By CHRIS HOBBS
HICKORY – The next class headed into the Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame has a baseball flavor and includes a former major league player, a prep coach with more than 600 wins and a great minor leaguer from the past.
A six-person class for 2017 announced by the Hickory Metro Sports Commission on Monday includes:
- Bob Patterson, who spent 13 years as a left-handed pitcher in the majors with four teams.
- Marty Curtis, whose 45 years in baseball as a player and later head coach in high school and in American Legion, includes more than 600 wins leading Bunker Hill High.
- The late Ray Lindsey, whose baseball career began with the 1937 Newton-Conover Twins. He won 154 games and had a career ERA of 2.89.
- Jerry C. Johnson, who over a five-year period guided old Ridgeview High teams to five state titles (one in football, four in basketball).
- The late Mike Mallan, a key member on Hickory High’s 1966 state title football team who ran for 2,397 career yards and earned a football scholarship to N.C. State.
- Tom Watson, who played football, basketball and baseball at Maiden High, coached at West Lincoln and Fred T. Foard, and has spent nearly 25 years as a league secretary and administrator for area high school conferences.
The class of 2017 will be inducted in a ceremony scheduled May 15 at the city of Hickory’s Highland Recreation Center with John C. Manuel, editor of Baseball America and a baseball analyst and broadcaster as the guest speaker.
Also to be honored will be the 1960 LRU football team as a Team of Distinction. The Bears, coached by the late Clarence Stasavich, went 11-0-1 and won the Holiday Bowl 15-14 to become the first state four-year college to win a football championship.
The class of 2017 will bring the number of Hall of Famers to 78. The HOF began in 2000.
“This is another fabulous class that consists of individuals who represented their schools, communities or profession in the highest order,” Hall of Fame committee chairperson JuJu Phillips said in a press release. “I would like to thank the selection committee for their careful screening. Every year, we seem to equal or top the previous year.”
A brief look at each new member:
Reached the majors at age 26 with the San Diego Padres in 1985, then spent six seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1986-92), playing a key role out of the bullpen on teams that won National League Eastern Division titles from 1990-92.
Patterson pitched for the Padres, the Pirates, the Rangers, the then-California Angels and the Cubs (1996, 3-3 with eight saves, 3.13 ERA). He lived in Catawba County during his big league career and helped former LRU baseball coach John Hamilton develop the Bears’ baseball program.
“Bob’s athletic career speaks for itself,” Hamilton wrote. “His ability to pitch in different roles for different teams speaks of the professionalism that is lost to a lot of the present-day players.”
Patterson had a 39-40 major league record with an ERA of 4.08 with 28 saves in 559 appearances.
A 2015 pick for the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association (NCBCA) Hall of Fame, Curtis has been a part of the local baseball community for 45 years.
He became head baseball coach at Bunker Hill High in 1983 and his teams have won seven conference titles, five conference tournament championships, two sectional titles and a West Regional (2014), the year the Bears finished second in the state 2A tournament.
Curtis was a three-sport star at Granite Falls High (1967-68) and he played four years of college baseball at LRU. He coached JVs teams at St. Stephens beginning in 1971.
Bunker Hill’s baseball field was named MM Curtis Field in 2004.
“When you think of Marty Curtis, you think of loyalty, integrity and how many kids he has inspired and influenced,” said long-time Bunker Hill assistant coach Todd Setzer. “He’s a true role model and the deep respect his players have for him is in itself very inspiring.”
Some record books credit Lindsey with 3,000 strikeouts, and he achieved that in a career that was cut short by serving in the U.S. Air Force in World War II.
In 1937, he pitched a perfect game and every year from 1937 through 1941, he led the N.C. State League in strikeouts while pitching for Newton-Conover in 1937 and Thomasville the next season.
Lindsey was a Western Carolina League All-Star for the Twins in 1949 and won another ‘Ks’ title in 1952 at the age of 44.
“Playing into his twilight years, Lindsey was an important starter for the late ’40s version of the Newton-Conover Twins, a club much beloved by its community who nearly doubled the attendance of the neighbor Hickory Rebel Fans,” wrote baseball historian Tim Peeler.
JERRY C. JOHNSON
From 1947-51, Johnson’s football teams at old Ridgeview High won a conference title each year, three Western regional titles and a 1950 state championship.
He also coached basketball at Ridgeview, with the teams going 136-16, winning four straight state titles (1947-50) and posting one national runner-up finish.
Johnson coached more than 1,000 games over a 45-year career at Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis, Tenn., and had 821 wins (second most in NCAA Division II history). He coached eight NBA players.
“You are going to have a hard time finding another African-American basketball coach with the national achievements and impact Jerry Johnson has had,” Phillips said in the press release.
Mallan lettered in baseball and basketball at Hickory High and was an all-league football player in 1965 and 1966 when the Red Tornadoes posted a 15-game win streak. He was named to the 1966 N.C. Shrine Bowl team and was on the 1966 All-Southern team.
He rushed for more than 1,441 yards with 23 TDs as a HHS senior and ran for 238 yards and a career-best 70-yard TD run in 1966 against Rutherford County.
After going to N.C. State to play football, he switched and played baseball for two years for the Wolfpack.
Mallan was killed in a training exercise in Oct. 1976 as a U.S. Navy pilot flying an F4 Phantom in Fort Campbell, Ky.
“I doubt (HHS head football) coach Frank Barger ever had a finer all-around, more competitive athlete,” wrote 1966 teammate Dennis Benfield. “I wrote and broadcast sports for over 30 years… and I never saw a better athlete.
“If there’s a tiddly winks title in heaven, somebody is going to have to beat Mike Mallan for the championship.”
Watson has played key roles out of the spotlight in area athletics for a very long time.
He helped launch the Catawba Valley Classic prep basketball tournament in 1988 and was tournament director through 2004. He’s also been a board member, vice president and chairman of program sales for the Greater Hickory Classic.
Watson has served on the Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame for 10 years (two as chairman) and he spent 29 years in education as a teacher, coach and administrator.
While working as an administrator with high school conferences, Watson has developed league schedules, coordinated league meetings and taken the lead on nearly everything associated with making things run smoothly in conferences that include the current Southern District 7 Athletic 2A.
“I feel totally inadequate in explaining the value of his service to high school administrators and athletic directors over these many years,” HOF member Don Patrick said in the press release. “His dependability, credibility, fairness, organization, accuracy and thoroughness has drawn praise from school officials through Iredell County, Lincoln County, Cleveland County, Burke County, Caldwell County and from every school in Catawba County.”