Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame announces 2017 inductees
The Hickory Metro Sports Commission’s Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame
2017 class of inductees illustrates the county’s rich baseball heritage, salutes its
unsung heroes and focuses a new spotlight on an exceptional team of
“This is another fabulous class that consists of individuals who represented their
schools, communities or profession in the highest order,” said Catawba County
Sports Hall of Fame Committee Chair JuJu Phillips. “I would like to thank the
selection committee for their careful screening. Every year, we seem to equal or
top the previous year.”
Established in 2000, the Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame recognizes the
extraordinary efforts and achievements of athletes, coaches, teams and
contributors, while also reinforcing a sense of history and tradition in Catawba
County. New inductees join 72 men and women enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Members of the Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017 include
first-ballot inductees Marty Curtis and Tom Watson, as well as Jerry Johnson,
Ray Lindsey, Mike Mallan and Bob Patterson.
The 2017 class of inductees features the Hall of Fame’s inaugural Team of
Distinction, the 1960 NAIA National Football Champions Lenoir-Rhyne College.
The six new inductees will be celebrated during the annual Hickory Sports
Commission Hall of Fame Banquet on Monday, May 15 at the city of Hickory’s
Highland Recreation Center, where hall of fame plaques are on permanent
display. This year’s banquet features keynote speaker John C. Manuel, editor of
Baseball America and baseball analyst and broadcaster.
Lenoir-Rhyne’s 1960 squad marked the pinnacle of success for the Bears and
Coach Clarence Stasavich. After an 11-0-1 finish and a 15-14 win in the Holiday
Bowl, the Bears became North Carolina’s first four-year college to win a football
championship on the field of competition.
“That team was the first to bring national recognition to Hickory, Lenoir-Rhyne
College and to Catawba County in a way that is still talked about in local sports
circles 57 years later,” Phillips said.
Half of the 2017 class of inductees illustrates the Hickory Metro’s strong baseball
ties, including this year’s leading vote getter Bob Patterson. He compiled a 13-
year career in Major League Baseball as a left-handed pitcher, reliever and
“glove doctor” for five teams. At the same time, he played an integral role in
supporting and developing players and supporting a program at Lenoir-Rhyne
“Bob enjoyed one of the longest and most successful Major League Baseball
careers of anyone who has ever been born or lived in Catawba County,” Phillips
As a high school coach, Marty Curtis holds a similar distinction in terms of
longevity and success. Bunker Hill High School’s baseball coach for the past 34
years, he’s been a part of 723 wins in his career, including 618 as a high school
and American Legion head baseball coach (and counting).
“Marty is one of the winningest and successful baseball coaches in this county’s
history,” Phillips said. “A fabulous choice and a better person.”
Ray Lindsey (1907-1979) was a baseball great at a different level and in a
“Ray was an almost forgotten baseball pioneer who amassed a remarkable
pitching record in Catawba County’s early history of minor league baseball,”
The right-hander was strikeout champion six times during a Minor League career
interrupted by World War II. Some records attribute more than 3,000 strikeouts to
Lindsey, and he won at least 17 games in six seasons. He finished with a career
record of 154-98 and an ERA of 2.89.
Lindsey is one of two deceased inductees in the 2017 Hall of Fame class. Mallan
(1949-1976) distinguished himself as one of the best all-around high school
athletes to attend Hickory High School during its football heyday.
“Mike was one of best multi sport athletes that ever rose through Hickory High
under legendary Hall of Fame coach Frank Barger.”
Mallan rushed for 1,441 yards and 23 TDs during his senior season, the 1966
state title campaign for the Tornadoes. He finished his high school career with
2,396 rushing yards. A decade later, Mallan died tragically while piloting a U.S.
Navy F4 during a training exercise.
Coaching two sports at Ridgeview High School, Jerry C. Johnson led teams to
five state championships and a national runner-up finish. His days in the Hickory
Metro marked the beginning of a basketball-coaching career that produced 821
victories at the college level.
