The CEO of Texas County Memorial Hospital will soon be a member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
Wes Murray was a member of the 1979 Three Rivers Community College men’s basketball team that won the junior college championship. That team is one of two teams –– along with the 1992 TRCC national champs –– as well as 10 individuals and three programs that will be enshrined Nov. 6 in Cape Girardeau.
Murray’s 1979 Raiders finished 38-3, beating Mercer County 60-59 in overtime for the championship. Three Rivers had won the semifinals 109-103 in double overtime against Western Texas, then coached by future Arkansas Razorbacks coach Nolan Richardson.
Gene Bess, who coached those TRCC teams, will be named the same day a Missouri Sports Legend. Bess, all-time winningest coach in college basketball history, is receiving the Hall’s highest honor with a bronze bust. It eventually will be on display on the Legends Walkway, home to other bronze statues of Missouri greats such as Stan Musial, Whitey Herzog, Norm Stewart, Ozzie Smith, Len Dawson and George Brett.
Other inductees are:
•Blake DeWitt, baseball (Sikeston/MLB) - Blake DeWitt starred as a shortstop for Sikeston High School, leading the program to three Class 3 state semifinal appearances in four years, and he alone broke nine MSHSAA state records. He went on to play six years in the big leagues, mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Overall at Sikeston High School, he played 107 games – fourth-most in state history – and led Sikeston to a 93-14 record in his career. The most notable high school career records he held were for hits (186), extra-base hits (92), RBI (162), runs scored (167) and consecutive pitching victories (27). He also held the career record in at-bats (379), doubles (50) and total bases (349) and, defensively as an infielder, held the career record for assists (235). His senior year in 2004, DeWitt batted .558 with 15 home runs, 11 doubles and 48 RBI and, pitching-wise, owned a 1.50 ERA and struck out 72 batters in in 56 innings. As a result, DeWitt was named to Baseball America magazine’s High School All-America team as well as the Class 3 All-State teams named by the Associated Press and the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association. Additionally, the Sikeston Standard Democrat newspaper named him its Player of the Year each of his final three years in high school. DeWitt was a first-round draft pick of the Dodgers in 2004, and he played in the big leagues from 2008-2013 with the Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves. Overall, he hit .257 with 21 home runs, 53 doubles, 11 triples and had 135 RBI. Among other highlights was DeWitt was a key part of the Dodgers’ 2008 playoff team that reached the National League Championship Series before falling to the eventual World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies.
•James Wilder, football (Sikeston/Mizzou/NFL) - James Wilder was a standout for Sikeston High School’s football program before going on to play at the University of Missouri and for the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In high school, he set school records in career rushing yards and single-season rushing yards, leading the Bulldogs to an undefeated regular season in 1976. At Mizzou, Wilder led the Tigers to three bowl games and was known as the “Sikeston Train,” becoming one of the most popular players in the program. His 2,357 yards rushing ranks ninth all-time in Mizzou history but led the program until 1987 and was second until the mid-1990s. He rushed for 2,357 yards on 487 carries between 1978-1980, scoring 22 touchdowns, and had 412 receiving yards on 59 receptions. Wilder was a second-round draft pick of the Buccaneers in 1981 and was a Pro Bowl selection in 1984, when he almost set an NFL record for combined rushing and receiving yards in a season but finished 16 yards short with 2,229. In 1984, he set NFL single-season records for carries (407) and touches (492). He also set an NFL record with 43 carries in a game. Wilder remains the Buccaneers’ all-time leading receiver (430 receptions for 3,492 yards) and all-time leading rusher (1,575 rushes for 5,957 yards).
