Tiger Pride: 100 Years of Little Rock Central High Football
By Brian Cox, Arkansas Business Ventures, cloth, $40. (Sold at Wordsworth or Tiger-Pride.com)
In 1957, while the state was being vilified nationally for the Central High desegregation crisis, the Tigers’ football team not only went undefeated, it won every game impressively, all while practicing amid parked helicopters and Army tents. The squad was named by a Minneapolis publication as the top high school team in the nation.
That irony and other facts of interest are included in Brian Cox’s 500-page homage to his alma mater, where his father has entered his fourth decade of coaching, and which for the past 101 years has — most of the time — been the center of Arkansas high school football.
An enterprising Cox’s Tiger history is presented year-by-year. The writing is matter-of-fact, but the facts I knew of, such as the battles between Little Rock and Pine Bluff, were precise. In almost every case, a team photo is presented. Photography, all black-and-white, ranges from mostly clean to not-so-good reproductions from Arkansas Democrat-Gazette files. The historical shots, though, some from personal collections, make this book a treasure. There is an overhead shot of the high school and old Kavanaugh Field, the original Travelers home and the site of football games. That outfield fence had an amazing array of angles.
Afternoon game shots from the glory days look like college football crowds. The players seem almost larger than life, college-like, not what you picture in a high school game photo today.
Some color photos and interviews with Tiger greats from the past could have enhanced the book, but then it would have had to jump from college annual size to a major anthology.
Though the focus is on Central, high school football fans in general, and especially those who have some knowledge of the great Pine Bluff-Little Rock battles of yesteryear, will enjoy it.
— By Jim Harris