NATCHITOCHES – LSU’s David Toms, whose 13 PGA Tour golf wins include a major championship, is joined by nine-time Pro Bowl football star Ed Reed, three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel, and World Series champ Juan Pierre headlining eight 2016 competitive ballot inductees chosen for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
LSU has heavy impact in the Class of 2017. Two more Tiger heroes, football and track great Eddie Kennison and iconic gymnastics coach D-D Breaux, are included along with Raymond Didier, who has impressive LSU credentials coupled with coaching feats at Nicholls and UL Lafayette. Rounding out the class is Southeastern Louisiana basketball legend C.A. Core. Core and Didier will be inducted posthumously.
They will be enshrined Saturday, June 24, in Natchitoches to culminate the 2017 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration June 22-24.
The 2017 Induction Class will be showcased in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, operated by the Louisiana State Museum system in a partnership with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The striking two-story, 27,500-square foot structure faces Cane River Lake in the National Historic Landmark District of Natchitoches and has garnered worldwide architectural acclaim and rave reviews for its contents since its grand opening during the 2013 Hall of Fame induction weekend.
A 35-member Louisiana Sports Writers Association committee selected the 2017 inductees. The panel considered a record 125 nominees from 28 different sport categories on a 26-page ballot, said Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland.
The eight new competitive ballot inductees will raise the total of Hall of Fame members to 334 competitors honored since the first induction class — baseball’s Mel Ott, world champion boxer Tony Canzoneri and LSU football great Gaynell Tinsley — were enshrined in 1959 after their election a year earlier.
Also to be enshrined next summer will be three other Hall of Fame inductees, the winner of the 2017 Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award and the recipients of the 2017 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism presented by the LSWA. Those contributor ballot inductees will be announced later this year.
The complete 11-person Class of 2017 will bring the membership in the Hall of Fame to 411 men and women, including 17 Dixon Award winners and 60 sports journalists.
The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame already includes 17 Pro Football Hall of Fame members, 18 Olympic medalists including 11 gold medal winners, 10 members of the Basketball Hall of Fame, seven of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, six Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, 37 College Football Hall of Fame members, nine National High School Hall of Fame enshrinees, jockeys with a combined 12 Triple Crown victories (Borel will add four more), six world boxing champions, seven Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinees, seven College Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, 10 College Basketball Hall of Fame members, four NBA Finals MVPs, three winners of major professional golf championships (Toms will make it four), three National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame inductees (Borel will be the fourth) and two Super Bowl MVPs.
A two-time first-team All-American at LSU in 1988-89, Toms, a former Airline standout and current Shreveport resident, is one of the best golfers to ever come out of Louisiana. His PGA Tour wins include the 2001 PGA Championship and 2001 Compaq Classic of New Orleans when he became the first Louisiana native to win the Tour’s annual stop in the Crescent City. He’s excelled on golf’s biggest stages, making a World Cup (2002), three U.S. Ryder Cup teams (2002, ’04, ’06) with a 4-6-2 record and four Presidents Cup squads (2003, ’05, ’07, ’11). He was 4-0-1 in helping the USA win the 2007 Presidents Cup.
Toms completed his 24th season on the PGA Tour this fall and has 13 career victories plus two earlier on the Web.com Tour. He ranked 10th on the PGA Tour’s all-time money list with a little more than $41.8 million — winning more than $2 million in a season 10 times — including six years with at least $3 million. Toms was in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking for 175 weeks between 2001 and 2006, rising as high as fifth in 2002 and ’03.
His winning 265 score at the 2001 PGA stood as the pro tour’s major championships scoring record for 15 years until Henrik Stenson’s 264 at the British Open. Toms also has 16 runner-up finishes on Tour while making 411 cuts in 611 career starts. He has a sparkling record in golf’s four majors, making the cut in 37 of 61 career starts with six top-five efforts and 11 top-10s — including three Masters and three U.S. Opens.
During a distinguished 13-year NFL career, 12 of which were spent with the Baltimore Ravens, Reed was voted first-team All-Pro five times and nine times was elected to the Pro Bowl. The Destrehan High School product was arguably the league’s top free safety for more than a decade, winning the 2004 Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year honor, after leaving the University of Miami following his junior season.