•Mark Littell, baseball (Gideon/MLB) - Mark Littell, a 1971 graduate of Gideon High School, was a 12th-round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals after his senior year. The right-handed reliever went on to spend nine seasons in the big leagues with the Royals (1973, 1975-1977) and St. Louis Cardinals (1978-1982). He made his big-league debut at age 20, and only Bret Saberhagen was younger when he made his Royals debut in 1984. Littell pitched in the 1976 and 1977 American League Championship Series, making a combined five appearances covering 7.2 innings (23 outs) against the New York Yankees. Overall, he finished 181 regular-season games, earning 56 saves (he was primarily the Royals closer in the late 70s) and pitching 532 innings. He struck out 466 and walked 304, and finished with a 32-31 record and 3.32 earned run average. Littell gave up only two home runs in 1976 – including the game-winning home run to the Yankees’ Chris Chambliss that sent New York to the World Series. Littell had a good run with St. Louis, too, finishing in the top 10 in the National League in appearances each year and holds the Cardinals single-season record for strikeouts by a reliever (120 in 1978). In fact, only two other Cardinals relievers — Trevor Rosenthal and Seung Hwan Oh are the other two – have struck out 100 batters in a season. Littell’s average of 11 strikeouts per nine innings also is the best single-season ratio for any pitcher in Cardinals history. Littell went on to coach 18 years in the minor leagues for the Padres, Dodgers, Royals and Brewers as well as in Australia, the Dominican Republic and Panama. In the past 10 years, he has coached 16-and-under and 18-and-under club teams in the Phoenix area and two teams in the Arizona Collegiate League. Additionally, Littell – who lives in Gilbert, Arizona — is the inventor of Nutty Buddy, the world’s best athletic cup, and assists NAIA Dickinson State in North Dakota. He also has authored, “ON THE 8th DAY GOD MADE BASEBALL,” due out in early December.
•Eddie Moss, football (Poplar Bluff/NFL) - A 1967 graduate of Poplar Bluff High School, Eddie Moss was a football standout at Poplar Bluff, Southeast Missouri State and the St. Louis Football Cardinals. Initially, he was an all-conference center and nose tackle for Poplar Bluff in his junior season but then moved to fullback and linebacker in 1966, when Poplar Bluff finished 9-0. Moss earned all-conference on both sides of the ball that season. He went on to play two seasons for Centerville Community College in Iowa and transferred to Southeast Missouri State. At SEMO, he was the team’s top rusher in 1970 and 1971 as he churned out 581 and 667 yards, respectively, and combined to score 16 touchdowns in those two seasons. He scored 32 points in a single game against Missouri-Rolla. Moss went on to be a 13th-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1972 but was cut from the team in preseason. He returned to assist the Poplar Bluff High School team and, encouraged to try out for National Football League teams, Moss made the St. Louis Football Cardinals as new coach Don Coryell came aboard. Moss played for the Cardinals from 1973-1976, serving as a blocking back for Terry Metcalf and helping St. Louis to a 10-, 11- and 10-win playoff seasons his final three years, including two NFC East division championships. Moss finished his NFL career with the Washington Redskins in 1977 and 1978 and, overall in the NFL, rushed for 66 yards on 13 attempts in his career. He then spent 27 years working for the United Parcel Service in St. Louis.
•Dr. Rick Wright, sports physician - A 1980 graduate of Sikeston High School, Dr. Rick Wright currently practices in St. Louis, where he is the Jerome J. Gilden Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine. He has been the team physician for the National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues since 1997. He also was a team physician with Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals from 1998 to 2006 and the NFL’s St. Louis Rams from their arrival in 1994 until 2016, including the Rams’ two Super Bowl seasons. Dr. Wright earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri in 1984 and his medical degree from Mizzou in 1988. He followed with a residency in orthopedic surgery from Vanderbilt University and is fellowship trained in sports medicine from the Minneapolis Sports Medicine Center, where he participated in the care of professional and collegiate teams. His practice centers on the evaluation and treatment of sports and related injuries, with emphasis on the use of arthroscopy in treating problems involving the knee, shoulder, foot and ankle. He has a special interest in knee ACL and revision ACL injuries, meniscus injuries, articular cartilage injuries of the knee, shoulder instability and rotator cuff disease. Dr. Wright has received numerous awards, including the 2002 Cabaud Memorial Award from the American Orthopeadic Society for Sports Medicine, the 2011 Charles S. Neer Award for effectiveness of physical therapy in treating atraumatic rotator cuff tears, and the 2014 O’Donoghue Sports Injury Research Award. The O’Donoghue Award, named after the father of sports medicine, Dr. Don H. O’Donoghue, is given annually to the best overall paper that deals with clinical-based research. Dr. Wright received this for his leadership of the NIH funded Multi-Center ACL Revision Study (MARS). Dr. Wright is board certified and sports subspecialty certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, where he also currently serves as a Director for the board.
