Missouri Sports Hall of Fame inducts Class of 2021 – Interviews From Some of the Inductees

There were upwards of 400 people in attendance Sunday afternoon at the Chase Hotel in St. Lous to see the induction of the newest members of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

This week, STLSportsPage.com will feature some of the inductees.

To see Rob Rains’ interview with Bill Greenblatt, click the audio player below:

Andy Van Slyke, Former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder (and Pirates player)

Steve Savard, Former KMOV Sports Director (and then news anchor) and Rams play-by-play

To see Frank Viverito, President of St. Louis Sports Commission

Fri: Jerald Andrews, President of Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

Press Release regarding event:

The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday ushered in its Class of 2021 at the Enshrinement in St. Louis presented by Great Southern Bank.

With a crowd of nearly 800 in attendance at the Chase Park Plaza, CEO & Executive Director Jerald Andrews presided over a ceremony that honored 13 individuals, five high school programs/teams and bestowed the John Q. Hammons Founder’s Award on the Hannibal Regional Foundation.

“We are delighted to welcome this wonderful group of inductees into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame,” Andrews said. “Each made tremendous impacts in their respective sports and continue to give back. We also want to thank businesses and individuals for supporting the ceremony.”

The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is a 501c-3 not-for-profit and, through most of its 27-year history, has never applied for state or federal funding. The museum is located in Springfield. Sunday’s event marked the Hall of Fame’s 11th Enshrinement away from Springfield, and third in the St. Louis area, as a way to recognize more deserving individuals and allow more of their friends and family to attend. Previous November Enshrinements have been held in St. Joseph, Kirksville, Jefferson City, St. Charles, Independence, Cape Girardeau, Columbia and Kansas City.

Photo of the Class of 2021 – Sunday at the Chase in St. Louis

These People Got Inducted:

  • Larry Hughes – Basketball player
  • Andy Van Slyke Louis Cardinals
  • Charlie Brown – Jefferson City HS & University of Missouri football standout
  • Steve Savard – Sports Broadcasting
  • Jack R. Watkins, Jr. – Missouri Valley Conference
  • John Vianney High School Boys Soccer Program
  • Frank Viverito – Director, St. Louis Sports Commission
  • Barbara Berkmeyer – Golf
  • Mike Russell – Lutheran North Football Coach
  • MICDS Football Program
  • Celeste Knierim – Softball Coach
  • Mike Claiborne – Sports Broadcasting
  • Lafayette Wildwood High School Girls Swimming & Diving Program
  • Jim Bidewell – Portageville High School Basketball Coach
  • William Greenblatt – Media
  • Lindbergh High School Boys Cross Country Teams 1972-1979
  • Sandi Gildehaus – Francis Borgia Cheerleading Coach
  • Francis Borgia High School Cheerleading Program
  • Hannibal Regional Foundation – Founder’s Award

Larry Hughes – Basketball

Hughes emerged as one of the best players the Show-Me State has ever seen. A standout at Christian Brothers College High School and then Saint Louis University, he played 14 seasons in the NBA after being the eighth overall selection in the 1998 NBA Draft. He was known as a versatile and athletic guard with strong defensive abilities and was selected to the 2005 NBA All-Defensive Team (first team) while with the Washington Wizards. That season, he led the NBA in steals per game (2.89). Hughes helped the 1999 Philadelphia 76ers, the 2005 Wizards, the 2006 and 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers and 2010 Charlotte Hornets to the playoffs. All this came after Hughes starred at CBC, where he led the team to the 1997 state championship. In his one season at Saint Louis University, he was named the Conference-USA Freshman of the Year in 1998 after carrying the Billikens to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He still holds the program’s No. 3 single-game scoring record (40 points), and had four games scoring at least 30 points.

Andy Van Slyke – St. Louis Cardinals

Van Slyke played professional baseball from 1979 to 1995, including 13 seasons in the big leagues – four with the St. Louis Cardinals (1983-1986) and eight with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1987-1994). He was a first-round draft pick (sixth overall) of the St. Louis Cardinals out of New Hartfield Central High School in New York and made his big-league debut on June 17, 1983. Two years later, he helped St. Louis win the 1985 National League pennant (110 hits, 13 home runs, 25 doubles, 55 RBI). Overall, the right fielder won five consecutive Gold Gloves (1988-1992), two Silver Slugger awards, was a three-time All-Star and ranked in the top 10 offensive categories in various seasons. His 199 hits and 45 doubles led the N.L. in 1992, when the Pirates won the N.L. East and fell only a win shy of reaching the World Series for the second consecutive season. Overall, he hit .274 with 164 home runs, 293 doubles and 792 RBI.

