19 Oct

called to hall

A crafty left-hander who was the eighth overall pick in the major league draft and a college slugger who has topped 800 wins as the coach at his alma mater are among the eight new selections to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. Paul Maholm and Jim Page are joined in the 2023 class by former NFL stars Lewis Tillman, Patrick Surtain, John Mangum and Jeff Herrod, former basketball player and coach Carol Ross and Olympic skeet shooter Tony Rosetti. They were introduced at a press conference Wednesday at the Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson. The formal induction ceremony will be held next summer. Maholm, who grew up in Holly Springs, was an All-American at Mississippi State who won 27 games over his three seasons and was drafted No. 8 by Pittsburgh in 2003. He spent 10 years in the big leagues, winning 77 games, twice posting 10-win seasons. Page batted a school-record .487 as a senior at Millsaps College in 1985 and went on to become the Majors’ coach, a job he still holds. He is 815-554-3 all-time and has won eight coach of the year awards at the NCAA Division III school. P.S. Mangum, from Magee, is the father of Jake Mangum, the ex-MSU outfielder and two-time Ferriss Trophy winner who is an up-and-coming player in the New York Mets’ minor league system.

31 Jul

officially famous

The baseball branch of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame is quite impressive, featuring major league Hall of Famers Cool Papa Bell, William Foster and Dizzy Dean plus an array of other stars who could form a juggernaut of a dream team. That roster added a pair of luminaries on Saturday, when Barry Lyons and David Dellucci were formally inducted into the state shrine. Lyons, a catcher, was a standout at Biloxi High and Delta State (under the legendary Boo Ferriss) and with the Double-A Jackson Mets on his path to the big leagues. He was the proverbial aircraft carrier for the 1985 Texas League champion JaxMets. He debuted with the New York Mets in 1986, when they won their second World Series, and played parts of six more years in the big leagues. What’s more, he is one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet. Dellucci, an outfielder and also a very personable fellow, played four years at Ole Miss, earning All-America recognition and winning an SEC batting crown in 1995. He would go on to play 13 years in the big leagues, batting .256 and winning a World Series ring with the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, the team built (though not managed) by Buck Showalter. Dellucci now works for the SEC Network. Lyons and Dellucci join a Hall of Fame team that includes Guy Bush and Buddy Myer, Will Clark and Jeff Brantley, Don Kessinger and Joe Gibbon, Jim Davenport and Roy Oswalt, plus many more. Those are names to know. And if you don’t know them, perhaps you should visit the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson. You’d be impressed. P.S. On Saturday in San Francisco, Will Clark’s No. 22 was retired by the Giants in a big pregame ceremony. The former Mississippi State star was drafted No. 2 overall by the Giants in 1985 at a time when the club was struggling. Two years later, they won the National League West. Two years after that, they went to the World Series. Clark “made it cool to be a Giants fan again,” a teammate said. No. 22 jerseys and T-shirts were all over Oracle Park on Saturday. Clark was a five-time All-Star during his eight seasons with the Giants and still ranks among the franchise leaders in numerous hitting categories.

