Thanks to our readers who sent in their comments and suggestions on the summer U of
M Magazine issue’s “Fifty of the top moments in the history of Tiger athletics ” article.
Dr. Ronald L. Goode (BS ’67, MS ’69), a retired vice president of Clinical Research
and Scientific Affairs at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, pointed out that we overlooked a
Tiger who recorded several “firsts” in the 1950s.
“Your job of creating the Top 50 was a very difficult one, and my congratulations
to your staff,” says Goode. “However, how could you neglect the first-ever All-American
(and two times, at that), first-round pick of the Atlanta Hawks and the first MSU
player to have his number retired?” We agree.
|Forest Arnold was the University’s first All-American selection in basketball in 1954.
Goode was referring to Forest Arnold, the Tiger center in 1954 who became the school’s
first All-American and who helped Memphis reach its first NCAA tournament game a year
later, a 59-55 loss to Penn State. Arnold ranks fifth on the U of M’s all-time scoring
list (1,854) and third in rebounding (1,109). He is one of 44 former Tigers basketball
players inducted into the U of M Athletic Hall of Fame.
Arnold, who passed away earlier this year at age 77, had his No. 13 jersey retired
in 1995. He chose to enter the ministry instead of pursuing professional basketball
with the then-St. Louis Hawks.
Another reader, Kim Huff (’65), offered another suggestion.
“I enjoyed the summer issue — it brought back a lot of memories!” said Huff. “In the
Top 50 moments, what about current major leaguer Dan Uggla? How many baseball Tigers
have been collegiate All-Americans and a major league all-star?”
Uggla is the only Tiger to have achieved that standard, according to the U of M baseball
media guide. Uggla batted .379, swatted 18 home runs and hit a school-record 28 doubles
during his All-America year in 2001. He is a two-time Major League Baseball All-Star
(2006, 2008) with the Florida Marlins. This past season, he hit 36 homers and drove
in 82 runs with Atlanta.
Another Tiger, Charlie Lea, who recently passed away, didn’t achieve All-American
status, but he did leave an indelible mark on Memphis and at the professional ranks.
Lea, who prepped at Kingsbury High School, pitched a no-hitter for the Tigers in his
lone season at Memphis in 1978. He also pitched a no-hitter in 1981 for the Montreal
Expos and was the starting and winning pitcher for the National League in the 1984
All-Star Game. His likeness, in the form of a pitcher winding up to deliver a pitch,
is one of two statues at the entrance of AutoZone Park, home of the Memphis Redbirds.
One of the magazine’s youngest readers, 12-year-old Dakota James Kross of Pennsylvania,
lobbied for “air time” for a spectacular play on the diamond in 1988.
“(The player) made an amazing over-the-wall catch during his game against the University
of Arkansas-Little Rock,” says Kross. “He ran full-speed as soon as he heard the crack
of the bat. As the ball was leaving the park, he jumped up on the wooden outfield
fence. After colliding with the wall and with his glove hitting the bushes (on the
other side of the fence), he landed back on the warning track. He thought there was
no way he could hang onto the ball, but he opened his glove and there it was.”
The runner on third went home without tagging up, Kross says, making it easy for the
fielder to double-up the runner by firing the ball to the infield.
Who is this mysterious player who made “the catch?” “It’s my dad,” he says. His father,
Chris (MS ’92), played for Memphis from 1988 to 1990 and is currently a National Park
Service Ranger in Delaware Water Gap.
Another reader, M.G. Russell, suggested former Tiger distance runner Paul Bannon for
the list. “He has two records from the 1970s that still stand,” Russell said. “Not
too many athletes have records that have stood that long.”
Bannon’s 28:36 in the 10k and 13:49 in the 5k, both run in 1976, are still school
records. Perhaps the greatest distance runner of all time for the Tigers, Bannon also
went on to win the Vancouver Marathon in 1983 in 2:19.42, one of several former Memphis
athletes to win marathons, including most recently Derek Nakluski, who won the Detroit
Marathon earlier this year. Bannon is now a priest in Canada.
— by Greg Russell