|Athletics Hall of Fame expanded by eight|
January 23, 2004
In December SFSU awarded eight former student-athletes and coaches with the school's highest athletic honor -- induction into the Athletics Hall of Fame. Former stars from wrestling, baseball, soccer, track and field, football and golf, as well as a contributor to the athletics program, were honored at a campus ceremony before friends, family, colleagues and other Hall of Famers.
The evening became an oral history of the institution, according to Athletics Director Mike Simpson, who served as the master of ceremonies. All inductees spoke about their years at State and frequently expressed appreciation for the great education they received.
Arnold Vezzani ('42) planned to attend State for a semester so he could save money for a transfer to UC Berkeley. But the member of the first-ever Gator soccer team fell in love with the campus and never left. He also played on the baseball team and broke the school record for batting average, a distinction he held for 50 years. Vezzani was also a member of the varsity debate team and Sigma Alpha Eta Fraternity as well as president of the Newman Club and 1942 senior class.
A football player under head coach Joe Verducci and one of the top golfers at SFSU, John Sochor ('57) was named to the First Team All-Conference and was the Gator's number one rusher and touchdown leader in his senior year.
Far Western Conference Heavyweight Champion for two years, fourth place finisher at the '72 Olympic Trials, and National AAU Freestyle and Greco-Roman Champion in '73, Mack McGrady ('75) was a wrestling phenomenon. He also played football as a defensive tackle and was a member of the track team and Judo Club.
Reggie Redmond ('77) was a linebacker for the Gator football team under the direction of legendary head coach Vic Rowen. During his senior year, he received Honorable Mention All-American honors as well as All-League honors.
The only woman of the group, Ruth Whitehead ('86) stood out in track and field. A two-time All-American in the 100-meter hurdles, she has held the school record in the 400-meter hurdles since she set it in her senior year.
Dean Williams ('86) was one of the Gator baseball team’s All-Americans. During his senior year, he was the Northern California Athletic Conference (NCAC) Player of the Year and received First Team All-NCAC honors. He holds countless school records, including fourth in home runs (16), fourth in runs batted in (97), sixth in hits (151) and sixth in walks (69).
A professional player for the Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers, Essex Burton ('91) got his start at State. Nicknamed "Gas" for his incredible speed, Burton is the school single-season record holder for runs scored with 61 during the 1990 season. He is also the school career stolen base leader with 72. While in the minor-leagues, he stole more bases than any minor- or major-league player, for two years in a row.
Finally, James Southam was honored as one of SFSU’s most supportive and contributing faculty members. The faculty athletic representative during the '70s and '80s, Southam also announced home events, served as a track meet official and timer for both football and wrestling teams. He was an academic adviser for student-athletes in business and math and was a generous financial contributor. He was the first president of the NCAC.
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