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The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame is inducting six more members with a weekend of activities culminating in Saturday night’s induction banquet at the Jackson Convention Center.
The inductees include five renowned sports figures from the state and sportswriter Rick Cleveland who continues a more than 50-year career of sports journalism these days as the sports columnist for Mississippi Today.
Festivities begin at 6:30 Friday night with the Drawdown of Champions at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum on Lakeland Drive. The ticketed event will allow attendees to rub shoulders with sports figures from the state and bid on sports memorabilia.
Fans get another chance to meet the inductees from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Saturday at the museum.
The formal induction dinner begins with a 5:30 p.m. reception Saturday night at the Jackson Convention Center followed by dinner. Ticket information is available here.
See Rick Cleveland’s induction acceptance speech here.
The entire class had impact far beyond Mississippi, Hall of Fame executive director Bill Blackwell said at the time the honorees were announced:
“There’s national names in there. Leslie Frazier was only the second (NFL) head football coach that went to a historically black college. Marcus Dupree was a nationally known talent coming out of high school, broke national records. Jay Powell played in the big leagues for 11 years. Eugenia Conner was probably the top women’s basketball player of her era. Bob Braddy was a long-time coach and athletic director at Jackson State. In all, it’s a very deserving group.”
Here are this year’s inductees:
• 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.
• After five decades and hundreds of thousands of words written about Mississippi’s
sports legends, Rick Cleveland joins the Hall of Fame’s class of 2017. Cleveland, Mississippi Today’s sports columnist and a former longtime columnist and editor for The Clarion-Ledger, joins his father, Ace Cleveland, a sports writer and sports information director who was inducted into the hall posthumously in 1998. Cleveland began his sports writing career in 8th grade at age 13 for The Hattiesburg American covering low-profile high school football games. The now 63-year-old is still writing about sports and this summer was awarded the Mississippi Sportswriter of the Year Award for a record 10th time by the National Sports Media Association.
Here is another look at Rick Cleveland’s career and his family’s ties to Mississippi sports.