•Miles Smith, track (St. Louis Riverview Gardens) -
An argument can be made for Miles Smith being the greatest NCAA Division I athlete Southeast Missouri State has produced in any sport. A native of St. Louis, Smith was a five-time All-American in the 400 meters, earning the honors in 2005, 2006 and 2008. He was named the Ohio Valley Conference’s Male Track Athlete of the Year four times (2005 Indoors, 2006 Indoors and Outdoors and 2008 Indoors) and still owns Southeast school records in the 200 meters (Indoors), 400 meters (Indoors and Outdoors) and 4×400 meter relay (Indoors and Outdoors). Southeast enjoyed tremendous team success with Smith, winning OVC Outdoor championships in 2005, 2006 and 2008. He won seven individual OVC championships in his collegiate career and was named the 2006 OVC Athlete of the Championship at the OVC Indoor Track and Field Championships. Additionally, he was an NCAA Mideast Regional champion. Smith was also an elite competitor on the international stage. He ran for the U.S. National Team in the 2005 International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, where he won a gold medal with the 4×400 meter relay team. He also qualified for the USA Olympic Trials in both 2008 and 2012 and was a three-time finalist at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. In high school, Smith was part of a 4×200-meter state championship relay team and was all-state in the 400. He was an assistant track coach (sprints and hurdles) at SEMO the past three years, guiding five teams and seven individuals to OVC championships, plus seven NCAA qualifiers. His runners broke five school records. Smith now coaches at the University of Memphis.
•Lennies McFerren, basketball (Charleston/New Madrid) - Lennies McFerren has enjoyed a distinguished high school coaching career with nine state titles — seven with Charleston High School from 1977 to 1993, and two with New Madrid County Central (2000 and 2001). He has a 547-184 record, according to the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association. In 2001, he was named Coach of the Year by the National Federation of High School Activities Associations and, after 24 years of coaching, was inducted into the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. McFerren retired after the 2001 season, but returned to coach one season (2005) at New Madrid County Central before going on to become a principal at Scott County Central High School. In April 2016, he was hired to be the boys basketball coach at Kennett High School. McFerren is a 1966 graduate of Howardville High School and a 1975 graduate of Southeast Missouri State. McFerren served in the U.S. Army from 1967-1969 and played for Three Rivers Community College from 1971-1973, earning all-conference as a point guard his second year. He then got his start in coaching as an assistant at Charleston High School before becoming a fixture in southeast Missouri.
•Lana Richmond, softball (Southeast Mo. State) - Lana Richmond coached the Southeast Missouri State softball program for 32 years, compiling an 884-710-4 record from 1982 to 2014. Her teams won five Ohio Valley Conference regular-season titles (1995-1999), five OVC Tournament titles and made five NCAA Tournament appearances. The program had only two scholarships when she took over but, nine years later, the 1991 team made the school’s first-ever NCAA semifinal. Four of the national tournament berths came while Southeast Missouri State played in NCAA Division II. In three decades, the OVC’s winningest coach oversaw nine All-Americans, 37 First Team all-conference selections, four OVC Player of the Year honorees, three OVC Pitcher of the Year winners and one OVC Freshman of the Year. In the program’s first 10 years in D-II in the MidAmerica Intercollegiate Athletics Association, the team made NCAA Tournament appearances in 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1991. The 1986 team finished with a school-record 40 wins, and Richmond was the D-II Regional Coach of the Year in 1987 and 1991. Her program had 30 or more wins in 10 of its 21 Division I seasons. Richmond became the 42nd softball coach in NCAA history to reach 800 career wins, doing so in 2010. Her 600th D-I victory came in 2013. Richmond’s teams also were consistently recognized in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association academic rankings, with her team ranked in the Top 10 for six consecutive years and the 2002 team recognized with the nation’s second-highest GPA.
