Photo | J. Mark Bryant
Taking part in the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 induction ceremony at the RSA Battle House are, from left, Lee Shirvanian, Randy Patrick, Jack Robertson, Amy Chapman Kleinschrodt, Carlos Lett, Jake Peavy and Billy Coleman.
Winning recognition for your athletic abilities on the state or national scale is quite an impressive feat. However, when you come back to be honored by your hometown the effect can be greatly magnified.
That was the common theme when the inductees for the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 were recently announced. The 30th annual banquet is set for April 24 at the RSA Battle House.
Joining the select company are football players Leon Lett and Don Hultz, Major League Baseball stars Jake Peavy and Juan Pierre, women’s sailing legend Amy Chapman Kleinschrodt and longtime Faulkner State basketball coach Jack Robertson.
Social hour begins that Tuesday at 6 p.m., with the banquet to immediately follow at 7. Tickets for the banquet are $100 each and can be purchased at www.mobilesportshalloffame.net, or by calling Pam Young at 251-709-0310.
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson was present at the news conference to congratulate the new inductees.
“Mobile has its share of heroes and this is another great group,” Stimpson said. “I’m grateful for the Hall of Fame honoring these players.”
Here is a glance at the inductees:
Don Hultz was born on Dec. 6, 1940, in Moss Point, but attended South Mobile County High School in Grand Bay. He played both offense and defense at Southern Miss, helping the team win the UPI Small College National Championship in 1962.
After signing with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent, he went to start all 14 games as a rookie in 1963. That season he set the NFL record for the most opponents’ fumbles recovered in a season at nine.
He was later traded to Philadelphia, where he spent 10 years as a defensive end, defensive tackle and middle linebacker. Hultz wrapped up his career with Chicago in 1974. With his total of 151 games, only Jerrel Wilson, Kenny Stabler, Willie Anderson and Rich Caster have played in more NFL contents among Mobilians.
After his career, Hultz worked as a criminal investigator for the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office in Tennessee. He now lives in suburban Memphis.
“Don could not make it today, but wanted me to tell you how honored he is,” said Billy Coleman, a former Southern Miss teammate. “Not only was he a tremendous athlete in all three sports, but he was a first-class person.”
Amy Chapman Kleinschrodt becomes the first sailor inducted into the MSHOF. She captured five gold medals while competing in the U.S. Sailing Association Women’s National Championships.
While living in New Orleans and sailing out of Bay Waveland Yacht Club in Mississippi, she was a member of the crew in the 1977, 1978, and 1980 finals, winning Gold in the 1977 and 1980 championships.
In 1981, she moved to Mobile and joined the Buccaneer Yacht Club. She skippered in the 1997, 2003, 2009 and 2011 Championships, winning gold medals in 1997, 2009 and 2011 regattas. She also picked up bronze medals in 2003 and 2010 events.
“To be part of the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame is amazing,” she said. “The sports history is amazing.
“I was part of some talented crews, so I want to share this with them.”
Leon Lett starred at Fairhope High School. He then earned NAIA Honorable Mention honors at Emporia State, where he led the team to a conference championship and the NAIA National Championship Game.
At 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, he was nicknamed “Big Cat” for his agility. Picked in the seventh round of the 1991 NFL Draft, he was a member of 1993, 1994 and 1996 Cowboys NFL champions. He recorded a sack and set a record for longest fumble return in Super Bowl history (64 yards) in Super Bowl XXVII. In Super Bowl XXVIII, he had six tackles and forced a game-changing fumble that was recovered and returned for a touchdown.
Lett was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1995 (68 tackles, 4 sacks and 26 quarterback pressures) and 1998 (51 tackles, 20 quarterback pressures, seven tackles for loss and four sacks). He has been the defensive line coach for the Cowboys since 2011.
“We are so excited for our family,” said Carlos Lett, his brother who represented him at the announcement. “This is a huge honor for us all.”
Jake Peavy was born in Mobile and grew up in Semmes. He attended St. Paul’s Episcopal School, where he led the Saints to the 1999 5A state baseball championship and was named the Alabama High School Player of the Year.
He turned down a scholarship from Auburn and signed a professional contract after being drafted in the 15th round by the San Diego Padres. After pitching in 2001 and 2002 for the Mobile BayBears, he made his Major League debut June 22, 2002, against the New York Yankees.
Peavy became one of the top pitchers in baseball in 2004, leading the majors with an earned run average of 2.27. He was named to his first all-star game in 2005, leading the National League that year in strikeouts with 216. He helped the Padres to a western division title in 2006, again leading the NL in strikeouts per nine innings.
In 2007, he won the National League Pitching Triple Crown: leading the league in wins (19), ERA (2.54) and strikeouts (240). He was named the Cy Young Award winner and finished seventh in the most valuable player voting.
In 2009, Peavy was traded to the Chicago White Sox. Although he missed much of the next two seasons with injuries, he was picked for the 2012 All-Star Game and ended up winning the American League Gold Glove Award.
Another trade took place in 2013, with him going to Boston. He started three postseason games as the Red Sox won the World Series.
He was traded to San Francisco the next year. He started four more postseason games as the Giants claimed another championship. This allowed Peavy to become the first pitcher in MLB history to win two World Series in consecutive years while representing two different leagues.
“Thanks for much for this amazing honor,” said Peavy. “You don’t achieve any success without a support system. My career starts and originates here in Mobile.”
Juan Pierre becomes the third straight former University of South Alabama baseball standout to join the MSHOF (with Lance Johnson and Dave Stapleton). While he was born in Mobile, Pierre grew up in Louisiana. Despite being drafted out of high school, he played in junior college for two years.
During his lone season with USA in 1998, Pierre hit .373 while recording 77 runs scored, 16 doubles, five home runs and 40 RBI. He was successful on 54-of-62 stolen base attempts. The Jaguars went 42-19, claiming the Sun Belt Conference regular-season title and coming within one game of advancing to the NCAA College World Series. For his efforts, he received numerous All-America honors and the SBC Player of the Year award.
He was drafted in the 13th round by the Colorado Rockies. He reached the major leagues in 2000, going on to post 2,217 hits — a total that included 255 doubles, 94 triples and 18 home runs — stealing 614 bases and driving in 517 runs while batting .295 over 14 seasons with six different organizations.
Pierre led either the American or National League in steals on three occasions, and he also had a .304 batting average in three postseason appearances. He batted 7-for-21 (.333) in helping the Florida Marlins to the 2003 World Series title.
“Juan and I played together in Chicago,” Peavy said while representing his friend. “He epitomizes what Mobile is all about. Juan should be the poster child for USA.”
Jack Robertson is a veteran of 42 seasons as head coach of the Faulkner State Community College basketball team, stepping down in 2016 before it was renamed Coastal Alabama Community College. He guided the Sun Chiefs to 832 wins and 440 losses through the 2015 season, which ranks him ninth all-time in wins among coaches in the National Junior College Athletic Association.
His teams won 14 Southern Division championships. The 1991 team won the state championship and finished sixth in the national tournament.
A graduate of Baldwin County High School and Marion Military Institute, he has been inducted into the Baldwin County High School Hall of Fame in 1997 and the NJCAA Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2010.
“I will cherish this for the rest of my life,” Robertson said. “When I see these great people being honored today, I was thinking something must be wrong with the picture for me to be included.”
• The MSHOF will also pay special recognition to WNSP radio’s Lee Shirvanian and WKRG TV’s Randy Patrick. The two actually called games for Baldwin County High School in Bay Minette on the radio together back in 1980, but have gone on to become Mobile sports broadcasting icons.