Archive for Friday, September 13, 1991


September 13, 1991


When Thomas "Mickie" Ryther retired as a journalism instructor at Kansas University in 1970, he wanted a hobby to keep him busy.

"When you retire, it's important to do something that's interesting," he said.

One of Ryther's interest was KU athletes their names, hometowns and the sports they played.

"There wasn't a whole lot here when I started," he said.

Working as a volunteer several hours a day in the archives division of KU's Spencer Research Library, Ryther began gathering old KU sports rosters, newspapers and other materials to make a list of KU athletes. He put the information for each player on a 3-by-5 inch notecard.

Today, the number of notecards exceeds 12,000 and fills several boxes at the library. Photographs of many players also have been cataloged at the library.

Ryther, 91, who underwent minor surgery this week, said he still enjoys finding the names of past KU athletes and cataloging them for future generations.

"I don't know how much longer I'll be doing it, but I feel pretty good and I'll be back at it again soon," he said.

The records are categorized by sport and in alphabetical order.

Ryther's records include everyone from Clifford Abel, a Perry cross-country runner from 1948 to 1951, to Joel Zvolanek, an Ellsworth football player from 1930 to 1932.

The earliest known KU athlete in the collection is believed to be S.A. Harvey, a baseball player in 1888, said John Nugent, library archivist.

Nugent said the 3-by-5 records are used by KU's sports information office to help compile annual media guides and programs for KU sports.

People also use the records to find out whether their relatives played sports for KU, he said.

"It's lots of fun when people come in and say, `My uncle Joe says he played baseball for KU and I want to find out if he really did,'" Ryther said.

Ryther also has worked to list men and women who played sports but did not necessarily receive a letter.

"There are a lot of guys listed who never got a letter," he said. "They never got the recognition, so I wanted to list them, too."

Ryther, a native of the Ozark area in Missouri, began working at KU in 1922.

The printing museum at KU's Printing Service on West Campus is named for Ryther, who retired as superintendent of KU Printing Services in 1966 before retiring from the journalism faculty four years later.

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