He had 64 career interceptions (seventh on the NFL’s all-time list), returning seven for touchdowns, and broke up 141 passes in 174 games played. He had nine more interceptions in 15 postseason games, helping the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
His 1,590 career yards on interception returns is the most in NFL history — more than 100 yards better than the old mark set by Pro Football Hall of Famer Rod Woodson. Reed had at least five picks in seven of his 13 seasons, getting nine each in 2004 and ’08 and eight in 2010. He also had 13 fumble recoveries and 11 forced fumbles as a pro, after helping Miami’s Hurricanes win the 2001 college national championship as a two-time All-American, making 21 career interceptions.
A St. Martin Parish native, Borel is a three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey who also took the 2009 Preakness States. The 2013 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame inductee briefly retired in March 2016 with 5,146 career wins (27th all-time in North American racing history) and more than $127 million in purse money from 34,915 mounts, but in August, he resumed riding. A fan favorite known for his colorful personality, Borel, who started what would be a 25-year riding career at Delta Downs, earned the nickname “Bo-rail” because of his penchant for settling in along the rail in a race in order to cover the shortest distance possible.
Borel recorded an unprecedented feat in piloting three Kentucky Derby winners in a four-year span — starting with Street Sense in 2007 and winning in back-to-back tries aboard 50-to-1 shot Mine That Bird (the second-biggest upset in Derby history) in 2009 and Super Saver in ’10. He has brought home 1,189 winners in 20 years at Churchill Downs — including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Street Sense in 2006 — and ranks second all-time at the venerable oval behind Pat Day (2,482 wins).
Borel put together the ultimate racing “double” in 2009, when, the day before riding Mine That Bird to a 6¾-length win (the largest margin of victory in the Kentucky Derby in 63 years), he won the Kentucky Oaks (the female version of the Kentucky Derby) aboard Rachel Alexandra — becoming only the seventh jockey to do that. Borel guided her to a win over the boys two weeks later in the Preakness and was also in the saddle when Rachel Alexandra became the first distaff winner of the Grade I Woodward at Saratoga. Borel, who won 2010 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in a vote of his peers, earned his 5000th career win on March 7, 2013 — the 26th North American jockey to reach that plateau.
Pierre was a leadoff hitting outfielder who hit .295 in 14 seasons in the majors with the Rockies, Marlins, Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox and Phillies. The Alexandria Senior High product posted 200-hit seasons and led the National League in hits in 2004 (221) and 2006 (204). Pierre had 2,217 career hits (225 doubles, 94 triples, 18 homers) — and 517 RBI.
Pierre also had 614 stolen bases, 18th on Major League Baseball’s all-time list, and led the league three times. He is one of only four players in MLB history to have at least 100 career steals with three different teams (Marlins, Rockies, Dodgers) and was the active leader in career stolen bases when he retired.
He was named the Florida Marlins’ 2003 World Series MVP after hitting .305 and stealing a league-high 65 bases that season. In the World Series, he was the catalyst in leading the Marlins past the Yankees, hitting .333. Pierre played in 821 consecutive games, but thanks to an arcane MLB rule, his consecutive game streaks were broken into 386 and 434 games due to a pinch-running role in one game. He had a 16-game hitting streak to start his career, the second-longest streak to begin a career in MLB history.
A Parade All-America footballer at Washington-Marion High School in Lake Charles, Kennison was a two-sport star at LSU. He was a six-time All-American and part of an NCAA champion 4×100-meter relay team, before going on to a 13-year NFL career as a wide receiver/kick returner. A first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams (18th overall) in 1996, he played with four other teams — including the Saints in 1999.
In his pro career, Kennison caught 548 passes for 8,345 yards, averaging 15.2 yards per catch, and had 42 TDs with a long of 90 yards. He also returned three punts for scores while averaging 10.0 yards per return in his career. His best years came in seven seasons (2001-07) with the Kansas City Chiefs with 321 catches for 5,230 yards and 25 TDs. In 2004, at the age of 31, he had 62 receptions for 1,086 yards and eight TDs and followed that in 2005 with 68 grabs for 1,102 yards and five TDs. He was a Pro Bowl alternate as a rookie with the Rams.
