Wyoming opens Hall of Fame with 10 inductees

2001-03-04T23:00:00Z Wyoming opens Hall of Fame with 10 inductees The Billings Gazette
March 04, 2001 11:00 pm

Gazette staff

From Curt Gowdy to Tom Browning to Boyd Dowler, the 10 inaugural inductees into the Wyoming Sports Hall of Fame are sure to stir passionate memories for fans of athletics in the Cowboy State.

In addition to broadcasting legend Gowdy, perfect-game pitcher Browning and two-time Super Bowl winner Dowler, seven other legendary sports figures will be recognized during the first induction ceremonies set for Saturday, June 9 at the Radisson Hotel in Casper.

The group of inductees, to be formally announced today, includes longtime Laramie High football coach John Deti Sr.; multi-sport prep star at Laramie and successful Cheyenne Central coach Lew Roney Jr.; bareback bronc riding world champion Joe Alexander; three-time basketball All-America player Kenny Sailors; 1995 National League Championship Series MVP Mike Devereaux; former Baltimore Colts running back Jerry Hill and junior college Hall of Fame basketball coach Oscar “Swede” Erickson.

In addition, 2000 Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling champion Rulon Gardner has been selected as Wyoming Athlete of the Year, and Homer Scott Jr., a former Sheridan High football standout and civic/athletic booster, has been chosen to receive a lifetime achievement award.

The WSHOF inductees do not have to be Wyoming natives, nor are they required to have competed for the University of Wyoming. They must have had local, national or international impact in relation to the Cowboy State. Members must be retired from competing and/or coaching at the time of induction.

The WSHOF initially will be housed at the Casper Events Center, with hopes of constructing its own building some day. The shrine was the idea of Donald “Duke” Bolich, a retired dentist from Broomfield, Colo., but is a native of Thermopolis.

For information on the induction ceremony, contact Bonnie Foster at (307)-473-1141 or on the Internet at wshof@wyoming.com

Hall of Fame inductees:

John Deti Sr. – The son of Italian immigrants once coached every sport at Laramie High School, but he is best known for his football coaching talents. Deti led the Plainsmen gridders for 33 seasons (1944-76), winning 14 state championships. He compiled a 203-87-7 record and his Laramie teams once won 34 consecutive games. Known as the “Gray Fox,” Deti was the first Wyoming coach to be selected as a National High School Coach of the Year winner.

Lew Roney Jr. – A 1966 graduate of Laramie High School, Roney went on to play football, basketball and track as a freshman at Yale University. Yale won the Ivy League football title three times while Roney was competing there. One of his teammates was future NFL star Calvin Hill. Roney began his teaching and coaching career at Cheyenne Central in the early 1970s. He guided Central to five state championships and four runner-up positions. Roney is currently on a leave of absence while teaching at a German-American public school in Berlin. He will return to Cheyenne this summer.

Joe Alexander – Known as “Alexander the Great,” this cowboy from Cora won a record five consecutive Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) world bareback riding championships from 1971-75. He competed in 13 National Finals Rodeos and is an inductee in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo. He also owns the best score in bareback riding at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo with a 93 in 1974. Alexander won a collegiate bareback riding championship at Casper College in 1967.

Kenny Sailors – The native of Hillsdale was a multiple-sports star in high school before gaining national attention as a basketball player at the University of Wyoming. He remains the only Cowboy to earn All-America status three times (1942, 1943 and 1946). During that period he also served in World War II. Sailors was the unanimous pick as College Basketball Player of the Year in 1943, the season UW won its only NCAA championship. He is credited with inventing the jump shot and went on to play several seasons in the NBA, including a stint with the Boston Celtics.

Jerry Hill – The Lingle native was selected by fans as the University of Wyoming football program’s Player of the Century in 1992. A running back, the Cowboys posted a 25-6 record during his playing career and won the 1958 Sun Bowl. He played eight seasons in the NFL for the Baltimore Colts, rushing for 2,668 yards. Hill played in Super Bowl III and V.

Boyd Dowler – After excelling in football at Cheyenne High School, Dowler went on to memorable careers at the University of Colorado and with the Green Bay Packers. Dowler, who lettered at CU from 1956-58, quarterbacked the Buffaloes to their first-ever bowl victory in 1956 – a 27-21 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Playing as a wide receiver, Dowler was a member of five NFL championship teams with the Green Bay Packers (1961-62-65-66-67) and two Super Bowl winners (1966 and 1967). He was selected as the NFL Rookie of the Year by UPI after the 1959 season and went on to lead the Packers in receiving for seven of his 11 seasons. He is in Green Bay’s Hall of Fame.

Curt Gowdy – A native of Cheyenne and former University of Wyoming basketball player, Gowdy went on to be named National Sportscaster of the Year seven times. As a broadcaster, Gowdy covered eight Super Bowls, 16 World Series, 12 Rose Bowls, eight Olympic Games and 22 NCAA Final Fours – more major events than any other broadcaster in history. He is also known for creating and hosting “The American Sportsman,” a weekly hunting and fishing show. Gowdy began broadcasting career at Cheyenne radio station KFBC.

Tom Browning – The Casper native broke into the major leagues with 20 wins for the Cincinnati Reds in 1985, becoming the first rookie to win 20 games since the New York Yankees’ Bob Grim in 1954. Most notably, on Sept. 16, 1988, Browning pitched a perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also helped pitch the Reds to a World Series championship over the Oakland A’s in 1990. He finished with a 123-90 record in 302 career games. Browning played every season with the Reds, except his last. He finished with the Kansas City Royals in 1995.

Oscar “Swede” Erickson – “Swede” was the head men’s basketball coach and athletics director at Casper College from 1957 until his retirement in 1986. His teams won 74.3 percent of their games in compiling a 638-220 record and made nine appearances at the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. His Thunderbirds finished second in 1964. Erickson stands 11th on the list of winningest all-time junior college coaches. He was inducted into the NJCAA Hall of Fame in 1985 and died on Aug. 3 1999 at the age of 78.

Mike Devereaux – A Casper native and Kelly Walsh graduate, Devereaux owns World Series rings as a member of the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers and 1995 Atlanta Braves. He competed in World Series’ at three levels – junior college (Mesa CC), college (Arizona State) and major leagues (Dodgers and Braves). In the 1995 National League Championship Series he hit a home run in Game 4 of the Braves’ sweep of the Reds. In 12 major league seasons he racked up 949 hits in 1,086 games.

Special award winners

Rulon Gardner – The Afton native shocked the sports world on Sept. 27, 2000 when he defeated three-time champion Alexander Karelin of Russia for the Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling super heavyweight title. Gardner became the first Wyoming native to win a gold medal in Olympic competition with his 1-0 victory. It was Karelin’s first international defeat and marked the first time he had been scored on in 10 years. Years earlier, Gardner, in 1989, won the state 3A wrestling championship as a high school athlete for Star Valley.

Homer Scott Jr. – Still regarded by many as the best high school football player in Sheridan history, Scott went on to be a key supporter of athletics at all levels in the Cowboy State after injuries cut short his playing days. During his senior season in 1952, Scott rushed for 300 yards and seven touchdowns as Sheridan beat Natrona County in the state championship game. Scott has helped spearhead several fund-raising drives, including the Sheridan Stadium Foundation. The non-profit foundation was created to raise money to build a new stadium complex and wellness facility at the high school. To date, $2.6 million has gone into building a stadium, track and practice field at the high school. Scott has also been active in fund-raising for athletic facilities at the University of Wyoming. A few years ago, Scott opened the Powder Horn Golf Club in Sheridan.

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