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Territorial Capital Sports Museum Luncheon to Honor 2014 Oklahoma Sports Historian of the Year

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By Darl DeVault
Special to Guthrie News Page

Dr. Edgar L. Frost will be awarded the 2014 Oklahoma Sports Historian of the Year Award for his book Port Robertson: Behind the Scenes of Sooner Sports. The presentation will be at a luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 11 at the Territorial Capital Sports Museum in downtown Guthrie, Okla. The award is given annually by the museum.

Edgar L. Frost signing books.

Edgar L. Frost signing books.

The Oklahoman sports columnist Berry Tramel will emcee the event, sponsored by the museum, John Vance Motor Group and Billy Sims BBQ. Seating is limited. A book signing will follow the luncheon.

The award recognizes an Oklahoma resident for publication of notable new material about Oklahoma sports history during the past year. Frost is recognized for his research and writing about former University of Oklahoma wrestler Port Robertson who became an OU wrestling and football coaching legend.

Noteworthy for amply documenting Robertson as head wrestling coach, 1947-59 and 1962, the book also offers a new football perspective. The work demonstrates to readers that Robertson joins legends Bud Wilkinson and Gomer Jones as one of the three men most directly responsible for elevating the OU football program to national prominence.

“Port’s Robertson’s OU wrestling and coaching story along with being Bud Wilkinson’s head freshman football coach is intertwined with the iron will he displayed in prompting athletes to study in his role as academic counselor for four decades,” said Richard Hendricks, TCSM executive director. “The museum is proud to recognize Dr. Edgar L. Frost for so exhaustively documenting Robertson’s importance to OU in that era.”

The author richly describes Robertson’s support for his wrestlers and the program he brought back from obscurity without scholarships. First hired as a part-time wrestling coach in 1947 after Robertson served with distinction in WWII at Normandy in the U.S. Army, OU won wrestling national championships in1952, 1953 and 1957. His career .750 winning percentage is still the best since that era. Robertson served as head coach of the U. S. Freestyle Team for the 1960 Rome Olympics, where as heavy underdogs, the Americans earned three gold medals.

Port Robertson“Frost has enriched the level of writing about that era at OU by sharing Robertson’s former student-athlete’s worshipful oral histories in a manner accessible to future researchers,” Hendricks said.  “The author has set new standards of scholarship in sharing these in-depth accounts of personal experience and reflections about Robertson’s devotion to his athletes’ futures.”

Freshmen Robertson coached in football later won three national championships in the 1950’s and a NCAA record 47-straight games during a five-season span. Robertson helped prepare those teams as head freshman team coach from 1950 to 1965, when incoming freshmen were not eligible to play varsity football.

The new book is a rich mosaic of Robertson’s life as coach, mentor, role model, and disciplinarian. While sharing when the coach was forced to take action as the legendary disciplinarian of that era, Frost details several instances when he went out of his way to help athletes retain their eligibility.

Turning that oral history into prose was sparked by four of Robertson’s former athletes asking him to write a book about what they considered was Robertson’s almost selfless devotion to his alma mater and its students.

“I met former OU athletes Ed Corr (U.S. Ambassador (ret.) Edwin G. Corr), Dale Sullivan, Wayne Baughman and Leon Cross while doing one of the 34 Sooner Flashbacks I have written for Sooner Spectator on OU wrestler Danny Hodge,” Frost said recently. “The four suggested I write a book on Robertson, and for nearly three years I thought and talked about little else. I am grateful to those four gentlemen for proposing a book on Port, and the large group of former athletes and friends of Port and OU who supported the project.”

Edgar L. Frost Book Dust JacketFrost, 75, a Norman resident, spent six months studying microfilm in the basement of the Bizzell Memorial Library at OU to create the hardcover 208-page richly illustrated work. He interviewed almost 100 former Sooner athletes who knew Port well. With their cooperation, the author gathered information that supplemented the facts gleaned from microfilm.

This first-time author’s original research enabled him to richly document Robertson’s many contributions to student-athlete life and the changing times at OU until his retirement in 1985. Robertson died in 2003 at 88 in Norman. Focusing on Robertson’s coaching years, the work also portrays his handling of the athletes’ cafeteria, study halls, academic advising, and the business of the O Club (now Varsity O Association).

The book dust jacket adds to Robertson’s impressive duties: “as academic counselor to all OU male athletes for a couple of generations of checking athletes grades, hiring tutors for them, and making sure they went to class, he personally kept them eligible and graduating and turned them into productive citizens.”

Born in Hobart, Okla., Frost graduated from Hobart High School in 1957. His father, Clarence Frost, was the editor and publisher of the weekly Kiowa County Star-Review. Frost grew up learning the newspaper trade in the back shop and then as a reporter.

