2016 Missouri Sports Hall of Fame inductees announced in Cape Girardeau

2016 Missouri Sports Hall of Fame inductees announced
(Source: Missouri Sports Hall of Fame)
(Source: Missouri Sports Hall of Fame)

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame has announced the 2016 class of inductees.


Gene Bess (Poplar Bluff)

Bess has coached at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff since 1970. The Oak Ridge native graduated from Southeast Missouri State in 1959. Bess started his coaching career at the high school level. He spent time at Lesterville, Anniston, and Oran high schools. Bess began his collegiate career as an assistant at TRCC in 1970. His collegiate coaching record stands at 1,231-360. As a Missouri Sports Legend, Bess will be honored with a bronze bust on the Legends Walkway outside the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.


Eddie Moss (Poplar Bluff)

Moss graduated from Poplar Bluff High School in 1967 and played for Southeast Missouri State University from 1970-1971. During his time at SEMO, he was the team's top rusher. Moss was a 13th round pick for the Buffalo bills in 1972, but was cut from the team during preseason. He returned to Poplar Bluff to assist the high school team, and tried out for the NFL again. He made the St. Louis Football Cardinals and played for them from 1973-1976. He finished his NFL career with the Washington Redskins from 1977-1978. Moss spent 27 years working for the United Parcel Service in St. Louis.

Dr. Rick Wright (Sikeston)

Wright, a 1980 graduate of Sikeston High School, practices medicine in St. Louis. He has been the team physician for the National Hockey League's St. Louis Blues since 1997. He was also the team physician for Major League Baseball's St. Louis Cardinals from 1998-2006 and the NFL's St. Louis Rams from 1994-2016.

James Wilder (Sikeston)

Wilder was a standout for Sikeston High School and went on to play for the University of Missouri in 1977. He was nicknamed the "Sikeston Train" during his time as a tiger. Wilder was drafted in the second round by the Buccaneers in 1981. He remains the Buccaneers' all-time leading receiver with 430 receptions for 3,492 years and all-time leading rusher with 1,575 rushes for 5,957 yards. He played with the Buccaneers until 1989. He went on to play for the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions in 1990.

Lennies McFerren (Bertrand)

McFerren has enjoyed quite a high school basketball coaching career that includes nine state titles. During his time at Charleston High School from 1977-1993, his teams earned seven state titles. The other two came during his time at New Madrid County Central in 2000 and 2001. He was named Coach of the Year by the National Federation of High School Activities Association. He was inducted into the Missouri Basketball Coaches Hall of fame after 24 years of coaching. He retired after the 2001 season, but returned to coach one season at New Madrid County Central in 2005 before starting a new career path as the principal at Scott County Central High School. In 2016, he was hired as the boys basketball coach at Kennett High School. McFerren played for Three Rivers Community College from 1971-1973.

Mark Littell

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). 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.

Blake DeWitt

Blake DeWitt starred as a shortstop for Sikeston High School, leading the program to three Class 3 state semifinal appearances in four years. He also broke nine MSHSAA state records. He went on to play six years in the big leagues, mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers.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. 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.

Lana Richmond

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 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.

Bob Stolzer

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. 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. 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).

Miles Smith

A native of St. Louis, Smith ran track for Southeast Missouri State University. He was a three-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 4x400 meter relay (Indoors and Outdoors). Smith 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. He went on to run 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 4x400 meter relay team. He also qualified for the USA Olympic Trials in both 2008 and 2012. He also was a three-time Olympic Championships qualifier in the 400 (2005, 2009, 2011). He was an assistant track coach (sprints and hurdles) at SEMO and now coaches at the University of Memphis.

Brad Wittenborn

Wittenborn coached the boys program at 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. 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. 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.


1979 & 1992 Three Rivers Junior College National Champions (Poplar Bluff)

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 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. Bess' 1992 team finished with a 35-3 record and featured seven future NCAA Division I players. 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.


Valle Catholic Football (Ste. Geneveive)

Valle Catholic has compiled a 556-296-5 record since its inception in 1928, 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.

Scott County Central Boys and Girls Basketball (Sikeston)

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.

Capahas Baseball Program (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.

President's Award

Joe Scott (Poplar Bluff)

Scott, a Poplar Bluff attorney who was a standout basketball player at Gainesville High School and later for the Missouri Tigers, will be honored with the President's Award. The award is given to an individual who promotes sports in the state and greatly assists the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. Scott has been a longtime member of the Hall's Board of Trustees. He has also participated in every special project that the Hall has established and was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. Scott coached youth basketball for many years, served on the Board of the Poplar Bluff Parks and Recreation Department for 20 years, raised money for a variety of sports booster clubs and used his considerable influence to promote sports. For his services and support, Scott has been honored with a variety of Legislative resolutions marking his athletic, civic and political contributions. In his playing days, he was known as "The Gainesville Gunner." At Gainesville High School, he averaged 30.8 points a game, the highest scoring average in the state at that time, as a hard-driving shooting guard who often fired shots from 25 feet. He once scored 58 points in a game his senior year and finished with a career 1,100-plus points, long before the days of the 3-point line. Scott also led the Bulldogs to a fourth-place finish in the Missouri Class M state tournament in 1957, the only time the school has qualified. At Mizzou in March 1961, he scored a record-shattering 46 points against Nebraska. That record still stands. He was a three-year letterman and scored 1,128 career points, which still ranks in the top 25, only six points behind Norm Stewart. Those totals are notable because Scott achieved them in three seasons, given that freshmen were not allowed to play. Additionally, Scott was Mizzou's team captain and earned All-Big Eight Conference, plus was the school's fourth all-time leading scorer and was the highest scoring guard of his era.

The Hall of Fame ceremony itself will take place on Sunday, November 6 at 1 p.m. at the Show Me Center.

If you would like to attend the ceremony, you can call 417-889-3100. Tickets are $125 each. A table of eight is $1,250 and includes an autographed print of Coach Bess, and an autographed print of the induction class.

Current associate sponsores include The Scott Law Group, LLC, as well as legendary Cookson Family and the First State Community Bank.

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