MEMPHIS, Tenn.-- The Memphis Sports Council, a division of Memphis Tourism announced the names of the inaugural and bicentennial class of the Memphis Sports Hall of Fame today. The Memphis Sports Hall of Fame and Experience’s mission is to honor the area’s top athletes, coaches, administrators and contributors, while exposing a new generation of athletes to Memphis’ rich sports tradition. Below are the 2019 inductees:
Betty Booker-Parks - Athlete
After averaging 30.2 points in high school, she came to Memphis State in 1976 and in her four years the Lady Tigers never won fewer than 19 games. She still ranks as the school’s all-time scorer with 2,835 points as well as first in field goals made and steals, leading to her number 31 jersey being retired.
Isaac Bruce – Athlete
After starring at a California Junior College, Isaac came to Memphis State for two memorable seasons, highlighted in 1993 with 74 catches for 1,054 yards. In a 16-year NFL career with two teams, he was named All-Pro four times and caught the winning touchdown for the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Bill Dance - Athlete
He wanted to be a doctor but turned to fishing, and a noteworthy, profitable career followed. Bass fishing’s first superstar, he won 23 national titles, was named three-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year, authored seven books, and now hosts two TV shows.
William B. Dunavant Jr. – Contributor
He’s left a lasting mark on Memphis sports, first building The Racquet Club, site of the long-running pro tennis tournament, before turning to football as owner of the Memphis Showboats and then tirelessly leading the city’s drive to land an NFL expansion team. Billy played a key role in recruiting Ducks Unlimited to move here from Chicago in 1992.
Larry Finch - Athlete
A Melrose High star, he stayed home to play at Memphis State, returning the Tigers to national prominence and making a divided city closer. In three seasons, he led the Tigers to a 63-21 record, including the school’s unforgettable first national championship game in 1973, and averaged 22.3 points, which still ranks first all-time.
Avron Fogelman - Contributor
A native of Memphis, prominent businessman and real estate developer, he owned several professional sports franchises in Memphis including, the ABA affiliated, Memphis Pros, the Memphis Chicks, The North American Soccer League’s Rogues and was part owner of the World Series Champion Kansas City Royals. He was also the Memphis Sports Authority’s first chairman.
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway- Athlete
A national high school player of the year, consensus college All-American and two-time NBA first-team all-star, Penny excelled at every level. In two seasons at Memphis State, he averaged 20 points in leading the Tigers to the Elite Eight in 1992, then played for five teams in a 14-year NBA career and helped the 1996 U.S. Olympic team win the gold medal.
Claude Humphrey - Athlete
This 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee first starred at Lester High before earning first-team All-American honors at Tennessee State, leading the Tigers to a 35-31-1 record. The third overall pick in 1968 NFL Draft, Claude played 13 years with two teams, was a five-time All-Pro and was named to the Atlanta Falcons’ stadium Ring of Honor.
Jerry Johnson - Coach
The veteran Memphis coach has won more than 800 victories at LeMoyne-Owen College and is the only coach to win a college national men’s championship from the state of Tennessee. His team won several conference titles and was coach of the year four consecutive seasons. He is a member of several Hall of Fames including the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
George Lapides – Contributor
You name it, he did it … longtime sports editor and columnist at Memphis Press-Scimitar, hosted the country’s longest-running radio sports talk show, WREG-TV sports editor, athletic director at Rhodes and Chicks president. A sports historian with an uncanny memory and love for Memphis, he’s credited with saving minor league baseball in 1997 by urging Dean Jernigan to become the Redbirds’ first owner.
Keith Lee - Athlete
Memphis State’s all-time scorer and rebounder, he led the Tigers to a 104-24 record, three Metro Conference Tournament titles, four straight NCAA Tournament appearances and the 1985 Final Four. He averaged a double-double with 18.8 points and 10.4 rebounds, and was named to 29 All-American teams.