Known as Ed, his interest in OU sports began early with frequent family trips from Hobart to Norman to watch OU teams compete in various sports. He followed his late brother, David Frost to OU. From that journalism-steeped family, Frost worked for the sports information department as teletype operator for sports information director Harold Keith, while a student. He went on to serve as sports editor of the university’s student paper, The Oklahoma Daily, during his senior year of 1961, when he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

port 7That was following a family tradition launched from Hobart each time–his father was sports editor of the student paper in 1930, and his older brother David was editor in 1958. Also from Hobart, his mother had written for Sooner Magazine in the 1920s.

Languages became important in his post graduate pursuit which he says was built on learning Latin as a basis for everything while living in Hobart. The retired professor learned Russian in the U.S. Army, graduating from the Army Language School in Monterey, Calif. in 1963. He then served two years in Germany with the Army Security Agency as a language specialist.

Home from the military, he returned to Norman and earned a master’s degree in Russian at OU in 1967. He then completed his graduate work at the University of Illinois and earned a doctorate in Russian literature in 1973. He taught Russian language, literature, and culture at the University of Alabama from 1974 to 2001. At Alabama, Frost several times taught an intersession course on the history of college football.

Having grown up observing Bud Wilkinson’s Sooners play Notre Dame, Texas, Army, Nebraska and others, beginning in the 1940s, Frost later saw many Bear Bryant coached teams at Alabama. At Illinois, in grad school, he watched Big Ten football in Red Grange’s old stadium. Those experiences exposed him to big time football involving Wilkinson, Jones, Jim Mackenzie, Bryant, Frank Leahy, Don Faurot, Darrell Royal, Joe Paterno, Gene Stallings, Steve Spurrier and others. He watched teams as varied as Penn State, Notre Dame, Auburn, Nebraska, Santa Clara, Navy, Florida, and Texas. While living in Oklahoma, he also witnessed wrestling at OU and Oklahoma State University and saw many of the sports finest from both state schools—from Danny Hodge to Cowboy wrestling legend Yojiro Uetake Obata.

He and Lena, his wife of 43 years, retired in 2001 to Norman, where he taught Russian night classes for six years in the OU retired faculty program. Encouraged by editor Jay Upchurch, Frost began to write a series of 34 historical non-fiction sports features “Sooner Flashbacks” for Sooner Spectator Magazine while he was teaching the classes at OU. He has also written for Sooner Magazine.

The book authoritatively recounts many of Robertson’s former athlete’s long-held belief that he deserved more credit for displaying his single-minded respect for the privilege of a college education as the academic linchpin for all male students. The university displayed its respect by dedicating the Port Robertson Wrestling Center and the Stan Abel-Tommy Evans Wrestling Room of Champions in 2000. It was built onto the north end of McCasland Field House.

With an addition in 2007, the facility also saw its graphics updated recently. In the memories of many of these former athletes, along the way to four undefeated wrestling seasons (1951-1953 and 1959), Robertson was the person most responsible for shaping them into men.

The Oklahoma Heritage Association published the book in April of 2014, as part of the Oklahoma Trackmaker Series. It is available at the OHA Gaylord-Pickens Museum store and available online at oklahomaheritage.com, Amazon.com and in bookstores statewide.

port 4The retired professor has since returned to sports writing about the subjects that began his writing career. Along with other writing, he has penned 34 historical non-fiction feature articles termed Sooner Flashbacks for Sooner Spectator in the last decade that helped lead to the writing of this book.

A timely donation by the Greathouse Foundation of Abilene, Texas, funded the gift of a copy of the book to all 483 Oklahoma high school libraries. Myrle Greathouse, former star 1940’s OU linebacker, created the private foundation after becoming a successful Texas oilman.

“We appreciate the very generous help of the Greathouse Foundation of Abilene, Texas, which funded the distribution of the book to every high school library in the state of Oklahoma, some 483 in all,” Frost said. The late Myrle Greathouse started the foundation. Greathouse, a linebacker who lettered at OU in 1942 before serving in the military in World War II, returned to Norman and was a standout on defense for three more years, 1946-48. He became successful in the oil and gas industry in Texas and remained an OU supporter.

In its 40th year of publishing the state’s history and heritage, the Oklahoma Heritage Association published this footnoted work as part of its Oklahoma Trackmaker Series in April 2014. It is available online at oklahomaheritage.com, Amazon.com and in bookstores statewide.

Last year’s Sports Historian of the Year Award went to Larry C. Floyd and Bill Plummer III for their book, A Series of Their Own: the History of the Women’s College World Series. The Oklahoma City co-authors were the first to receive this award by the museum.

The luncheon, catered by sponsor Billy Sims BBQ, is open to the public and tickets are $25 per person or $150 for a table of seven at the museum, 315 W. Oklahoma Avenue in Guthrie. All attendees must register beforehand. Walk-ups will not be permitted.

Reservations for the luncheon can be made by calling the sports museum at (405)260-1342 or emailing the museum at: oklasportsmuseum@sbcglobal.net.

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