Kudos to former Jackson State coach Bob Braddy and ex-Mississippi State and MLB star Jay Powell on their induction into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame over the weekend. Braddy, an icon at JSU, should have been in a long time ago. Who’ll be the next baseball luminary to get the call? Longtime big leaguers Roy Oswalt (163 MLB wins, three-time All-Star) and Charlie Hayes (.262, 144 homers, World Series ring) certainly should get in at some point, as well as Luke Easter, who was the first black Mississippian to make the major leagues. Sam Hairston and Howard Easterling, a couple of Negro Leagues stars, also rate consideration. Among coaches, there’s William Carey’s Bobby Halford, the 2017 NAIA coach of the year who has more than 1,100 wins, and Millsaps’ Jim Page, who has over 700 W’s and seven conference coach of the year honors on his ledger. Both are deserving of recognition over on Cool Papa Bell Drive.
There is an inextricable link between Mississippi and the Cleveland Indians, who are back in the World Series for the first time in 19 years and seeking their first title since 1948. The first black Mississippian to play in the major leagues did so for Cleveland. Jonestown native Luke Easter, a long-ball legend in many circles, debuted on Aug. 11, 1949, at age 34. He was a big man with big power, which he had demonstrated in semi-pro and Negro League ball before the Indians signed him in 1948, and he had three big years – 1950-52 — in the big leagues. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Easter hit 86 homers and drove in 307 runs in those three seasons. As age and injuries caught up to him, the Indians shipped Easter out in May of 1954. He never played another MLB game but put in 11 more years in the minors, ending his playing career with 367 homers, many of them tape measure blasts that old-timers still talk about. Easter, murdered in 1979 during a robbery in Ohio, really ought to be in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
It’s an eye-opening and heartwarming experience to read some of the comments coming from Giants Nation about Jim Davenport, the former Southern Miss star who died on Thursday at age 82. Davenport, nicknamed “Peanut” or “Davvy,” played 13 years in the majors, all for San Francisco, and is arguably the most accomplished of the 16 USM alumni who have made it to the big leagues. (Brian Dozier is on a track to change that, but that’s yet to be seen.) In a San Francisco Chronicle piece, Felipe Alou called the diminutive Davenport “a big player” on a team filled with stars in the 1960s. “If he was a friend of yours, he’d fight for you,” said Willie Mays. Giants exec Brian Sabean said Davenport was the “old breed of baseball lifer,” which is a great compliment. Davenport, who briefly managed the Giants, was still working in the organization last year despite declining health. Davenport batted .258 for his career with 77 homers and 456 RBIs. He played mostly third base, and Orlando Cepeda called him a “human vacuum” at that position. Davenport’s best year may have been 1962, when he made the All-Star Game and helped the Giants reach the World Series. He hit .297 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs that season. An Alabama native, Davenport played football and baseball at then Mississippi Southern College from 1952-54 and was elected to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1983.