The “Dean of Coaches” at LSU, Breaux has carved out a remarkable career in 39 seasons as gymnastics coach. Breaux has posted a 706-416-8 overall record (.628) during a period of sustained success that has seen LSU make 32 consecutive NCAA regional appearances. LSU has been to the NCAA national semifinals — which includes 12 teams — 11 of the past 12 years with five Super Six appearances (the equivalent of college basketball’s Final Four) in the past nine seasons.
LSU athletes have also won nine individual titles since 2002. Breaux led her team to a program-best runner-up finish at the 2016 NCAA championships, scoring a 197.450 while Oklahoma won with a 197.675. A USA Gymnastics Region 8 Hall of Famer, Breaux was voted national coach of the year by her peers after leading the Tigers to a third-place national finish in 2014.
Breaux has earned the NCAA Central Region Coach of the Year honor eight times and was the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year seven times. In 2016, LSU shattered the home attendance record for the fourth straight season with an average of 9,906 fans. Three of the top-five attendance figures in program history came through the doors last season with a school-record 13,296 packing the Pete Maravich Assembly Center to watch LSU top Alabama.
Didier, who died at age 58 in 1978, touched three different sports programs in the state prominently and coached Nicholls State to the Division II College World Series 1970 finals — the first Louisiana school to seriously challenge for a national baseball championship. He won a Gulf States Conference football title and five GSC baseball crowns as head coach at UL Lafayette, a Southeastern Conference baseball title while head coach at LSU, and was an assistant coach on LSU’s 1958 national championship football team.
Beginning in 1948, Didier was head baseball coach for nine seasons at Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now UL Lafayette). He was head football coach for six years before moving east to Baton Rouge. The Tigers went 104-79 in baseball under him and won the 1961 SEC title.
In 1963, he went to Nicholls State where he coached the Colonels to 217 victories between 1964 and 1971, including that run that brought the Colonels to the precipice of a national Division II title. He then gave up baseball to concentrate on the school’s athletic directorship duties. The Nicholls baseball stadium is named for him.
Core is the most decorated and accomplished basketball player in Southeastern Louisiana’s history. Nearly 50 years after his final college season in 1967-68, he’s still the school’s all-time leader in scoring and rebounding, and also still holds several single season records. He earned NAIA and AP All-American honors in 1966-67 and was an NAIA All-American in 1967-68. He was drafted by the NBA and ABA, but went into the service instead of playing pro ball. He is the only basketball player in the school’s history to have his jersey retired.
Core led Southeastern in scoring and rebounding all four years, averaging a double-double each season (22.3 ppg/12.3 rpg as a freshman, 20.0/15.9 as a sophomore, 21.1/15.0 as a junior and 21.7/18.5 as a senior). For his career, he averaged 21.3 points and 15.4 rebounds per game in finishing with 2,046 points and 1,475 rebounds. Core, an Indiana native, was a teacher and coach in the St. Tammany Parish school system at the time of his death at age 41.
Biographical information on all 400 current Hall of Fame members is available at the LaSportsHall.com website, with a steady stream of info available at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Facebook page and the @LaSportsHall twitter account.
The 2017 Induction Celebration will kick off Thursday, June 22 with a press conference and reception. It includes three receptions, a youth sports clinic, and a Friday, June 23 golf scramble at Oak Wing Golf Course in Alexandria. Tickets for the Induction Dinner and Ceremony, and golf entries, along with congratulatory advertising and sponsorship opportunities, will be available through the LaSportsHall.com website.
Anyone can receive quarterly e-mails about the 2017 Induction Celebration and other Hall of Fame news by signing up on the LaSportsHall.com site.
Adding to the 326 sports competitors currently enshrined, 16 winners of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership award and 58 recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism, there are 400 current members of the Hall of Fame before next summer’s inductions.
The 2017 Induction Celebration weekend will be hosted by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, the support organization for the Hall of Fame. The LSHOF Foundation was established as a 501 c 3 non-profit entity in 1975 and is governed by a statewide 25-member board of directors. For information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Foundation President/CEO Ronnie Rantz at 225-802-6040 or RonnieRantz@LaSportsHall.com. Standard and customized sponsorships are available.
— Staff Reports