NATCHITOCHES — Four-time MLB All-Star Ben Sheets, NBA standout P.J. Brown, Michigan and NFL star Anthony Thomas and two longtime coaches, Tulane baseball’s Rick Jones and high school football’s Jim Hightower, headline the eight 2016 inductees chosen for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, announced Wednesday.
Also in the class: Janice Joseph Richard, a two-time All-America basketball player and standout coach at Louisiana College; Arthur “Red” Swanson, Southeastern Louisiana’s most successful football coach who became a pivotal figure in LSU history; and “Gentleman” Dave Malarcher, a star player and manager in Negro Leagues baseball. That trio will be inducted posthumously.
The class will be enshrined June 25 in Natchitoches to culminate the 2016 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction celebration.
A 35-member Louisiana Sports Writers Association committee selected the inductees. The panel considered 113 nominees from 28 categories.
The eight inductees raise the total of Hall of Fame members to 326 since the first class — baseball’s Mel Ott, boxer Tony Canzoneri and LSU football great Gaynell Tinsley — were enshrined in 1959 after their election a year earlier.
Also enshrined will be three others: the winner of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award and the recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism presented by the LSWA. Those inductees will be announced later this year.
The 11-person Class of 2016 will bring the Hall of Fame membership to 400, including 16 Dixon Award winners and 58 sports journalists.
Sheets won an Olympic gold medal as part of Team USA’s 2000 championship team after a breakout college career at Louisiana-Monroe, then made four MLB All-Star Game appearances in 10 seasons. The right-hander starred at St. Amant High School, then overwhelmed hitters for ULM before becoming a first-round draft pick (10th overall) by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1999. Two years later, he earned a spot in the Brewers’ rotation and was chosen for his first All-Star Game. A power pitcher with excellent control, he won 94 games with a 3.35 ERA, striking out 1,325 in 1,596 innings while issuing only 369 unintentional walks.
Brown shined at Louisiana Tech before a 15-year NBA career, three times making the NBA’s All-Defensive Team. He averaged 9.9 points and 7.7 rebounds in 1,089 games, starting 990, for five pro teams, including four years with New Orleans. The 6-foot-11 forward/center capped his career in 2007-08 by helping the Boston Celtics win the NBA championship.
Thomas combined bruising power, speed and agility to set a state prep record with 106 career touchdowns at Winnfield, earning high school All-America honors. He headed to Michigan and, as a freshman in 1997, the “A-Train” helped the Wolverines win a national championship. The 6-2, 221-pound running back finished his college career with 15 school records, including rushing (4,472 yards) and rushing TDs (55). A second-round NFL draft pick in 2001, he was the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year after running for 1,183 yards and seven scores in 14 games for Chicago. He played four years in Chicago and also played for Dallas, New Orleans and Buffalo.
Jones was Tulane’s baseball coach for 21 years before his 2014 retirement. He guided the Green Wave to 12 NCAA tournament appearances, highlighted by College World Series berths in 2001 and 2005. The former Georgia Tech assistant posted an 814-439-2 record at Tulane, the most wins and best winning percentage (.649) in program history. Jones was Baseball America’s 2005 Coach of the Year after the Wave spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the country and made its second trip to the CWS. While developing 24 All-America players, Jones became one of the college game’s most respected managers and served as Team USA’s coach in the summer of 2009.
Hightower is the second-winningest high school football coach in state history and ranks among the top 25 active coaches in the country with 379 victories early in his 41st season. Entering the season at 376-116-1 with a .762 winning percentage, Hightower has been at Lafayette’s St. Thomas More for 30 years, entering 2015 with a 249-89 record while guiding his teams to 27 consecutive playoff appearances since 1988, winning 13 district championships. He has never had a losing season, beginning his head coaching career at Catholic-Pointe Coupee in 1975, where his 1978 team won a state title and he captured another as baseball coach.
Richard’s combination of playing and coaching basketball credentials earned her selection. The Alexandria native was a two-time first-team NAIA All-American at Louisiana College who in 1986 led the Lady Wildcats to a 31-3 record, a No. 1 national ranking and third place at the NAIA tournament. A four-time All-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference selection, she scored over 2,300 points and added more than 700 assists. In 16 seasons as a head coach, Richard was 307-163 at Xavier, San Jose State and LC. From 1992-98 at Xavier, she was an amazing 159-34 with a winning percentage of .824 that is tops in school history, guiding the Nuggets to five consecutive regular season and GCAC tournament titles. Beginning in 2006, she battled breast cancer in the last four years of her life and still was 55-23 in three seasons at her alma mater, including a 24-3 record and a conference title in her final season of 2009-10.