•Brad Wittenborn, soccer (Notre Dame) - Brad Wittenborn is one of the most respected soccer coaches in the state, having coached the boys program at Cape Girardeau Notre Dame High School from 1991 to 2012 and has been a math and science teacher there for 39 years. Overall, he has a soccer coaching record of 368-154-24. The boys soccer teams won state championships in 2002, 2006 and 2007, plus earned third-place finishes twice. Wittenborn is a 1973 graduate of Chester High School in Illinois and a 1978 graduate of Southeast Missouri State. He initially coached junior varsity basketball after college and became the Notre Dame basketball coach for six seasons beginning in 1985. His 1986 and 1987 teams won state championships with 26-6 and 31-2 records, with the 1987 team coming within only a few points of being undefeated. Wittenborn has had a tremendous influence on Notre Dame High School in roles as technology coordinator, guidance counselor and assistant principal. He continues to teach dual credit physics and serves on the advisory board for the physics department at Southeast Missouri State. He has been honored by the Cape Area Chamber of Commerce and the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau as Educator of the Year, plus was a finalist in 2007 for the National Coach of the Year in soccer. He also has been inducted in the Notre Dame and Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association halls of fame.
•Bob Stolzer, football (Ste. Genevieve) - Bob Stolzer enjoyed a nearly 40-year career as a football coach, mostly with Ste. Genevieve High School. Stolzer was at the school from 1979 to 2015, including serving as head coach beginning in 1989. He was 206-94 overall, and his 1992 team won the Class 3 state championship. The 2003 team placed second, while five other teams reached the semifinals (1990, 1993, 1998, 2002, 2006) and three others reached the state quarterfinals (2004, 2005, 2011). Ste. Genevieve also was Class 3 District 2 champion 14 times. His teams won the Mineral Area Activities Association championship four times and the Mississippi Area Football Conference nine times. Ste. Genevieve was honored as the 2003 Football Program of the Year by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, Inc. – St. Louis Tom Lombardo Chapter, receiving a $1,000 gift. Stolzer was the Class 3 Coach of the Year in 1992, a seven-time district/region Class 3 Coach of the Year and eight-time Mississippi Area Football Conference Coach of the Year. He also served two terms on the MSHSAA football advisory committee and received the Missouri Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Service Award in 2005, plus received MSHSAA recognition for 25 years of service. Stolzer is a 1971 graduate of St. Pius X High School in Festus, where he played football, basketball, baseball and track. He went on to play at Southeast Missouri State from 1971-1974, earning the 1974 Vogelsang Award for most valuable lineman and All-MIAA honors. His coaching career includes time as a graduate assistant at SEMO (1975-76) and assistant coaching roles at Valle Catholic High School (1976-1978), Cape Central High School in Cape Girardeau (1978-1979), and Ste. Genevieve High School (1979-1988).
•Capahas baseball (Cape Girardeau) -
The Capahas baseball program, a semi-pro amateur team for college players up to players in their mid-30s, took root in 1894 – making it the oldest team of its type to be in existence in the United States. The team was originally named after the CA-PA-HA Flour company and, in the early 1900s, retained its name after the flour company dropped its sponsorship. In 2016, Jess Bolen was in his 50th year as manager. He is now 1,519-411 overall for a program that, unlike most summer collegiate teams, is not a member of a league. Since 1980, the Capahas have won 20 state and regional titles (and earned six other at-large berths) to advance to the National Baseball Congress World Series, one of the premier summer collegiate tournaments in the U.S. and based in Wichita, Kan. The team has finished in the top 10 in that tournament 10 times. That includes a fourth-place finish in 2014, when the Capahas were voted the NBC World Series’ Best Defensive Team after committing only one error in 63 innings. A number of Capahas played in the big leagues, including right-hander Cliff Politte (White Sox World Series team in 2005), former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Kerry Robinson and Detroit Tigers pitcher Mike Henneman. Overall, Bolen has been inducted into the Southeast Missouri Hall of Fame (1993), Indiana Sports Hall of Fame (2000), National Baseball Congress Hall of Fame (2008), the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame (2011), St. Louis Baseball Hall of Fame (2013) and earned the Jaycees Man of the Year award in 1978 as well as the National Sportsman of the Year award. He also served 25 years as president of the Capaha Field restoration committee and is an analyst on Southeast Missouri State broadcasts of baseball and basketball games.
