Tommie Lee Agee was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
Tommie Lee Agee will be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame on April 27.
The original Tommie Lee Agee is an integral part of the rich baseball history of Mobile. He was born in 1942 in Magnolia, Alabama, and rose to fame as a star baseball player in Mobile. In 1966 he was named the American League Rookie of the Year with the Chicago White Sox, but then became best known for his contribution to the 1969 New York Mets, who miraculously won the World Series that year. The outfielder made two of the greatest catches in World Series history in Game 3 to help his team to the world title.
During that World Series, there was a 5-year-old boy in Maplesville, Alabama, by the name of Tommy Agee. He was so impressed by the exploits of the man who shared his name (if not the same spelling) that he began doing research and making the major leaguer the subject of his school writing projects.
The more young Tommy researched, the more he found he had in common with the man. In fact, his family told him that he was in some way a distant relative of the baseball star. It was at that point that Tommy Agee became Tommie Agee. Amazingly, the two already shared a middle name.
“I liked the way he played in the World Series and then I found out we were distant relatives,” Agee said. “Once I started reading about this guy, I decided in first grade I would change the spelling of my name to be like him. I wanted to be a great athlete and I knew he was a great athlete who I had something in common with. My grandmother always pronounced my name ‘toe-me.’ She didn’t mind me changing the spelling as long as she could still call me ‘toe-me.’”
Agee didn’t go on to great baseball success, but he one-upped his namesake in terms of professional sports success. While his hero won one World Series, the younger Agee won two Super Bowls as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Agee’s success was noteworthy because he had to take advantage of his opportunities in a crowded backfield at Auburn. In the mid-1980s, Agee shared the backfield with future NFL backs Bo Jackson, Lionel James, Tim Jessie and Brent Fullwood.
With all that talent, Agee settled in as an undersized fullback in Pat Dye’s wishbone offense. The results turned out spectacularly for Agee, who started for four years at Auburn, then played for the Seahawks, Chiefs and Cowboys in the NFL.
Today, Agee is the head of the leisure and recreation department for the city of Andalusia. He spends his days trying to be a role model to kids who are more likely to be positively influenced by a professional athlete than anyone else.
Agee certainly knows that from experience.
Agee will be joined by another incredible group of athletes in the Class of 2019 Alabama Sports Hall of Fame (ASHOF). The class also includes Jacksonville State national championship football coach Bill Burgess, Olympic gold medalist hurdler Willie Davenport, former South Alabama baseball player Luis Gonzalez, former Alabama assistant football coach and Kansas head coach Bud Moore, Alabama football legend Antonio Langham, director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association and former state champion football coach Steve Savarese and soccer great Cat Reddick-Whitehill.
Politician Jabo Waggoner and sports artist Daniel Moore will also be recognized as Distinguished Sportsmen.
Gonzalez is the first of what should be many former South Alabama baseball players inducted into the ASHOF. He played 18 seasons in the Major Leagues, leading the Arizona Diamondbacks to the World Series title in 2001. His hit against superstar reliever Mario Rivera in Game 7 of the World Series clinched the championship.
That same year (2001), Savarese led Daphne High to the state football championship. He had previously won a state title in Kansas and went on to great success at McGill-Toolen before taking the top administration job in Alabama high school sports.
Gonzalez and Savarese are certainly worthy recipients of the recognition. Both are still trying to make a difference now that their achievements on the field are complete.
But they will have to wait to find out if they had the kind of impact the older Tommie Lee Agee had on a kid who clearly had the athletic ability, but needed a role model to emulate.
When the younger Tommie Lee Agee is inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, it may be an even bigger tribute to the elder Agee than his own induction.
Randy Kennedy writes a weekly column for Lagniappe and is co-host of “Sports Drive” every weekday from 3-6 p.m. on WNSP 105.5 FM, the country’s first all-sports FM station.
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