once, and he misplaced them countless other times. Usually someone would find them. Once when Jim got home from picking peaches, he realized that he did not have his glasses. He called the orchard, but they could not find them around the little stand where he paid for the peaches. A few days later the orchard owner called Jim and said that one of the customers who was picking peaches that day had found a pair of glasses stuck between two limbs of one of the peach trees. Jim drove back to the orchard and retrieved his glasses. On the trip home Jim stopped at the golf pro-shop at Burns Park to visit and look at a new putter. When he finally got back home-well you guessed it; he had left his glasses at the pro-shop.

<< Back