Ben Sheets, P.J. Brown, Anthony Thomas headline 2016 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction
By: Doug Ireland
NATCHITOCHES – Four-time major league baseball All-Star pitcher Ben Sheets, NBA standout P.J. Brown, University of Michigan and NFL star Anthony Thomas, and two longtime highly-successful coaches, Tulane baseball coach Rick Jones and prep football coach Jim Hightower, headline eight 2016 inductees chosen for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Also in the class: Janice Joseph Richard, a two-time All-America basketball player and highly successful coach at her alma mater, Louisiana College, along with Xavier University; Arthur “Red” Swanson, Southeastern Louisiana’s most successful football coach who became an impactful figure in LSU sports history; and “Gentleman” Dave Malarcher, a great player and manager in Negro Leagues baseball. That trio will be inducted posthumously.
They will be enshrined Saturday, June 25, in Natchitoches to culminate the 2016 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration June 23-25.
The 2016 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 2016 inductees. The panel considered 113 nominees from 28 different sport categories on a 24-page ballot, said Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland.
The eight new inductees will raise the total of Hall of Fame members to 326 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 2016 Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award and the recipients of the 2016 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism presented by the LSWA. Those inductees will be announced later this year.
The complete 11-person Class of 2016 will bring the membership in the Hall of Fame to 400 men and women, including 16 Dixon Award winners and 58 sports journalists.
Brown and Thomas each starred at Winnfield High School in rural Winn Parish, and are the only the second unrelated pair of athletes from the same high school to be enshrined in the same induction class. In the Class of 1998, football star John Petitbon and golf champion Pat Browne were alumni of New Orleans’ Jesuit High School.
Sheets won an Olympic gold medal as part of Team USA’s 2000 championship team after a breakout college career at UL Monroe, then made four major league All-Star