Charlie Brown – Jefferson City High School/University of Missouri

A three-sport athlete, Brown graduated from Jefferson City High School in 1963 after earning Scholastic Coach Magazine All-American honors in football, plus was all-conference in basketball and set numerous track records. His jersey has since been retired. In college, he was one of Mizzou’s first black athletes on scholarship, and then became Mizzou’s leading rusher in 1965 and 1966. In fact, in 1965, he led the Big Eight Conference in rushing – and is one of only two Tigers to win a conference rushing crown. That led to Honorable Mention NCAA All-American honors. Brown also was a top kick returner. In track and field, he was a member of Mizzou’s 1965 NCAA Indoor championship team. He later played for the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints, and in the Canadian Football League. A retired educator, he went on to become Deputy Superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools, Superintendent of the Wellston District and was Missouri Assistant Commissioner of Teacher Quality and Urban Education. Brown was inducted into the Mizzou Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996.

Steve Savard – Voice of the St. Louis Rams

A 1982 graduate of Parkway North High School and 1986 graduate of Northwest Missouri State University, Savard has enjoyed more than 30 years in sports broadcasting, winning six Emmy Awards. He was the “Voice of the Rams” from 2000-2015.That came as part of Savard’s 26 years working for KMOV TV in St. Louis, where he was the Sports Director for 19 years before becoming lead anchor in 2013. Since May, he has served as lead anchor of KOLR 10 TV in Springfield. As an athlete at Parkway North, he was team captain in football and baseball, and his football jersey number is retired. As a Northwest Missouri State linebacker, he was a four-year starter, three-year team captain and made 441 total tackles – still No. 2 all-time in Bearcats history. He signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 1986, but an injury in 1987 camp cut his NFL career short.

Jack R. Watkins, Jr. – Missouri Valley Conference

Watkins is in his 30th season at the Missouri Valley Conference, having served in media services, advertising/marketing, television and championship administration capacities during his tenure. He has been tournament director for the MVC men’s basketball championship in St. Louis since 2013, and served as tournament director for four NCAA men’s basketball events, including the 2019 regional in Kansas City, during the same timeframe. In addition, he is the primary staff contact with MVC Sports Properties, which handles television advertising and sponsorship sales for The Valley. He also assists with the promotional campaigns for league championships. As the staff contact for ESPN, CBS Sports, Bally Sports and NBC Sports Chicago, he coordinates contract negotiation, production, hiring on-air talent and clearances for the MVC Television Network on Bally Sports, NBC Sports Chicago and ESPN3/ESPN+. A native of Sikeston, Watkins graduated from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism in 1985.

St. John Vianney High School Boys Soccer Program

St. Louis’ soccer scene has long been among the most successful in the state, and the St. John Vianney High School Boys Soccer Program is among the elite. The program has won seven state championships – tied for third-most in state history – and those cover the years 1978, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1991 and 1992. In all, it has 14 top four finishes, and that figure is sixth-best all-time. The Griffins were state runners-up in 1975, 2005, 2010 and 2017. They also placed fourth in 1974, 1985 and 2006. The foundation was set by coach Mike Villa, who coached Vianney soccer for 25 seasons. The Griffins were mythical national champions, by USA Today, in 1992 and went 64 games without a loss in one stretch in the early 1990s.

Frank Viverito – St. Louis Sports Commission

Since 1995, Viverito has been president of the St. Louis Sports Commission, the privately funded non-profit organization. He is shown in the photo left, with Frank Cusuamano and Rob Rains, both who are in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. Attracting, creating and managing major sporting events for the St. Louis region, the organization uses the power of sports to enhance the area’s quality of life and generate economic and social benefit for the community. During his tenure, St. Louis has secured high-profile events such as the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball Final Fours, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships (nine times), the NCAA Frozen Four, Southeastern Conference men’s basketball tournament, the PGA Championship, Missouri vs. Illinois Arch Rivalry series, U.S. Figure Skating Championships, U.S. Olympic Diving Trials, and U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials. Additionally, he was instrumental in creating the nationally televised Musial Awards for extraordinary sportsmanship. A native of New York City, Viverito earned a bachelor’s degree at Rutgers University and a master’s in sports management from the University of Massachusetts.

