Obscure considerations for Memphis Sports Hall of Fame


The Memphis Sports Council is accepting nominations for the inaugural class of the Memphis Sports Hall of Fame through April 5.

And with the first swipe at this, there are certain people so famous they are worthy of induction with the first class by default, probably more than the anticipated 25 who will be included in the first round of honorees. After that, the Sports Council is expected to recognize four to seven annually.

“I think there are some no-brainers,” said Kevin Kane, president and chief executive officer of Memphis Tourism. “There are probably more no-brainers than we could put in the first class.”

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Most would name Larry Finch as a shoo-in along with current Memphis coach Penny Hardaway. Memphis being a basketball town, is it possible the Grizzlies “Core Four” are included as a group? Then, there’s Tim McCarver, who played Major League baseball through four decades before enjoying a successful career as a broadcaster. If wrestling is included, it would be impossible to ignore someone with the nickname “King” in Jerry Lawler.

But the group considering the Hall of Famers is looking for more than just the most important nominees the first year, followed by the next group. Kane emphasized that using a more diverse criteria, the first inductees might include some that don’t rise to the level of fame like a Finch or McCarver or maybe, Gene Bartow.

“I would anticipate in that first year, you would have (someone), who you would say: ‘Surely, they’re not one of the most 20 or 25 most influential,’ ” Kane said.

Former Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce has finished high on ballots for the NFL’s Hall of Fame in recent years. Former Tiger basketball player Michael Wilson may not have had a stellar NBA career, but he did once set the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest dunk while with the Harlem Globetrotters.

But how about those who passed through the city in Minor League Baseball. Bo Jackson? Tim Raines? Gary Carter was on his way up to the Montreal Expos when he stopped by one summer to play for the Memphis Blues. There was that short three-game career with the Redbirds for Albert Pujols on his fast rise to the major leagues, although his short stay – and 14 official at-bats – did include one of the most memorable home runs in Redbirds history.

Reggie White played for the Memphis Showboats of the USFL before his Hall of Fame career in the NFL. The same goes for former Miami Dolphins Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield, who left the NFL to join the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League.

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So, here’s a look at some who don’t necessarily fall into the no-brainer category either because their participation was decades ago or their sports didn’t draw the attention of Tigers or Grizzlies basketball.

Or we just forgot they had a link to Memphis, such as professional wrestler Ric Flair, who was born in Memphis, although he lived here only a short time before a couple from Minnesota adopted him. Although Flair’s time in Memphis may have lasted longer than Pujols’.

And these represent all three of the categories the committee is considering – athletes, coaches and contributors.

Sputnik Monroe

If we include wrestling, there is little doubt Jerry Lawler will sit at the top of that category, and maybe even Jackie Fargo, the King’s predecessor as the most famous grappler in Memphis. But for social commentary, Monroe will stand out for his stance during the time of a segregated Memphis. The legend goes that Monroe, a bad guy who had many battles with Billy Wicks, declared he wouldn’t wrestle at Ellis Auditorium until African-Americans were allowed to sit in the floor seats instead of being relegated to the balcony. Since he was a big draw, promoters acquiesced and anyone could buy a ticket for any seat in the arena.

Hannah Storm

The ESPN broadcaster’s ties to Memphis may not be that familiar. Storm, whose real name is Hannah Storen, is the daughter of Mike Storen, former owner of the Memphis Sounds. While her father was owner of the ABA team, Storm attended St. Agnes Academy.

Cary Middlecoff

A professional golfer who won 40 tournaments, including two U.S. Opens and the 1955 Masters, according to his bio on the Wolf Golf Hall of Fame website. Middlecoff actually started out as a dentist and practiced the craft while in the military before turning to golf when he was discharged, thus earning him the nickname “Doc.”

Tommy Prothro

The former coach at Oregon State and UCLA, along with NFL stops with the Rams and Chargers, was born and died in Memphis. His father – Doc Prothro –played professional baseball, then managed the Philadelphia Phillies. The elder Prothro moved to Memphis when he bought the Chicks in the mid-1940s. However, there could be some resistance to adding Tommy Prothro because of comments the UCLA coach made after the Bruins lost to Tennessee during the inaugural season of Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in 1965. Prothro was so upset with calls against UCLA down the stretch that he was quoted in the postgame saying he was “ashamed to be a Southerner.” However, Doc Prothro probably is someone worthy of consideration.

Cindy Parlow

When Parlow was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, she was called one of the state’s “most talented soccer players.” Parlow, who attended Germantown High, was a midfielder for the U.S. National Team from 1995-2006. When she retired, she ranked fifth as the team’s all-time leading scorer. Parlow was part of the team that won the World Cup in 1999. She also has two Olympic gold medals and one silver. She is the youngest player to ever win a World Cup and an Olympic gold medal in the same year and was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2018. The road that runs through the Mike Rose Soccer Complex is called Cindy Parlow Drive.

Charley Pride

Before Pride became famous as one of the few African-American country singers, he played for the Memphis Red Sox in the 1950s. The story goes that the native of Pride, Mississippi, was discovered while playing for a sandlot team against the Red Sox. According to Pride’s biography, he won 14 games as a pitcher in 1956, earning him Negro American League All-Star selection.

Dave Wottle

After his athletic career, which included winning the 800-meter run at the Munich Olympics in 1972, Wottle lived in the Memphis area for almost 30 years as an administrator for Rhodes College, the bulk of his tenure there as dean of admissions and financial aid.

Willie Biles

Biles, who attended high school at Mount Pisgah, played at Tulsa from 1971-74. For many years, Biles was the all-time leading scorer in Golden Hurricane history and now holds the 12th spot, although he remains the top scorer among those who played only three years of varsity (freshmen were did not play varsity in the early 1970s). Biles still holds numerous Tulsa records including most points in a season (788) and highest scoring average for a season, 30.3 in 1973. He scored 48 points in two separate games, the highest-scoring game in Tulsa history.

Kalara McFadyen

McFadyen, who played for the Memphis Tigers women’s team from 2001-03, makes this list because of a rare feat. On Feb. 3, 2002, she recorded a triple-double and didn’t take a shot in the game against East Carolina. She had 10 rebounds, 12 assists and 10 steals. She is believed to be the only player in NCAA Division I history to accomplish the benchmark. In fact, she may have done something no NBA or WNBA player has ever done. Golden State’s Draymond Green reached a triple-double that included only four points. And that one has a tie to Memphis also – it was done against the Grizzlies.

<span><strong>Willie Biles attended high school in Memphis and played at Tulsa University, where he still holds a number of records.</strong> (Courtesy of Tulsa University)</span>

Willie Biles attended high school in Memphis and played at Tulsa University, where he still holds a number of records. (Courtesy of Tulsa University)

<strong>Tommy Prothro</strong>

Tommy Prothro

<strong>Sputnik Monroe</strong>

Sputnik Monroe

<span><strong>Former Memphian Tim McCarver on his 1962 Topps baseball card</strong> (Courtesy of Topps Chewing Gum Co.)</span>

Former Memphian Tim McCarver on his 1962 Topps baseball card (Courtesy of Topps Chewing Gum Co.)

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