Shootin’ The Stars
by Mike Beas
There’s a simple explanation why Robert Stranahan’s name might not kick-start images of long-winded newspaper columns delving into this state’s high school basketball scene.
Robert Stranahan, Photos courtesy of the Ham family
Stranahan, founding father of the Shootin’ the Stars Column, was born in 1907. Not only did he pass away decades ago, gone, too, are the majority of readers entertained by his unique perspectives printed in the Indianapolis Star during the newspaper industry’s unquestioned glory era.
No fewer than five persons would have their headshot attached to the Shootin’ the Stars logo at the Indy Star. They are Stranahan, Bob Collins, Bob Williams, Pat McKee and yours truly. The number might actually be six, as it’s believed the late Harrison Howard might have done some Shootin’ of his own.
I read Williams’ columns as a kid growing up in Kokomo. My parents had a subscription to the Star and I would sit at the kitchen table eating my bowl – ok, bowls – of cereal and reading about boys hoops with datelines ranging from Anderson to Evansville to Gary with a lot of unfamiliar-sounding small towns sprinkled in.
During the 1974-75 season, Williams even came to my tiny high school (Northwestern) where a wide-eyed seventh-grader hoped for his own version of an Elvis sighting. Turns out I just missed Williams, who was there to write about our undefeated and ranked (14th or 16th at the time, I believe) boys basketball squad.
Williams passed away in January of 2000; I worked with McKee at the Star from 1985 to 1999.
It was Stranahan who got the tradition rolling. A native of New Castle, he worked at the Courier, his hometown paper, and wrote a column entitled Markin’ ‘Em Up before being hired at the Richmond Item. He renamed the column Drippin’s of the Draperies for a new readership and left for the Indianapolis Star in 1937 where the column evolved into Shootin’ the Stars.
Letter Asking Stranahan to Accept Job with Indianapolis Star
Photo: Courtesy of Karen Yount and the Ham Family
All told, Stranahan’s sports writing career lasted from 1926 to 1953.
“I was 9-years old when my father left the Indianapolis Star and went to work for the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. He was public relations officer, and eventually a supply sergeant,” said Indianapolis resident Sue Ham, 76, the youngest of Stranahan and his wife, Florence’s, two daughters. “My sister told me he was the one who came up with the idea of the Indiana-Kentucky All-Star game.”
Ham recalls being in bed as a young child and sometimes hearing her dad come home from work. The unmistakable smell of White Castle hamburgers would occasionally make their way to her bedroom, which led to a late-night snack for the Stranahan kids (Ham’s sister, Roberta, passed away in 2016 at the age of 81).
Robert Stranahan passed away in 1965 at the age of 58. And while his newspaper career in Indianapolis was brief compared to Williams, his successor writing Shootin’ the Stars, he carved out a reputation for being able to see the game of basketball from three different perspectives – coach, player and spectator.
A unique talent for sure, and a trailblazer in his own write.