•Scott County Central boys’ and girls’ basketball programs - Without question, the Scott County Central High School boys and girls basketball programs are rich in tradition, with a combined 25 state championships for the boys and girls basketball teams. The boys program has won 18 state titles since 1976. Those titles were won in 1976, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. Ronnie Cookson was the head coach for the Braves’ first 13 state championship teams, before Kenyon Wright won the next three and Frank Staple the past two titles. The 1988 and 1991 teams went undefeated at 34-0 and 33-0, respectively, while the 1976, 1980, 1985 and 1990 teams lost only one game each. The Scott County Central girls program has dominated, too. The Bravettes won seven titles in a 14-year period (1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1993) and also reached the state semifinals six other times, with a pair of state runner-up finishes in 1981, 1990 and 1995. Marvin Ohmes and Ron Cook were the head coaches in 1980 and 1981, respectively. Fred Johnson coached the Bravettes’ first two state championship teams, and Danny Farmer coached the next five state title teams. Semona Penrod coached the 1995 team that placed second. Cookson also was an assistant coach on all of their state championship teams. Overall, the basketball teams have had a combined 63 All-State selections, including 21 multiple All-State picks.
•Valle Catholic High School football - Valle Catholic High School first fielded a football team in 1928, and the Warriors have become one of the state’s biggest powerhouses over the past 30 years. Valle Catholic has compiled a 556-296-5 record since its inception, including 141-26 under coach Judd Naeger. The Warriors hold the state record for most state championships (14) and recently held the nation’s longest winning streak at 51 games before suffering a setback Oct. 1 against Lamar, which has won five consecutive Class 2 state championships. Overall, Valle Catholic has won 13 state championships outright, and shared another, with their first three titles earned in Class 2 while the rest have been played in Class 1. Valle’s first state title, in 1981, was a shared after a scoreless tie against St. Pius X of Kansas City. The Warriors then won it all again in 1982, 1983, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015. The program also was a state runner-up three times – 1993, 2009 and 2012. Eight of its state championship teams went undefeated, and only three of its state championship wins have been decided by a touchdown or less – 14-7 against Seneca in 1983, 28-24 against Tarkio in 1991 and 22-21 against Westran in 2010.
•Three Rivers Community College 1979 & 1992 NJCAA Basketball National Champions -
The 1979 and 1992 Three Rivers Community College men’s basketball teams, both coached by Gene Bess, won national championships in the NJCAA Tournament. The 1979 team included assistant coach Roger Pattillo, Thurlon “Sam” Weaver, Don Brown, Mark Guethle, Robert Kirby, Sylvester James, Marvin “Moon” McCrary, Dale Purnell, Milton Woodley, Pat Niemcyzk, Chuck Johnson, Dwayne Walker, Wes Murray and manager Rick Alsup. The team finished 38-3, beating Mercer County 60-59 in overtime for the championship on Woodley’s free throws with 10 seconds left. Three Rivers had won the semifinals 109-103 in double overtime against Western Texas, then coached by future Arkansas Razorbacks coach Nolan Richardson. Weaver scored more than 30 points. Bess’ 1992 team finished with a 35-3 record and featured seven future NCAA Division I players. The Raiders opened the season ranked No. 1 but suffered a loss in their regular-season finale. But in the national tournament, they beat Daytona Beach, Fla. (88-82), Sullivan, Ky. (102-99), Southern Idaho (76-74) and topped Butler County, Kan. 78-77 in the championship game. The Raiders featured Anthony Beane (Kansas State), Justin Wimmer (Memphis), Shone Peck-Love (Alabama), Brian Blackburn (Arkansas State), Benji Johnson (Idaho State), Belvis Noland (Kansas State), Brian Price (Mississippi State), Eric Schweain (D-II Northwest Missouri State), Mario Beamon, Isaiah Hart, Todd Wulf, Thad Rancher, assistant Tom Barr and trainer Thomas Brundage. In the semifinals, the Raiders rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit. In the title game, Beane’s jumper from the elbow of the lane was the game-winner before Wimmer sealed the win with a blocked shot.