“You are going to have a hard time finding another African-American basketball
coach with the national achievements and impact that Jerry Johnson has had,”
For the past three decades, Tom Watson has been a critical cog in the behindthe
scenes coordination of athletic events that color the Hickory Metro’s unique
sports traditions. He’s administered NCHSAA athletic conferences for the past 25
years, nurtured the Catawba Valley Classic through its first decade and
committed a professional career to education.
“Tom Watson has been a fixture and mainstay who has brought significant
esteem to Catawba County rich high school sports history,” Phillips said.
In addition to an induction ceremony, the annual Catawba County Sports Hall of
Fame banquet salutes Student Athletes of the Year from the public and private
high schools throughout Catawba County.
Area high school athletic directors or school representatives selected a male and
a female finalist from each school, and the winners will be announced during the
banquet. Many of these student athletes participate in multiple sports, and some
are at the top of their academic class.
Tickets for the May 15 Hall of Fame banquet are on sale for $25 each. The
banquet includes a meal provided by Boxcar Grille. Tickets are available at high
schools throughout Catawba County and the Hickory Highland Recreation
Biographical information for each of 2017 inductee follows.
Team of Distinction – 1960 Lenoir-Rhyne Bears
North Carolina’s first true national collegiate football champion brought a one-ofa-
kind spotlight to the Hickory Metro.
Lenoir-Rhyne College’s 1960 team was the first among the state’s four-year
college to capture a national crown on the field of play. Their thrilling 15-14
victory over Humboldt State (Calif.) in the NAIA final marked the pinnacle of
success for a generation of Bears.
Under an eight-year stretch (1955-62) under Coach Clarence Stasavich, Lenoir-
Rhyne amassed an unrivalled record of 76-6-4, including a road win streak that
stretched to 25 games. The period included eight conference championships,
three undefeated seasons, three national title game appearances and the 1960
Coming off a 10-1 season in which they were consistently atop the 1959 football
rankings, Lenoir-Rhyne’s 1960 team continued its dominance. They team won 10
straight games leading into the Eastern Championship Final, when the Bears
hosted Northern Michigan. Lenoir-Rhyne fought to a 20-20 tie, thanks to 38-yard
scoring strike from the Bears’ Tony McClamrock to Marcus Midgett with less than
a minute to play.
NAIA regulations dictated that contests ending in a tie went to the team with the
most total yardage. Lenoir-Rhyne eked out the victory on the yardstick,
outgaining their opponent by 25 yards, 294 to 269.
The national championship final was just as exciting, although a little more clearcut.
Appearing in the Holiday Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., the Bears trailed 14-12
late in the fourth quarter. Freshman kicker Marion Kirby kicked the game-winner
to lift the Bears to the national title.
During the course of the season, Lenoir-Rhyne outscored opponents 335-92, and
notched victories over Appalachian State (26-8), Western Carolina (31-6) and
East Carolina (17-0).
Lenoir-Rhyne tight end Lee Farmer and end Dick Lage were selected first team
NAIA All-Americans, while fullback Adam Maples was named a third-team All-
American. All-conference selections from the 1960 team included guard Jim
Edminston, end Ronnie Frye and wingback Midgett.
Captains for the 1960 squad were Wade Teague and Lage. Richard Kemp led
the team in rushing with 714 yards, while McClamrock led the passing attack with
594 yards. Maples led the team in receiving with 18 catches for 266 yards.
Bob Patterson‘s 13-year career in Major League Baseball is noteworthy on the
national stage, but his contribution to Hickory Metro baseball helps distinguish
him as a Catawba County Hall of Famer.
“Bob was an important part of helping me develop Lenoir-Rhyne College into a
competitive baseball program,” former Lenoir-Rhyne head baseball coach John
Hamilton (1988-1996) wrote in a letter nominating Patterson. “Bob was excellent
with our players, and he helped me develop a very good pitching staff.“
Patterson offered his time to help the pitchers and throw batting practice. He
donated major league equipment to the players – and boxes of it, Hamilton said.
“He gave me advice on pitching and coaching,” he said. “Bob did all this without
getting paid anything.”