Malarcher, a New Orleans native, became one of the best third basemen and most versatile players in the Negro Leagues before serving in World War I, then emerged as a highly successful manager. After earning his college degree from New Orleans University (now known as Dillard), he went into pro baseball and earned comparisons with Baseball Hall of Famer Judy Johnson among the Negro League’s third basemen. A lifetime .272 hitter, he became manager of the Chicago American Giants, the dominant team in the Negro American League in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Malarcher became player/manager in 1926 and guided the Giants to two pennants, plus World Series titles the only two seasons they were played during his managerial career, which featured a 379-230 (.622) record.
Swanson, born in Quitman, stood out as Southeastern Louisiana’s football coach, going 41-17-4 from 1931-37 with a .674 winning percentage that is the best in school history. Also head football coach for a season at Louisiana-Lafayette and briefly during World War II basketball and baseball coach at LSU, Swanson’s greatest impact came as an assistant coach and star recruiter for the football program at his alma mater, where he played in the first game in Tiger Stadium. He was the pivotal figure in bringing abundant talent to Baton Rouge, notably LSU legends Y.A. Tittle and Jerry Stovall, long after he was the high school football and track coach of LSU All-American and world-record shot putter “Baby Jack” Torrance. He also convinced future major league star Joe Adcock, then exclusively an LSU basketball player, to give college baseball a try.
The 2016 Induction Celebration will kick off Thursday, June 23 with a press conference and reception. It includes three receptions, a youth sports clinic, and a 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 at LaSportsHall.com.
The inductees, at a glance
A former Winnfield High School and Louisiana Tech standout, Brown played 15 NBA seasons with five teams — including four years with the New Orleans Hornets. Brown, a second-round draft pick (29th overall) of the New Jersey Nets in 1992, distinguished himself as a defensive stalwart during his career. A 6-foot-11 forward/center, he was three times a second-team pick on the NBA’s All-Defensive team. He averaged 9.9 points and 7.7 rebounds in 1,089 career games, of which he started 990 times. He averaged double digits in scoring five times with a high of 11.4 points in 1998-99 with the Miami Heat. His top rebounding season came when he averaged 9.8 per game for the Charlotte Hornets in 2001-02, but was a model of consistency averaging at least 8.0 points in 12 of his 15 NBA seasons and at least 7.0 rebounds in nine seasons. He shot 46.0 percent from the field and 79.4 percent from the free-throw line. In his final season in 2007-08, he won his first NBA title with the Boston Celtics. He averaged 7.1 points and 6.6 rebounds in 106 career playoff games. At Tech, he averaged 10.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game despite playing just 25.7 minutes per contest. He was born Oct. 14, 1969, in Detroit.
Going into the 2015 season, Hightower is the second-winningest coach in Louisiana high school football history with a 376-116-1 record and winning percentage of .762 in 40 seasons — beginning his 30th at St. Thomas More in Lafayette. He ranks behind only J.T. Curtis, who has amassed 540 wins through 2014, in Louisiana annals after passing Alton “Red” Franklin (366) in 2013. He ranks in the top 25 among the country’s active prep football coaches. Hightower has never had a losing season in his 40-year career as a head coach, which began at Catholic-Pointe Coupee in 1975. His team won the Class 1A state title in 1978, beating St. Edmund’s of Eunice 45-16 in a game played at LSU’s Bernie Moore Stadium. He also won a state baseball crown at CHSPC before moving to St. Thomas More. He is believed to be the only coach to win a district title in all classes in Louisiana (1A, 2A at Catholic-P.C.; 3A, 4A and 5A at St. Thomas More). Since moving to STM in 1986, he has been named state Coach of the Year in his class twice. At St. Thomas More, Hightower has a 249-89 record, guiding his team to 27 playoff appearances in a row (1988-2014), winning 13 district titles in that time. He was born Dec. 29, 1948, in Alhambra, California.
Tulane’s baseball coach for 21 years (1994-2014), Jones led the Green Wave to 12 NCAA tournament berths and the only two College World Series appearances in school history (2001, 2005). The former Georgia Tech assistant posted an 814-439-2 record at Tulane, the most wins and the highest winning percentage (.649) in school history. His 2005 team was ranked No. 1 nationally for much of the year and received the No. 1 overall seed in NCAA tournament. Jones coached 24 All-Americans and seven conference players of the year. He earned coach of the year honors five times from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association and three times from Conference USA. He won 2005 national coach of the year honors by Baseball America. Widely respected by his peers nationally, Jones served as Team USA head coach in 2009.
“GENTLEMAN” DAVE MALARCHER
A New Orleans native who graduated from what is now known as Dillard University, Malarcher was one of the most remarkable figures in Negro League history. One of the circuit’s top third basemen during the years just before he served in World War I, Malarcher became manager of the Chicago American Giants, the dominant team in the Negro American League in the late 1920s and early 1930s. As a switch-hitting batter, he was a lifetime .272 hitter. The owner of the rival Homestead Grays said “Malarcher is better than (LSHOF member Oliver) Marcell (and Baseball Hall of Famer Judy) Johnson.” He batted .344 in his first season as a player with the American Giants, helping them to the first of three straight pennants. Malarcher became player/manager in 1926 and directed the Giants to two more pennants, plus World Series titles in the only two seasons they were played during his managerial career. After leaving the team for three years because of a money dispute, he returned to manage in 1933 and led them to two more pennants. He went 379-230 (.622) in the regular season and 30-18 in postseason play. His cap and jersey are on display in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame. A published poet and respected businessman, he died in 1982. He was born Oct. 18, 1894, in Whitehall.