21 Jul

odds and ends

A way-too-early mock draft for 2023 by MLB Pipeline has Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez going second overall to Cincinnati and former Southern Miss pitcher Hurston Waldrep ninth to the Los Angeles Angels. Waldrep reportedly has transferred to Florida. … Former Petal High star and ex-big leaguer Anthony Alford, who turned 28 on Wednesday, is batting .244 with four homers and 17 RBIs for the KT Wiz in the Korean Baseball Organization. Alford, who has played in 102 MLB games, had four at-bats with Pittsburgh this season. … Oddly coincidental: Mississippi natives Nook Logan and Craig Tatum debuted in the big leagues on this date five years apart. Logan, a Copiah-Lincoln Community College product from Natchez, went 1-for-3 in his first game for Detroit in 2004, while Hattiesburg native Tatum, a Mississippi State alum, was 0-for-2 for Cincinnati in 2009. Logan was one of three Mississippians, along with Dmitri Young and Marcus Thames, who started for the Tigers on July 21, 2004, against Kansas City. Logan hit .268 with 56 steals in 321 games over four MLB campaigns. Tatum hit .223 over parts of three seasons. … The Double-A Mississippi Braves, off to a 14-4 start in the second half of the Southern League season, return to the field on Friday at Montgomery. The M-Braves have won six straight. The Biloxi Shuckers (6-12) return on Friday against Pensacola at MGM Park. … The state semi-pro tournament is slated for this weekend at Mississippi College’s Frierson Field. The venerable Hattiesburg Black Sox are the presumptive favorites. … The Triple-A Nashville Sounds are having a Tim Dillard Bobblehead Night on July 29 and will retire the former pitcher’s number in a pregame ceremony. Dillard, a Saltillo High and Itawamba Community College alum, pitched with the Sounds for parts of nine seasons and spent parts of four years in the big leagues with Milwaukee. … On July 30, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame will formally induct ex-Delta State star Barry Lyons and Ole Miss product David Dellucci, both former major leaguers, as part of its Class of 2022.

23 May

the winner is …

Here’s a bit of topical trivia: Who was the first Ferriss Trophy winner to make the big leagues? It was Drew Pomeranz, who debuted with Colorado in 2011, a year after he won the Ferriss and was drafted in the first round (fifth overall) by Cleveland. The 2022 Ferriss Trophy, given annually to the state’s best player at a four-year school, was awarded today to Southern Miss pitcher Tanner Hall during a ceremony at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Hall, 20, just a sophomore, may get his shot at pro ball and the big leagues someday. Only one of the first six Ferriss winners made the major leagues; Ed Easley (2007) got a cup of coffee with St. Louis in 2015. Ole Miss alum Pomeranz is still playing, though the big left-hander is currently on the injured list with San Diego. Last year’s winner, Mississippi State’s Tanner Allen, is in High-Class A with Miami, currently batting .233. The 2019 winner, State’s Jake Mangum (who also won as a freshman in 2016) is in Double-A in the New York Mets’ chain, hitting .283. Three other previous winners are now in the majors: Chris Stratton (Pittsburgh), Hunter Renfroe (Milwaukee) and Nick Sandlin (Cleveland). Brent Rooker, who made his MLB debut in 2020, is in Triple-A with San Diego.

19 May

the final five

The most familiar name on the list of finalists for the 2022 Ferriss Trophy is Tim Elko, who is enjoying a monster fifth year in the Ole Miss program. The other four have put up numbers impressive enough to separate themselves from a huge field of candidates and merit recognition from the coaches and scouts who pick the final five. The Ferriss Trophy, named for legendary coach Boo Ferriss and first awarded in 2004, goes to the most outstanding four-year college player in the state. The winner will be announced in a ceremony on Monday at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson. Joining Elko on the list are R.J. Yeager of Mississippi State, Southern Miss’ Tanner Hall, Delta State’s Harrison Haley and Brett Sanchez of Belhaven. Elko is batting .301 with 19 homers and 60 RBIs for the resurgent Rebels, who have seemingly recovered from a midseason slump. Yeager, in his first season at MSU as a grad transfer from Mercer, has been a consistent hitter for an inconsistent club, batting .328 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs. Hall is a sophomore right-hander who emerged as an ace in 2022 on a strong USM pitching staff that carried the team into the top 10 earlier this season; he is 7-2 with a 2.60 ERA. Haley, a former Hinds Community College standout from Madison, is in his first year at Delta State after transferring from Southeastern Louisiana. He is 10-1 with a 3.84 ERA for an NCAA Division II regional team. Sanchez has been at Belhaven for three seasons after starting his career at Dakota State. The right-hander went 8-1 with a 2.01 for the Division III Blazers, who went 28-16, most wins for the program in seven years. In 2009, Belhaven two-way star Craig Westcott won the Ferriss Trophy and remains the only winner from a school other than the “Big 3” D-I programs; BU was NAIA at the time. State’s Tanner Allen was the 2021 winner. Previous winners include current big leaguers Drew Pomeranz, Hunter Renfroe, Chris Stratton and Nick Sandlin.