He also did it while pursuing a successful career with five Major League Baseball
teams, beginning with the San Diego Padres in 1985 at the age of 26. Through
this career he maintained his residence in Catawba County.
After a year playing on the West Coast, Patterson moved to Pittsburgh where the
left-hander spent six seasons (1986-92). He played a key role in the bullpen of
the Pittsburgh teams that won the National League’s Eastern Division from 1990
through 1992. He appeared in 60 games for the 1992 team, recording nine saves
and a 2.92 ERA.
His career also included stints with the Texas Rangers (1993), California Angels
(1994-1995) and Chicago Cubs (1996-1998). He appeared in a career-high 79
games for the 1996 Cubs, finishing 3-3 with 8 saves and a 3.13 ERA.
“Bob’s athletic record speaks for itself,” Hamilton wrote. “His ability to pitch in
different roles for different teams speaks of the professionalism that is lost to a lot
of the present-day players.”
For his career, Patterson posted a 39-40 record with a 4.08 ERA and 28 saves in
559 appearances. He achieved a 2.68 strikeout-to-walk ratio (483-to-180),
finished 175 games and pitched 617 and 1/3 innings.
While his generosity was on display in Catawba County during much of this time,
he also had a reputation in dugouts around the nation.
“Bob’s nickname was the Glove Doctor because he would fix everyone’s gloves,”
former Pirates pitcher Zane Smith shared in a nomination letter. “That’s the kind
of guy he is – he would do that and more for any of his teammates.”
Patterson spent some game nights in the bullpen re-lacing and repairing gloves –
even some from the opposing team.
“Bob also has a good charity golf tournament in Hickory that I loved to come to
every year,” Smith wrote. “It raised money for the (Lenoir-based) Philippians
Foundation, which provided money to deserving kids for college.”
A 1982 East Carolina University graduate and Hall of Fame member, Patterson
led the Pirates over two seasons in ERA (1981-82) and helped the team to NCAA
tournament appearances both years. His finished his ECU career with a record of
Patterson grew up in Greenville, S.C., where he is a member of the city’s
baseball hall of fame.
Marty Max Curtis
Marty Curtis has been a coach, mentor and friend to the Catawba County high
school baseball community for 45 years. The 2015 N.C. Baseball Coaches Hall
of Fame inductee has been part of 723 career wins, including 618 victories (and
counting) as a high school and American Legion coach.
With Curtis at the helm since 1983, Bunker Hill High School’s baseball success
has included seven conference championships, five conference tournament
championships, two sectional championships, a Western Regional Championship
and a runner-up finish in the 2014 2A Championship.
He was integral to the start of the Catawba County Easter Baseball Classic and
he has directed the annual spring showcase for the Hickory Metro’s high school
baseball talent since 1993.
“When you think of Marty Curtis, you think of loyalty, integrity and how many kids
he has inspired and influenced,” offered long-time Bunker Hill assistant coach
Todd Setzer. “He’s a true role model and the deep respect his player have for
him is in itself very inspiring.”
A three-sport “Most Outstanding Player” at Granite Falls High School (1967-68),
Curtis played four years of college baseball at Lenoir-Rhyne, before joining the
New Market Rebels in the 1971 Valley League Baseball season. St. Stephens
High School hired Curtis in 1971 and he coached JV baseball, JV basketball and
JV and varsity football through 1982 when his career took him to Claremont.
At Bunker Hill, he has been named conference Coach of the Year six times
(1996, 1998, 2000, 2010, 2011, 2014) and N.C. Baseball Coaches Association
Region 7 Coach of the Year in 1996, 1998 and 2014. Bunker Hill’s diamond was
named MM Curtis Field in 2004.
In addition to his time leading high school teams, Curtis spent the summer
seasons with many of the same young athletes. He coached 11 seasons of
American Legion Baseball for Hickory and Caldwell County posts, and his 1993
Hickory team won the Area IV Championship. His Caldwell County teams were
Area IV runners-up in 1994 and 1998.
