By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
BOONEVILLE – Michael Rubenstein loved recognizing the best Mississippi had to offer in athletics, which is one of the reasons he helped found the state’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Now, after his death last December, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame looks to continue Rubenstein’s mission with an award in his honor.
Sports Hall executive director Rick Cleveland announced the creation of the Rube Award, so called for the nickname Rubenstein’s friends affectionately called him, Saturday at a memorial honoring the Booneville native in his hometown.
“We knew we needed to honor Rube in some way,” said Cleveland. “We’re going to do it with an annual award that goes to somebody whose love and support and contributions to athletics in Mississippi exemplifies the same that Michael had.”
The first Rube Award will be given at the Sports Hall of Fame’s 50th induction ceremony on July 27 in Jackson.
“We haven’t announced who the first recipient is yet, but I think everybody will be pleased with that as well,” Cleveland said.
Ted Rubenstein, Michael’s older brother, thinks the award memorializes his sibling very well.
“I think it’s extremely fitting considering Michael was all about accomplishment,” he said. “He’d be proud that people were being recognized in his name.”
Remembering ‘The Rube’
A standing-room only crowd in the George E. Allen Library stayed for over an hour as guests reminisced on Rubenstein’s life from his early years in Booneville to his time as the first executive director of the Sports Hall of Fame.
Legendary Mississippi State radio broadcaster Jack Cristil was in attendance and spoke of the 16 years Rubenstein spent as a sports broadcaster in the Jackson Metro area.
“Almost overnight, he became the premier sports broadcaster in the state of Mississippi and throughout the South,” Cristil said. “Michael, like a good athlete, called it like he saw it.
“If an athlete was to be praised, if a game was to be glorified he did it. If it was to be criticized, he did it. Management went along with him, and he was highly successful.”
But even though Rubenstein spent most of his adult life away from Northeast Mississippi, he still kept up with the area, especially in the sport he played in high school – basketball.
“He was real proud of Northeast Mississippi basketball and all the success stories,” Cleveland said. “Not just Booneville, but Baldwyn, Thrasher, Belmont and you could go on and on.”