03 Apr

memory lane

The scene was reminiscent of the final act in the movie “A League of Their Own.” A group of ballplayers, a little worn down by time, wandered onto their old playground again, rekindling memories of days gone by. It was a sight to behold. A large number of former Jackson Mets players, back in town for a special reunion, made the short trek over to Smith-Wills Stadium on Saturday from the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, where a bunch of fans had come out to greet them. The JaxMets played the last of their 16 seasons at Smith-Wills in 1990, and most of the players here Saturday were from seasons well before that. Clearly, they have not been forgotten. There was Darryl Strawberry, perhaps the most accomplished of all the old JaxMets. Mississippi’s own Barry Lyons was there. And Randy Myers, Calvin Schiraldi, Rusty Tillman, Ed “Smoke” Pruitt, DeWayne Vaughn, Bill Latham, Al Carmichael, Mickey Weston and Joe Graves, to name a handful. Sam Perlozzo, manager of the Texas League championship teams of 1984-85, was there. Mike Feder, the longtime GM, was there with his son, Nate, who had the run of the ballpark as a kid back in the ’80s. Museum director Bill Blackwell is also a former JaxMets GM. Former franchise owner Con Maloney was there, and longtime radio broadcaster Bill Walberg and team trainer Rick Rainer, also. Several former Smith-Wills office staffers and press box workers turned out. One old sportswriter even showed up. Fans of a wide variety of ages brought old scorebooks and team photos and the like for signing. The air in the museum was thick with nostalgia. Players and fans swapping old stories is one of the things that makes baseball so very special.

01 Apr

homecoming

No foolin’: The Jackson Mets are back. Some members of the minor league team that occupied Smith-Wills Stadium for 16 seasons beginning in 1975 are gathering for a reunion this weekend. A meet-and-greet is scheduled for Saturday from 10 a.m.-noon at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum adjacent to the old ballpark. The JaxMets had a special bond with the community. The Capital City had not had a pro club since 1953 before the New York Mets moved their Double-A franchise to newly constructed Smith-Wills in ’75. In some circles the team was affectionately referred to as “Our Jackson Mets,” or OJMs for short. During their stay that ended in 1990, the OJMs won three Texas League championships and sent dozens of players to the big leagues. The 1984 team, which won a pennant, trotted out eight players on opening day who reached the majors. The bond with fans was such that when The Clarion-Ledger conducted a reader poll to select an all-time Jackson team in 1999, the last year the Generals were in town, nine of the 10 players picked were former Mets. The roster of alumni includes the likes of Darryl Strawberry, Lee Mazzilli, Jeff Reardon, Billy Beane, Kevin Mitchell, Rick Aguilera, Lenny Dykstra, Greg Olson, Kevin Elster, Todd Hundley and Mississippi’s own Bobby Myrick and Barry Lyons. Davey Johnson, Clint Hurdle, Sam Perlozzo and Mike Cubbage were among the managers. Credit the late Bill Hetrick, who worked in the JaxMets’ front office in the early days, with originally hatching the idea for this event, which promises to be very special.

30 Oct

shout-out to …

Barry Lyons, who touched all the bases on his path to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, an honor that was announced Friday. Lyons was born in Biloxi, played high school ball there, became an All-America catcher at Delta State and starred for the 1985 Jackson Mets, who won the Texas League championship. He made his big league debut with the New York Mets in 1986, though he did not have a postseason appearance for the World Series champs. Lyons is still heavily involved in baseball on the Coast.
David Dellucci, an All-America outfielder at Ole Miss and an SEC batting champion who also earned the state Hall of Fame nod. Dellucci played 13 years in the majors and won a World Series ring with the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks.
Austin Riley, the DeSoto Central High product who delivered a clutch hit (again) for Atlanta, driving in the first run with a third-inning double in the 2-0 win Friday night against Houston in Game 3 of the World Series. “Hunting windows,” as he likes to say, Riley has produced seven RBIs this postseason.
Ian Anderson, the ex-Mississippi Braves ace who threw five no-hit innings at the Astros in Game 3. Anderson, who had a hand in a no-no with the M-Braves in 2019, has a 1.26 career postseason ERA, tied with Meridian Community College alum Cliff Lee for the second-best by any pitcher over his first eight starts.
Kendall Graveman, the ex-Mississippi State standout and Astros reliever who had not allowed a home run to a right-handed batter all year before the Braves’ Travis d’Arnaud took him deep on Friday night. Graveman has yielded just two runs in nine postseason innings for the Astros after posting a 3.13 ERA during the season.
Desmond Jennings, the former Itawamba CC two-sport star who turns 35 today. Jennings played seven years in the big leagues with Tampa Bay, batting .245 with 55 homers and 95 stolen bases.

