Canadian Football League

Monday, February 27, 2006

Former Canadian Football league player joins Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame

NATCHITOCHES – Five-time major league baseball All-Star pitcher Chuck Finley and Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Craig Perret are joined by college and pro football stars Ronnie Estay, Frank Lewis and Eric Martin among eight state sports heroes comprising the 2006 induction class for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.Basketball greats Rick Robey and Sheila Thompson-Johnson, along with major league infielder and manager George Strickland, complete this year’s inductees. They will be honored June 22-24 at the 2006 Hall of Fame Induction Celebration in Natchitoches, culminating with the induction dinner and ceremonies on Saturday night June 24.Finley, a Monroe native, won 200 games in 17 big league seasons. Perret, from New Orleans, has 4,415 career wins including the 1990 Derby and the 1987 Belmont Stakes. Estay, from Larose, was an LSU All-America defensive lineman who earned Canadian Football League Hall of Fame enshrinement. Lewis, a Houma product and Grambling State All-America receiver, was an All-Pro for the Buffalo Bills and won two Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Martin, a Texas native, set receiving records at LSU and with the New Orleans Saints, helping the Saints to their most successful seasons and earning All-Pro honors.Robey, a New Orleans native, was a high school and college All-American who won championships at the pro, college and high school levels. Pitkin product Thompson-Johnson was the state’s first prep girls All-American who led Louisiana College women’s basketball to national tournament success as a player and coach. Strickland, another New Orleans product, was one of the top defensive infielders in his 10 major league seasons with the powerhouse Cleveland Indians teams of the 1950s. Recipients of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism and the Dave Dixon Sports Leadership Award will be announced in coming weeks. Those honorees will also share the spotlight during the 2006 Induction Celebration.The 27-member LSWA Hall of Fame selection committee reviewed a 26-page ballot with credentials of 128 nominees from 21 different sports categories to select the 2006 inductees. The eight new members will swell the ranks of Hall of Famers to 245 men and women enshrined since the Hall was established in 1958 by the LSWA.. That reflects an average of slightly more than five per year, since inaugural members Gaynell Tinsley, Mel Ott and Tony Canzoneri were elected in 1958. Finley, a Monroe native and former Louisiana-Monroe pitcher, had a career 200-173 record with a 3.85 earned run average and 2,610 strikeouts during 17 major league seasons. A hard-throwing left-hander, he made five All-Star Game appearances while winning 15 games or more in seven seasons. Finley had a 52-27 record from 1989-91, including two 18-9 marks, and finished in the top 10 in ERA five times while pitching for California (1986-99), Cleveland (2000-02) and St. Louis (2002) after being the fourth overall pick in the 1985 draft.Perret, a product of New Orleans, won the 1990 Kentucky Derby aboard Unbridled and captured the 1987 Belmont States on Bet Twice. He has a career winning percentage of 16.25 in 27,164 races , earning $113,837,299 on those mounts with 4,415 wins. Perrett claimed the 1990 Eclipse Award for jockeys, when in addition to the Derby win he rode four more Grade I winners, including one of his three career Breeders’ Cup triumphs. He took the Canadian Triple Crown in 1993. and won the 1998 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, annually presented to a rider for “bringing honor to the sport of thoroughbred racing and to himself.”Martin set LSU’s career receiving records before a 10-year NFL career, nine with the New Orleans Saints, highlighted by a Pro Bowl season in 1988. Chosen as a member of LSU’s “Modern Day Team of the Century,” he caught 152 passes for 2,625 yards and 14 touchdowns despite playing running back as a freshman. Martin led the Saints in receiving for seven straight years (1987-93), catching at least 63 passes in those seasons, mostly from Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Hebert. He caught at least one pass in 107 games while setting Saints records for receptions and yards receiving in a season and career (532 catches, 7,854 yards). He ranks second all-time in Saints history behind Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Dalton Hilliard with 48 touchdowns and is third all-time in scoring with 288 points, trailing Morten Anderson and Hilliard. Lewis, a Houma product, starred as a running back/wingback at Grambling before playing 13 NFL seasons as a receiver with Pittsburgh, winning two Super Bowl titles, and with Buffalo. With the Bills in 1981, he earned a Pro Bowl trip with 70 receptions for 1,244 yards while teaming with Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Ferguson after playing with Hall of Fame passers Terry Bradshaw in Pittsburgh and James “Shack” Harris at Grambling. Lewis was the first player in NFL historyt o gain 100 yards receiving in postseason games for two teams. Playing for Hall of Fame coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling, Lewis scored 42 career touchdowns and rushed for 1,428 yards, an average of 10.8 per carry, while winning All-America honors.Larose product Estay, who won All-America honors while a defensive tackle at LSU from 1969-71, is the second Louisiana native enshrined in the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame, preceded by 2005 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee Tom Hinton. Estay played in nine Grey Cups, winning six, and is a member of the Hamilton Tiger Cats Hall of Fame. He joined Martin on the LSU “Modern Day Team of the Century” after helping the 1971 Tigers lead the nation in total defense. He was a finalist for the Lombardi Award for the country’s top defensive lineman that season. Robey, from New Orleans, played on teams that won NBA, NCAA, NIT and Louisiana prep titles, earning All-America accolates at Brother Martin High School and the University of Kentucky. The 6-10 center led Brother Martin to the 1974 state title in Class 4A, then the largest classification in Louisiana, before launching a college career that led to his No. 53 jersey being retired and hanging from the rafters of Rupp Arena. He helped UK to the 1976 NIT title and the 1978 NCAA Final Four crown, earning All-America honors in 1977 and 1978. The third selection in the 1978 NBA Draft, Robey played eight pro seasons with Indiana (1978-79), Boston (1979-83) and Phoenix (1983-86), helping the Celtics win the 1981 World Championship.Thompson-Johnson was the state’s first prep girls All-American in the modern era at Pitkin High School before leading Louisiana college to national hoops prominence as a player (1977-81) and coach (1985-89). A two time All-American, she led LC to a national AIAW Division II fourth-place finish in her junior season. She is LC’s career scoring leader, male or female, with 2,659 points, ranking among the state’s top five all-time women’s scoring totals. She made the 20-memer LSWA All-Century Team for women’s hoops in 1999. Thompson-Johnson was 75-43 in four seasons as the Lady Wildcats coach, guiding LC to third place in the NAIA National Tournament in her first season. She later served as the first female athletic director in school history.Strickland, a New Orleans product, was a big league shortstop for 10 seasons and a coach, manager and scout for 11 more. He was the starting shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, who won 111 games before the Willie Mays-led New York Giants upset them in the 1954 World Series. Regarded as a brilliant fielding shortstop, Strickland led American League shortstops in double plays in 1953 and topped all big league shortstops in fielding in 1955 (.976) on the way to a career .965 fielding percentage. He shares the big league record for double plays in a game involving a shortstop (5) in 1952. He was interim manager of the Indians in 1964 and 1966.The Induction Celebration June 22-24 in Natchitoches will include a free kids’ sports skills clinic Saturday morning, June 24 with the 2006 inductees and Hall of Fame members enshrined in previous years offering instruction. Tickets for the induction banquet and ceremonies will go on sale in April, said Hall of Fame executive director Doug Ireland ( More Hall of Fame information can be obtained by calling 318-357-6467, including reservations for the Friday afternoon, June 23 Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Scramble at Oak Wing Golf Course in Alexandria.


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