JANICE JOSEPH RICHARD
A great player and coach at Louisiana College, she also was an outstanding coach at Xavier of New Orleans. The Alexandria-Peabody product was a two-time NAIA first-team All-American at LC in 1985 and ’86. In 1986, she led LC to a 31-3 record, a No. 1 ranking in the polls and a third-place finish in the NAIA tournament. She was an All-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference pick four times, the last three unanimously in scoring more than 2,300 points and handing out 700 assists. She set GCAC single-season record of 283 assists in 1985-86 and led the league in scoring and assists each of her final two seasons. She posted a 307-163 record in 16 seasons as a head coach at Xavier, San Jose State and LC. At Xavier from 1992-98, she was 159-34 and her winning percentage of .824 remains the best in school history. She guided Xavier to five consecutive regular-season and tournament championships and coached the Nuggets to a 91-11 GCAC regular-season record and to first-round victories in the NAIA tournament four straight years (1995-98). Her final Xavier team (1997-98) went 18-0 in conference play. At San Jose State from 1999 to 2006, she led the school to three winning seasons after it had just one in the previous 17 seasons and was named Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2001-02. Richard was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and stepped down but returned home to Louisiana College and had a 55-23 record in three seasons — including a 24-3 mark and American Southwest championship in 2009-10. She died in December 2010 at age 46. She was born Feb. 19 1964, in Alexandria.
A former Louisiana-Monroe star, Sheets was a first-round pick (10th overall) by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1999. A 2000 Olympic gold medalist for Team USA, he reached the big leagues in less than two years, making the Brewers’ roster in spring training in 2001 and earning a spot in the rotation at age 22. He started that season 10-4 with a 3.35 ERA and was chosen to the All-Star Game, the first of four nods during his career. Sheets pitched in the majors for 10 seasons before arm troubles cut short his career. He had a 94-96 record with a 3.78 ERA while playing in 250 games — all starts — for the Brewers, Atlanta Braves and Oakland Athletics. In addition to the 2001 All-Star Game, he was chosen to the game in 2004, ’07 and ’08. He won at least 10 games in seven of his 10 seasons, with his best years coming when he went 12-5 in 2007 and 13-9 in ’08 with the Brewers. Sheets was known as a power pitcher with solid command of his pitches. He had 1,325 career strikeouts in 1,596 innings and issued just 369 unintentional walks. After a standout career at St. Amant High School, Sheets emerged as one of the college game’s top talents at ULM, once striking out 20 Louisiana Tech hitters. He was born Sept. 18, 1978, in Baton Rouge.
ARTHUR “RED” SWANSON
Very few had as much influence on Louisiana sports — and remain as anonymous — as Swanson. Swanson, an LSU lineman in the first game played in Tiger Stadium, later became a coach at Oak Grove High School and molded “Baby Jack”’ Torrance into a football and track star who later was not only a standout in both sports at LSU but also a world-record shot putter and Olympian. When he was an assistant to Bernie Moore, Swanson was dispatched to Texas to get two prospects who wanted to play at LSU — one of whom was a disgruntled Y.A. Tittle, who first committed to the Tigers, then was pressured to attend Texas before changing his mind again. Swanson coached Southeastern Louisiana football to a 41-17-4 record from 1931-37, with his .674 winning percentage still the best in SLU history. He coached the LSU basketball and baseball teams during World War II when coaches were often called to active duty, convincing basketball player and future MLB slugger Joe Adcock to play baseball, and he also led the Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now known as Louisiana-Lafayette) football team to a to a 5-4 record in 1950. He died at 82 in November 1987. He was born April 19, 1905, in Quitman.
A graduate of Winnfield High School, Thomas used a combination of bruising power, speed and agility to set a then-state record with 106 touchdowns in his career while rushing for 7,594 yards to earn prep All-America honors. The 6-2, 221-pounder went on to Michigan, where he helped the Wolverines to a share of the 1997 national title as a freshman. He finished his Michigan career with 15 school records, including rushing yards (4,472), rushing TDs (55) and total TDs (56). He still holds the touchdown records and is third on the rushing yards list. He was team MVP in 2000, when he was a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, and a year later was named the 2001 Michigan Male Athlete of the Year. He was a second-team All-Big Ten pick as a junior and a first-teamer as a senior. A second-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2001, he was the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year after rushing for 1,183 yards and seven TDs in 14 games. He again rushed for 1,000 yards two years later and finished his career with 3,891 yards and 23 TDs. He was born Nov. 7, 1977, in Winnfield.