Barbara Berkmeyer – Golf

Berkmeyer was the first woman to earn an athletic scholarship to the University of Missouri and won amateur golf titles in five different decades. Having worked on her game at Algonquin Golf Club in Webster Groves, she became a five-time winner of the Missouri Women’s Amateur (1965, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1984) and was a four-time runner-up in that event (1968, 1972, 2000, 2003). She also played in five U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships and four LPGA events, in which she earned the low amateur score twice. She also finished in the round of 16 in the USGA Women’s Senior Amateur (1999, 2000) and was its runner-up in 2002, when she also was the runner-up of the Canadian Ladies National Senior Championship. Berkmeyer is a 13-time Missouri State Seniors champion and won eight St. Louis Women’s District crowns and two Metropolitan Amateur Championships. Berkmeyer, whose family is longtime members of Norwood Hills Country Club, taught in the Parkway School District.

Mike Russell — High School Football Coach

Russell was an old-school kind of coach, in that he was highly successful in two sports at Lutheran North High School. In football, (1977-1995), Russell was 185-74 and had 20 winning seasons. His teams won four state titles in Class 3 (1981, 1988, 1989, 1990), captured 15 district titles and seven ABC League championships. Those teams earned him Coach of the Year awards from The Sporting News, Associated Press and the National Federation High School Association. In 39 seasons as Lutheran North’s baseball coach, he was 528-372. He is an inductee of the Missouri Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Russell also was Lutheran North’s athletics director from 1983 to 2013.

MICDS Football Program

The Mary Institute-Country Day School Football Program has set a high standard for decades. St. Louis Country Day School first fielded a football team in 1919, and merged with Mary Institute in 1992. After MSHSAA began the playoffs in 1968, the Rams have been giants. The program has played for 15 state championships, winning seven of them. The state title seasons played out in 1974, 1979, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1996 and 2004. Along the way, the Rams finished as the state runner-up in 1972, 1978, 1997, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2018 and 2020. Ron Holtman (MSHOF 2014) coached the program for 39 seasons before retiring after the 2007 season.

Celeste Knierim – Softball Coach

Knierim was one of the winningest NJCAA softball coaches in the country, as her teams earned a 1,043-542 record between 1975 and 2004 at St. Louis Community College-Meramec. That includes 16 NJCAA Tournament berths, with 15 teams finishing in the top seven – and three were national runner-up (1978, 1985, 2004). Additionally, her teams won 25 conference titles, and she was a 12-time Regional Coach of the Year. Sixteen teams won Region 16 championships, and 45 players earned All-American honors. Knierim was a coach/evaluator with USA Softball, the first alternate coach for USA Softball’s 1991 Pan-American Trials, President of the NJCAA Softball Coaches Association, and head coach of the first two NJCAA All-Star teams at the Canada Cup International Tournament. Knierim is an inductee of five other Halls of Fame – St. Louis Amateur Softball Association, National Fastpitch Coaches Association, St. Louis/Meramec Athletics, NJCAA and NJCAA Region 16. She also coached volleyball, basketball and field hockey.

Mike Claiborne – Sports Broadcasting

Claiborne reached a milestone in 2021, as it marked his 40th year in sports broadcasting in St. Louis. He began at KMOX in February of 1981 co-hosting “Sports Open Line.” His various duties in St. Louis have consisted of being an analyst, providing play-by-play, a studio analyst and sideline reporter for Saint Louis University basketball, Missouri-St. Louis basketball, St. Louis Blues hockey, St. Louis Rams, Fox Sports Midwest and the St. Louis Cardinals. This year was his 15th as a part of the St. Louis Cardinals radio broadcast team with Mike Shannon, John Rooney and Ricky Horton. Overall, Claiborne has covered the Cardinals in seven World Series (1982, 1985, 1987, 2004, 2006, 2011, 2013). From 1991-1996, he was program director of what’s now KFNS and has been a sports columnist for the St. Louis American newspaper, plus represented NFL and NBA athletes. He is a graduate of St. Louis’ DeAndreis High School and Fisk University. 

Lafayette (Wildwood) High School Girls Swimming & Diving Program

The Lafayette Wildwood High School Girls Swimming & Diving Program has earned 27 top four finishes at the state meet – by far the most in state history. That includes 11 state championships, which are second-most all-time. The title years cover 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2017. Jean Chard, Jr. coached nine of the state championship teams, and Todd Gabel has coached the Lancers to two of them. The program’s individual swim champions have been Allyson Angle, Holly Bickle, Heather Bickle, Becca Dawson, Amy Hennies, Jessi Holz, Kim Lambert, Franceska Petrosino, Michelle Plum, Caroline Rodriguez and Jamie Saxe. Elle Christie is its lone diving champion. In the relays, Lafayette won 10 state titles in the 200 medley, 11 in the 200 freestyle and 10 in the 400 freestyle.