27 Jul

odds and ends

Stanley Stubbs, who won championships at two colleges in Georgia and coached at Rust College the last two years, will be named coach at Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday. Stubbs succeeds Aaron Stevens, fired after an 0-20 season. Stubbs is a Booneville native who played at Northeast Mississippi Community College and was an assistant coach under Bob Braddy at Jackson State for several years. Rust, an NAIA program, finished 13-20 in 2021. Alcorn State has yet to name a replacement for Brett Richardson, who was not retained after a 7-20 season. … The Mississippi Braves are riding an eight-game losing streak as they head into a 12-game road trip that begins tonight at Pensacola. The Double-A club’s longest losing streak since it arrived in Pearl in 2005 is nine. At 40-32, the M-Braves no longer have the Double-A South’s best record. … Whatever happened to Corey Dickerson? Well, the former Meridian Community College star is expected to begin a rehab assignment this week for the Toronto Blue Jays. Dickerson was on the injured list (foot) with Miami when he was traded on June 29. The veteran outfielder hit .260 with two homers in 62 games for the Marlins. … No surprise really that the top two teams in the Cotton States League North feature the college summer league’s top two pitchers. Will Cook, of Holmes Community College, is 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA for the Tupelo Thunder, 13-6 heading into the season’s final weekend in New Albany. Camron Wright, a lefty from Itawamba CC, is 3-1, 1.66 for the North Delta Dealers, also 13-6. The Dealers took two of three from the Thunder back in June, with Cook notching Tupelo’s lone win. Wright pitched well in the rubber game but didn’t get a decision. … Among the array of stars who’ll be formally inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night are two baseball icons: former high school coach Jerry Boatner and renowned stadium architect Janet Marie Smith. In addition, Con Maloney, longtime owner of Jackson’s Texas League franchise, will receive the Rube Award, which recognizes lifetime contributions to Mississippi sports and is named in honor former sports museum director Michael Rubenstein.

07 Jul

a new look

The Los Angeles Dodgers will open their season on July 23 at home against longtime rival San Francisco. There will be a national TV (ESPN) audience but – unfortunately — no people in the seats. Right fielder Mookie Betts isn’t the only thing new at Dodger Stadium for 2020. The old ballpark, which opened in 1958, has undergone a $100 million renovation under the direction of Jackson native Janet Marie Smith, the club’s Senior Vice President of Planning and Development. “It’s less of a renovation in an architectural sense,” she recently told lamag.com, “than it is a reimagining of how these buildings come together.” A new plaza beyond center field makes it a more fan-friendly, fan-accessible facility. All it needs now is some fans. The MLB All-Star Game was originally scheduled for Dodger Stadium this summer but will now be played at Chavez Ravine in 2022. Smith, a Mississippi State alumna elected to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame this year, also has worked directly on stadium projects at Camden Yards, Fenway Park and Turner Field and consulted on many others. Her work at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, which opened in 1992, spearheaded a new era in stadium design. The Boston Globe has described Smith as “the architect credited with saving Fenway Park.” P.S. MLB’s only new stadium, Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, will be formally unveiled on July 24 when the Rangers face Colorado. Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn is slated to start the game for Texas. … Atlanta’s newly named Truist Park (formerly Sun Trust Park) will host its first official game on July 29.