Verdell Mathis - Athlete
Considered by many baseball historians to be the best left-handed pitcher in the Negro Leagues, Lefty Mathis was masterful at pitching. He could hit too having played first base when not on the mound. He spent the majority of his career with the Memphis Red Sox and was a four-time Negro League all-star. He beat his friend and rival Satchel Paige in three outings in the all-star game.
Tim McCarver - Athlete
A football and baseball star at Christian Brothers High, he signed out of high school in 1959 with the Cardinals and amazingly made it to the majors the same season at age 17. In a 21-year major league career over four decades with four teams, he was the catcher for two Cardinals’ World Series champion teams before retiring in 1980 to start an Emmy-winning broadcast career.
Nikki McCray-Penson - Athlete
She was Memphis and Shelby County’s most decorated female basketball player. From her days at Collierville High School through her years at Tennessee and women’s professional basketball, McCray excelled on the court. Her resume includes two-time Olympic gold medalist, All-American in high school and college and three-time WNBA all-star.
Dr. Cary Middlecoff - Athlete
Upon retirement from professional golf, Dr. Middlecoff was the all-time leading money winner in the PGA. He won three major golf tournaments including the US Open, twice and the Masters. The former CBHS and Ole Miss All-America finished his career with 40 tournament championships. Upon retirement, he became one of TV’s first analyst for 18 years.
Cindy Parlow - Athlete
Without a doubt, Parlow is considered the state of Tennessee’s most outstanding female soccer player. An all-American at Germantown High School and later a four-time All-American for the North Carolina Tar Heels. She was the national player of the year and led the USA to two Gold medals and a World Cup championship.
Ronnie Robinson - Athlete
He came from Melrose High with teammate Larry Finch and together they put Memphis State in the national spotlight, highlighted by the 1973 national championship game. One of only four Tigers with 1,000 or more points and rebounds, Ronnie averaged 13.9 points and 12.8 rebounds, which ranks first all time, was named All-American in 1972-73 and fittingly had his uniform number retired the same night as Finch in 1974.
Verties Sails - Coach
Sails is the only coach in Memphis and Shelby County to have two gymnasiums named for him. He coached Melrose, Memphis State as an assistant and Southwest Tennessee Community College. He has won over 700 games and earned 13 coach of the year awards and numerous championships.
Melanie Smith Taylor - Athlete
She started riding at age 3, went on to win a show jumping gold medal in the 1984 Olympics, was one of only two to capture the Triple Crown of Show Jumping and the only rider to win on the same horse, Calypso. A member of the U.S. Equestrian team in 1975-87, she was a Pan American Games gold medalist in 1979, World Cup champion and U.S. Olympic Committee Sportswoman of the Year in 1982, and a 1998 inductee into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame.
Frederick W. Smith - Contributor
When sports in Memphis needs support, he and his company have a long history of delivering, starting in 1986 with sponsoring the pro golf tournament, and in 2001 sealing the Grizzlies move here with a $90-million, 20-year deal for naming rights to FedExForum. A presenting sponsor for the Southern Heritage Classic, FedEx also sponsors the PGA’s FedEx Cup and has naming rights to Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field.
Rochelle Stevens - Athlete
She’s a two-time Olympic medalist, winning silver in the 4 by 400-meter relay in 1992 and the gold medal in the same event in ’96 Atlanta Games. She was a national prep All-American at Melrose, NCAA 400-meter champion at Morgan State, won the 200 meters at the 1991 U.S. Indoor and her 4 by 400-meter relay team finished first in the 1995 World Championship.
Memphis Bill Terry - Athlete
After winning the Major League World Series in 1933, hometown hero “Memphis” Bill Terry was the recipient of a parade honoring him down Main Street to City Hall that attracted 100,000 citizens. Terry is the last player to hit over .400 in the National League and compiled lifetime average of .341. He is considered to be the greatest left-handed first baseman in National League history and is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Memphis Sports Council and Memphis Tourism are excited to celebrate this inaugural class and look forward to the opening of the Memphis Sports Hall of Fame in late 2019. The hall of fame will be free to the public and located on the Press Level at Autozone Park.