Jim Bidewell – Basketball Coach

Bidewell made his mark in southeast Missouri, where he coached the Portageville High School boys basketball program for 24 seasons. His teams were 542-170 and reached seven Final Fours, with five teams winning it all. The state titles played out in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 2009 – with the 1991 and 1993 teams each posting 31-0 seasons. His Bulldogs also won 11 district titles and 14 Bootheel Conference championships. In 2017, Portageville dedicated its basketball court in his honor, naming it Jim Bidewell Court. All this from a former standout at Poplar Bluff High School, as Bidewell led the Mules in assists in 1976 and 1977 when they reached the state quarterfinals. He went on to graduate from Arkansas State University.

William Greenblatt – Media

Greenblatt’s career as a sports photographer spans 49 years, mostly in St. Louis. His work has captured the history of the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Football Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, St. Louis Rams, soccer’s St. Louis Steamers, Spirits of St. Louis and the University of Missouri. He has worked for United Press International since 1980 and also has been the official photographer of the St. Louis Fire Department, the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame and politicians on both sides of the aisle. Greenblatt’s work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country, including with a Sports Illustrated cover photo of University of Missouri football player Michael Sam. Greenblatt is a 1972 graduate of Ladue Horton Watkins High School and a University of Missouri graduate in both 1977 and 1981. He is a member of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame and recipient of the Jim Otis Award from the Lombardo  Chapter of the National Football Hall of Fame.

Lindbergh High School Boys Cross Country Teams 1972-1979

Lindbergh dominated the boys cross country scene in the 1970s, winning six state championships and finishing as a runner-up twice. It all came under the guidance of then-coach Tom McCracken. The state championships cover the years 1972, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978. The runner-up seasons were in 1973 and 1979. Brian Blackford won the individual state title in 1978, the only year in which a Lindbergh runner took the top place on the podium. Lindbergh’s success sparked coaches and runners across the state to try to copy their success in an effort to catch up in state hardware. The six state titles are now tied for fifth-most, and only two other programs in the state have won six titles within an eight-year stretch.

Lindbergh High School Cross Country representatives: Front Row L-R Dave Nassar ’78, Mark Leicht ’73, Tim Decker ’78, Steve Hornung ’78, Coach Tom McCracken, Brian Praechter ’78, Tim Biscan ’74, Russ Lauer ’72 David Bender ’73, Gary Steffens “73;  Back Row L-R- Scott Lackey ’80, Craig Miller ’78, Alan Konecnik ’81, Mark Kruse ’76, Kevin Bauer ’76

Sandi Gildehaus & St. Francis Borgia Cheerleading Program

  • Sandi Gildehaus: A 1990 graduate of Washington High School, Gildehaus has been the coach of the St. Francis Borgia Regional High School Cheerleading Program since 2003. Under her watch, the program has won nine state championships since 2011, making it one of the state’s most successful. Gildehaus was a cheerleader at East Central College before graduating in 1993, and she is now working for the Washington school district as the Coordinator of the Parents as Teachers Program.
  • Francis Borgia Cheerleading Program: The Knights have won nine state championship in the Missouri Cheerleaders Coaches Association. Those cover the years 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. The program was coached by Mary Ann Pelster for year before she retired in 2003, leaving a solid foundation for what was to come. The program also has qualified for the United Cheerleaders Association (UCA) National four times, received the Sportsmanship Award from the Missouri Cheerleaders Coaches Association and was featured in American Cheerleader Magazine.

John Q. Hammons Founder’s Award – Hannibal Regional Foundation

The Hannibal Regional Foundation will receive the Founder’s Award, presented to an organization that champions the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and sports across the state. The Foundation has partnered with the Hall of Fame on the Shoeless Joe’s Golf Classic at Norwoods Golf Club. Since its inception, the event has raised more than $800,000 to help support the delivery of exceptional healthcare at the Hannibal Regional Healthcare System. Making it all happen is Wendy Harrington, CEO and President of the Hannibal Regional Foundation, Todd Ahrens, CEO and President of the Hannibal Regional Healthcare System, Chris Maune, Coordinator Development and Director of the Shoeless Joe’s Golf Classic, and Angie Wilcoxson, Director of Finance. Their work has allowed the tournament to bring in celebrities the day before the event, with the celebs enjoying a get-together and usually conducting an autograph session at a community event.

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