David Warren Craft
From an early age, the late David W. Craft (1938-1994) set his sights on sports and education. At Hickory High, he played baseball and basketball and American Legion baseball in spring and summer. Following graduation from Lenoir-Rhyne College, Craft coached four years at Bunker Hill High School; as an assistant in football and head coach for four years in boys Basketball and Baseball.
His next 29 years were at Hickory High as a coach and classroom teacher. As head basketball coach, he compiled a 177-83 career record, including five conference titles and five 4-A playoff appearances. His l979 team was ranked second in the Associated Press polls and fourth by the AP in l980 and ’81.
In addition to his head coach positions, coach Craft served as head basketball girls coach, 1966-67-68, fashioning a record of 24-18. He was an assistant football coach, 1965-82 and also served briefly as an assistant jayvee baseball coach. Coach Craft’s coaching style was well-known among opponents for three traits: his teams were well-trained, functioned as a cohesive unit and played with fairness, integrity and sportsmanship, and these were the “trademarks of coach Craft himself.”
Players picked and exhibited the coach’s fire and enthusiasm, which often attributed to a winning edge. That same zeal showed up in the classroom where Mr. Craft taught U.S. History. His expectations of students were always high.
As a driver’s education instructor, he stressed students going by the rules and being responsible for their own actions.
The late Mike Matheson was much more than a sports coach with a great win-loss record. His specialty was helping young athletes realize their potential.
A rival coach shared an account about Mike when he was coaching the girls basketball team at Bandys High School. One of his Lady Trojans wasn’t developing to her potential. Mike felt confident she could be a good college player with the right kind of help. He asked an opposing county coach for ideas, help from the coach of a team he had just beaten 97-45. The point, said the coach, is that Mike was more than a student of the game, he was a student of developing kids.
As coach of the Bandys girls basketball team, his record was 268 wins against just 29 losses. Just short of perfect on the Bandys home court, the team won 105 games while losing only four. In his 10 years (1979-1989) at Bandys, coach Matheson’steams won39 titles: 10 conference, 7 conference tournaments, 12 district tournaments, 4 regionals, two Catawba Valley Classics, and four state championships.
Selected by the Associated Press as North Carolina’s best girls basketball coach in 1987, coach Matheson said the success of his team boiled down to teaching hard-nose fundamentals. During his career as a coach, Matheson preferred to coach girls but did coach Bandys boys at a later time. He preferred, he said, to coach girls. “I just love the game and love to be a part of it,” he observed. His 1987 team was also sharp in the classroom, he said, boasting a 3.1 average grade point average.
Mike was extolled by friends and bystanders in his working with kids at a summer camp. He helped kids help themselves. If a kid needed shoes, Mike would hire the youngster to rake leaves or some other menial job to earn the shoes. So that some kids could be on the team, coach Matheson would shuttle them home after an evening of practice.
Whatever the ability of a youngster, Mike realized a kid’s need to be needed, to be a part of something. Rarely was it a star quality athlete getting an ego push.
Michael E. “Mike” McRee
Mike McRee, a Catawba County native, set scores of records at both Maiden High school and Lenoir-Rhyne College in both baseball and football. All-conference in both sports in high school, McRee made the All-State Baseball Team and the Boys Home All Star Football Game. In American Legion play, he was an infielder when he wasn’t pitching and played on the Hickory Area 4 championship team in 1967.
His sports career bloomed at Lenoir-Rhyne, which he attended on a four-year football scholarship from 1967-71. Records-wise, McRee is second in all-time career offense (5,514 yds.), fifth in rushing, (3,l65 yds.), ninth in passing, (2,349 yds.), and a career best punting average, 48.2 yds. His longest punt was a booming 83 yds. McRee was All Carolinas Conference in both football and baseball.
McRee served as Student body presidentin 1970-71, he was also on the dean’s list.
In 1993, he was inducted into the Lenoir-Rhyne Sports Hall of Fame.
After earning a masters degree from Winthrop University, McRee served as head football coach at Bunker Hill High in 1980, where he was singled out as SD-7 Conference Coach of the Year. He served as Bunker Hill principal in 1983-84. McRee became principal at Fred T. Foard High in 1987-88. He was head football coach in 1996-97. Employed in education for 34 years, Mike McRee continues as a teacher and coach in the Catawba County School System. He was elected to the county schools board of education in 1984.
Sally Reid Bradshaw
When Sally Reed walked into the gym in 1973 to try out for the girls basketball team at Fred T. Foard High, it was the beginning of a new era. The rangy player was a starter and was named all-conference for four years. Along the way, she scored a school record 2,000 points, made all-state twice and played a part in a Foard High state championship in 1975 and was selected to play in the Coaches All Star
Basketball Game. In three of her four years, teammates voted her most valuable player.
A combination of her athletic ability and academic standing, Sally Reid was awarded a full scholarship at Lenoir-Rhyne, where an outstanding athletic career continued. Named All-American in 1979-80, she made all-state teams in 1978, ’79 and ’80. Other awards continued to mount – a four-year starter in both basketball and volleyball, she was named among the top 10 N.C. women basketball players in 1979-80; Outstanding Lutheran College Athlete in 1979 and Division II All Regional in 1979-80. Sally Reid’s record of 28.7 points per game continues as a school record at Lenoir-Rhyne. In recognition of her athleticism and academics, Sally was recognized nationally in Who’s Who in Colleges and Universities. It figured that education and sports would become a career.
A longtime education associate had this to say about Sally Reid Bradshaw: “Working with Sally for many years as a teacher, coach and administrator in the Catawba County schools system, she has made a tremendous impact on Catawba County athletics and has done so with a great deal of enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism.”
Education administration and athletic coaching became an enduring profession for Sally Reid Bradshaw.
Honorable George D. Murphy
Growing up in Hickory, George Murphy never had the thrill of a clutch hit in the ninth inning of a baseball game. Neither did he loft the winning three-pointer in a basketball game. Unable to compete in sports because of poor sight, Murphy became the voice of sports as a means of support. He started with the old Hickory
Rebels baseball team, 1946-54. Endowed with the spirit he was the public address voice for American Legion baseball, 1946-53; Hickory High sports, 1946-987, and Lenoir-Rhyne College sports, 1946-85. Half of Murphy’s 80 years were consumed as an eager performer in the press box, calling out the next batter or a ball carrier and who made the tackle.
Hickory lost something special when the Rebels folded in 1960. Murphy had spent 20 year trying to bring back baseball to his hometown. Having served on the city council in his earlier years, he decided in the 1980s to run for mayor against Julian Whitener, a tough call. One of Murphy’s winning campaign promises was to return pro ball. The new mayor challenged the city council to match his investment to finance a feasibility study. The study was affirmative, that the city could support a pro team, but there was a hitch: old College Field, owned by the college, had been redesigned for a football stadium. A campaign to build a stadium began in 1990. The Frans family provided the anchor gift and L.P. Frans Stadium was underway. Don Beaver bought a franchise for a team to be named the Crawdads. The Gaines family funded a field house to honor head of the family, Forest Gaines, who grew up as an athlete in Brookford. Many people in greater Hickory contributed to make the project happen on donated land. George D. Murphy, also widely known as Mr. Baseball, saw his 20-year dream – bolstered by a campaign promise – happen.
The Crawdads played their first game in 1993 in one of the finest farm team baseball stadiums in the USA, due to the efforts to bring pro baseball back to Hickory for George Murphy.