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Book cover of The Quiet Hero, A Life of Ryan White, by Nelson Price.

Indiana Legends book cover.Book cover of Indianapolis Then and Now, 2016 edition, by Nelson Price and Joan Hostetler, featuring photos by Garry Chilluffo.

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May 30, 2020 - coming up

Tamika Catchings, history maker: encore

With the upcoming induction of Tamika Catchings into the Basketball Hall of Fame, Hoosier History Live revisits our 2017 interview with the hoops legend, in which she reflects on her spectacular career with the Indiana Fever and her plans for post-Fever life. Courtesy NBA.com

With the highly anticipated induction of Tamika Catchings into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coming up this summer, Hoosier History Live is taking a look back at the challenges the Indiana Fever legend confronted during her spectacular career as a player, as well as her aspirations for post-Fever life.

Since the original broadcast of this show in 2017 - one year after she retired as a player - Tamika has been named general manager and vice president of operations for the Fever. In August, the honor that she has called a "storybook ending" is expected to unfold with her enlistment into the Hall of Fame. 

Tamika Catchings won gold at each of the four Olympic Games she played in between 2004 and 2016. Courtesy Olympics.orgShe will be inducted along with other basketball superstars, including her lifelong friend Kobe Bryant, whose posthumous membership comes after he was killed in a helicopter crash in January. During this interview with our host Nelson, Tamika talks about the childhood bond with Bryant that began when they were growing up in Italy, where their fathers played pro basketball.  

Tamika went on to be one of the most beloved athletes in Indiana history - and not only because she was considered to have been one of the best female professional basketball players ever. Nor is it merely because she won four Olympic gold medals.

Tamika Catchings is regarded as an inspirational figure even by admirers who never have attended an Indiana Fever game.

Born with a profound hearing impairment that caused her to be bullied as a child, Tamika established her Catch the Stars Foundation in 2004 to help young people confronted by challenges. She wrote an autobiography, Catch a Star (Revell Publishing, 2016) in which she describes how she was discouraged from chasing dreams.

Tamika, now 40, was named a Living Legend by the Indiana Historical Society in 2017. Also that year, her jersey (No. 24) became the first to be permanently retired by the Indiana Fever; her entire 15-year playing career in the WNBA was spent with the team.

During our show, Tamika talks about a range of aspects of her life and career, which included a role that surprised many: tea shop proprietor. In 2017, Tamika bought the Tea's Me Cafe on the near north side of Indianapolis after learning that the owners intended to shutter it. She had been a longtime patron and didn’t want the cafe to close.

A year earlier, she married her husband, Parnell Smith, in a small ceremony in downtown Indy. She became a commentator for ESPN's SEC network. And in 2017, Tamika gave the commencement address at IUPUI.

"If anyone can do it, you can," she repeated to the graduates as a refrain throughout her speech.

Although her father, Harvey Catchings, enjoyed a 12-year career with the NBA and then played pro basketball overseas, the WNBA didn't even exist until Tamika was 16 years old.

By then, she had moved multiple times, spending her formative years everywhere from Italy to Texas as the family was continually uprooted because of her father's career. In Catch a Star, which Tamika wrote with Ken Petersen, she describes how she was perceived at the succession of new schools:

Tony Dungy"Tamika Catchings was still just an odd-looking girl with big box hearing aids over her ears."

She went on to lead the Fever to a national championship in 2012, win four Olympic gold medals (the most recent at the 2016 Rio Olympics) as a key player on Team USA and receive the ESPN Humanitarian Award.

"Tamika has been a shining light in the community, a tireless worker and a tremendous role model not only for young athletes, but for everyone," writes Tony Dungy, the former Indianapolis Colts coach, in the introduction to Catch a Star. "She is one of the rare superstar athletes who really 'get it.'"

Tamika was drafted by the Indiana Fever in 2001 after leading the University of Tennessee's team to a national championship. At Tennessee, she had suffered a severe leg injury, but in Indianapolis she rebounded and excelled with the Fever, overcoming what Tamika describes in her autobiography as painful shyness during her youth.

"The name-calling, the put-downs, all the being singled out and set apart was too much," she writes in Catch a Star, referring to childhood teasing because of the hearing aids she wore.

When she launched her Catch the Stars Foundation, Tamika's goal was to help disadvantaged and challenged youth. In recent years, the foundation has expanded its mission to "empower youth to achieve their dreams by providing goal-setting programs that promote literacy, fitness and mentoring," as stated on the organization's website.

 

Preserving history for the future: Indiana Memory and Digital Public Library

For twelve years Hoosier History Live has been working hard to bring our listeners fascinating stories about the heritage of our beloved state, but we know that someday we ourselves will be a part of history. As an example, as many as 8 percent of the guests who have appeared on our show are now deceased. And many of our old shows are on CDs safely stored away, ready for digital archiving.    

That's why we're so excited about our partnership with Indiana Memory and the Digital Public Library of America. Both projects seek to preserve and provide access to valuable primary sources that make up the culture and history of our state and the nation at large. 

Working with the Indiana State Library we've begun uploading and cataloging digital files of our radio shows and weekly newsletters so that they can be available for research now and in the future. 

And while we believe that this project is of great value, the cataloging and archival work that it requires is straining our already stretched budget.

Won't you consider making a donation to support our work on the Indiana Memory and DPLA projects? All you have to do is scroll up and hit the yellow "Donate" button.

That way, your grandchildren will be able to enjoy Hoosier History Live as much as you do.

 

 

Get involved with Hoosier History live!

Would you like to contribute prizes for our History Mystery? It's a great public relations move for your business or organization. Hoosier History Live listeners are an educated, sophisticated bunch - just the kind of customers or supporters you'd like to reach.

If you would like to contribute a History Mystery prize, we prefer items that can be mailed in a standard business envelope, such as a gift certificate or tickets.

Also, we are looking for a downtown or southside (near UIndy) restaurant that would like to host our show guests for lunch about 1:30 pm Saturdays after the live show. In exchange we will offer show underwriting.

And finally, if you would like to start a listening group to listen to the live show Saturday from noon to 1, it's a fun way to get people into your business or organization. Great for libraries, small businesses, and senior centers, too.  All you need is a quiet room and a listening device. And an organizer.

Interested in any of these ideas? Contact molly@hoosierhistorylive.org for details.

 

 

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Ken Burns, speaking at a preview of his film "The War" at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, April 18, 2007

 

 

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