Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Rick Cleveland: Honoring our sports heroes

The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum has worn a funeral wreath on its doors five times since last year's induction ceremonies. That's because Boo Ferriss, Orsmond Jordan, Robert Morgan, Larry Grantham and Eddie Crawford all have died in the interim.

All contributed much to Mississippi sports lore in their respective field of endeavor. Ferriss won 46 games over his first two seasons of Major League baseball, an achievement surpassed by only one player in history. His handprint on Mississippi baseball is seen everywhere today. Jordan produced championship teams and basketball heroes for decades after he was a standout player himself. Morgan helped begin a little professional golf tournament in Hattiesburg and then guided it, against all odds, for longer than any tournament director, ever, on the PGA Tour. Football's Grantham was a defensive end and linebacker as good as any in the game during his era, Eddie Crawford was versatile all-star athlete three sports – football, basketball and baseball – and was a successful coach and administrator at his beloved Ole Miss.

All five left their marks on Mississippi. The legends of all five will live on in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, an important Jackson museum that tells the remarkable, uplifting story of the Magnolia State's history of athletic success.

The Hall of Fame will induct six more members with a weekend of planned activities culminating in Saturday night's induction banquet at the Jackson Convention Center. To wit:

• Marcus Dupree was a national sports hero before he graduated from high school. At Philadelphia High School, he was then – and could be still – the mostly highly recruited football player in the history of the sport. Almost always, he was the biggest, fastest, strongest, most incredibly physically gifted player on the field. One of the most successful college football programs in the country, Oklahoma, changed its offense radically to feature Dupree when he was but a freshman. He played professionally when he should have been a college sophomore before an injury ruined his still budding career.

• As a baseball pitcher, Jay Powell never had a losing record in high school, at Mississippi State or in 11 years of professional baseball. Out of baseball-rich West Lauderdale, Powell was an All American as a starting pitcher for Ron Polk at Mississippi State and then became a relief pitcher in the professional ranks. How many pitchers can say they were the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series? Powell, who now coaches at Jackson Academy, can. He won Game 7 of the 1997 series for the World Champion Florida Marlins after compiling a 7-2 record during the regular season.

• Alcorn State's Leslie Frazier, from Columbus, was a three-sport star at Columbus Lee High School and was All-SWAC in two sports, football and baseball, at Alcorn State. He became star cornerback for the Chicago Bears and part of what many consider the greatest defense in NFL history with the 1985 Chicago Bears where he teamed with fellow MSHOF Hall of Famers Walter Payton and Tyrone Keys. His coaching career has also included a Super Bowl title with the Indianapolis Colts and a head coaching stint with the Minnesota Vikings. He currently coaches for the Baltimore Ravens.

• Bob Braddy of Florence and Jackson State is the winningest baseball coach in Southwestern Athletic Conference history and unquestionably the father of Jackson State baseball. His teams won 824 gams and 12 SWAC titles and he coached 52 future professionals. Braddy also served as athletic director at JSU for five years.

• The late Eugenia Conner is quite simply one of the most productive women's basketball players in Mississippi history. A native of Gulfport, she led her high school teams to a record of 155-9. At Ole Miss, playing for fellow Hall of Famers Van Chancellor and Peggie Gillom, she was the leading scorer and an All-Southeastern Conference performer on four NCAA Tournament teams that won 106 games, while losing but 20. She played professionally overseas before dying at age 30 in 1994.

• Lastly, the author of this column has been fortunate to chronicle these athletes and thousands more in more than five decades of covering Mississippi sports and sports heroes. I have been blessed and only can surmise that sustained passion for one's vocation, in the end, must count something. I am humbled to take a place in the Hall among these talented men and women.

Find details of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame's Induction weekend at

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is


Anonymous said...

What was the cause of Eugenia Connor's death?

Anonymous said...

Rick, please retire.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS