Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame: A case for Bobby Cox

by Berry Tramel Modified: April 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm •  Published: April 8, 2014
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I used to write some about the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. Heck, I used to be on the nominating committee or advisory board or whatever the heck we called it.

I don’t do much of that anymore. Just can’t seem to muster up the care. I find most halls of fame end up rather political, and rather than get worked up about it, I just quit caring. Other things to worry about in life.

But some people still do care, and I respect that. And one thing this blog occasionally does is give people a forum to promote a candidate. I received an email last week from Barry McPherson, a vice president of assessment services for The Benchmark, a property investment firm in Prosper, Texas. McPherson was writing in support of long-time Oklahoma Baptist University baseball coach Bobby Cox for the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. His letter captured my attention, so I thought I would share it:

“Almost 34 years ago as a high-school senior at Cushing, I was introduced to Bobby Cox.  He was coming in to be our next baseball coach and no one knew anything about him. Way before the advent of the internet.

“That season was relatively uneventful with only three seniors and three returning starters, I believe we played .500 ball and were knocked out of post-season play in our first game. The thing I do remember the most is spending my entire spring break sleeping in the locker room at Antlers High School playing five days of doubleheaders against the likes of Antlers, Stringtown and Rattan before returning home to a Saturday doubleheader against Yale.  After catching everyone with a pulse over the prior 11 games, Coach Cox finally took my glove from me after I fell asleep against the backstop during the last game of the week.

“Nothing against our prior coaches, but in that year I learned more about baseball than all of my prior playing time put together. As a know-it-all kid, he also put me in my place a time or two while teaching me about leadership and earning respect. I still play in the MSBL (adult baseball), but that was my last year of truly organized baseball.

“Coach Cox, on the other hand, is a different story all together.  He stayed at Cushing for a few more years and then became the head baseball coach at Oklahoma Baptist University in 1984.  He was an award-winning team leader for the Bison as a player, just prior to the Cushing gig.  In the 30 years since his return, he has fielded teams that would rival any of the larger state schools.  He got his 1,000th win three years ago.  He has never had a losing season.  In the OBU Hall of Fame.  In the NAIA Hall of Fame.  Coach of the Year numerous times.  Yet, he is not in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.  1,000 wins….and not in the HOF.  He represents conviction and dedication on par with any coach at any level.  He is revered and respected not only by his former players and school, but the organizations the Bison are a part of as well.

“That is why I write this to you.  As a senior on his first team ever, I find it astounding that with all of his accomplishments, he is not in the HOF.  I have written a similar letter to the HOF board but include you here as since your respective positions can make things happen I could never accomplish. I encourage you to read up on him and come to the same realization I have known for a long time, that despite their honorable accomplishments, there are few inductees that represent Oklahoma sports any better, and it is a disservice to not have Coach Bobby Cox of OBU in the HOF.  I ask that you talk to those you know in the industry to further this cause.  Call up those on the nominating committee and let us get Coach Cox the ultimate recognition he deserves.”

I like this kind of letter because it makes me think. I think first of Bob Colon, the former Oklahoman sports editor who hired me 22 years ago. Colon was a champion of small-college athletics, and it would take him 90 seconds to give me the full rundown on Bobby Cox’s qualifications and his standing in the small-college pantheon. Colon died in 2005, and a ton of Oklahoma history and perspective died with him.

But not only did I work side by side with Colon for 13 years, but I read him all the time when I was a kid. So I know immediately that two small-college baseball coaches would rank higher than Cox on the historical scale. Joe Record at now-defunct Phillips University and Don Parham at Southeastern State built national NAIA powerhouses. One or the other was a national championship contender almost every year. Neither is in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.

I liked McPherson’s letter, but you can go over the top. It’s not “astounding” that Bobby Cox is not in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. It would be astounding if Mickey Mantle was not. And it’s not a “disservice,” either. You can’t put every coach in. Almost all of us have coaches from our younger days that had a profound impact on our lives. Some of those coaches had long and distinguished careers, be it on the high school or small-college or even higher level.

Heck, Enos Semore isn’t in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. He took the Sooners to five straight College World Series and made college baseball popular in this state, even though other teams at OU and OSU had been successful before the 1970s. Semore is a rock-solid individual as well. Seems like Semore probably ought to go in before Bobby Cox.

But like I said, I don’t really care anymore. I no longer find it interesting to discuss the question, who should go in this year? I do find it interesting to discuss, should this particular person go in? Bobby Cox is an interesting candidate. Bob Colon mentioned him dozens of times to me. And truthfully, former players want to see their old coach honored so they can let him know how they feel about him. McPherson probably has told Cox over the years, but this blog can help spread that message.

As for the Hall of Fame candidacy, Bobby Cox’s name is in the public marketplace. That’s the best I can do.

 

 


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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