“All of these accomplishments speak volumes about his knowledge of the game
and his ability to communicate that knowledge to his players,” wrote retired
Catawba County Schools Assistant Superintendent Stephen Hilton, who worked
with Curtis at Bunker Hill and St. Stephens high schools. “Through the strength of
his personal character, he exerts a positive influence on those surrounding him.
He leads by example and lends a steadying hand to those surrounding him.
Marty truly is a lifelong pillar in the community, and an honest and caring
Ray Lindsey was a Catawba County baseball hero at a time when the American
pastime attracted thousands of spectators to South Newton, many of whom just
wanted to see the antics of the Newton-Conover Twins pitcher.
“What the records don’t show is that Ray was an entertainer and that he enjoyed
pleasing the fans with his antics as well as his performance,” wrote former
baseball pupil Jeff Sherrill in endorsement of Lindsey’s Hall of Fame nomination.
“When Ray was on the mound, many came with anticipation to see what he was
going to pull as much as his pitching.”
His pitching was impressive, too. In a career that “officially” began when he was
29 and continued until age 44, he notched a record on the mound of 154-98 with
an ERA of 2.89. Some record books credit Lindsey with more than 3,000
And he achieved those statistics during a career that was interrupted by World
War II, where Lindsey served in the U.S. Air force for the duration of the United
“Despite his late start, and his service to his country … in the somewhat
abbreviated minor league seasons of the day, Lindsay’s career included six
seasons where he won 17 games or more and three 20-win seasons,” wrote
baseball historian Tim Peeler in endorsing Lindsey’s Hall of Fame nomination.
A native of Sevierville, Tenn., the start of Lindsey’s minor league career is
recorded with the Newton-Conover Twins in 1937, when minor league play was
first sanctioned. In that first year of record, Lindsey pitched a perfect no-hit, norun
game. Every year from 1937 until 1941, he was the N.C. State League
Strikeout Champion on the mound for Newton-Conover (1937) and Thomasville
After serving as an electrical specialist in the 404th Fighter Group and as a driver
for a forward air support unit of the 9th Air Force in Europe, Lindsey picked up his
glove where he left off. He played in Lexington and Martinsville before returning
to the Hickory Metro where he finished his career.
He was a Western Carolina League All-Star as a Newton-Conover Twin in 1949
and was a member of the Carolina Mills 1950 Piedmont Textile League
Championship team. In 1952, at age 44, he earned the Strike-Out Champion
award once again.
“Playing into his twilight years, Lindsey was an important starter for the late ‘40s
version of the Newton-Conover Twins, a club much beloved by its community
who nearly doubled the attendance of their neighbor Hickory’s Rebel fans,”
After retiring from baseball, Lindsey helped set up the ABC System in Catawba
County and managed the ABC Store in Newton 3.5 years. He owned an operated
Appliance Repair Shop until his death in 1979.
Jerry C. Johnson
Over a five-year period Jerry C. Johnson led the Ridgeview High School
Panthers through one of the most dominant periods in Hickory Metro sports
From 1947-1951 his football teams won the conference crown every year as well
as three Western regional titles and the 1950 state championship. His basketball
teams went 136-16, won four straight state championships (1947-50) and earned
a national runner-up finish.
Johnson’s success continued at the college level where he coached more than
1,000 games over 45 years as head basketball coach of Lemoyne-Owen
College, in Memphis, Tenn. With 821 victories, his win total is second most in
NCAA Division II history. Johnson is one of only six NCAA men’s basketball
coaches with more than 800 wins.
During his career, Johnson coached and mentored eight NBA players, six high
school or junior college coaches, seven college coaches, four principals, a city
councilman and a city mayor.
A native of Memphis, Johnson’s second career stint as a teacher and coach
started at Ridgeview High School in 1947. At the time, he was able to recruit
athletes from surrounding cities to join his Panthers teams, according to former
football player Billy Rose. This allowed him to create a dominant athletic force on
the gridiron and the hardwood.
Under Johnson, Ridgeview football teams went 46-15-1 in the N.C. Negro High
School Athletic Association, but the “sideline legend” is most known for his
success on the court. A student of the “old school” game, he learned basketball
John McClendon, a pupil of the James Naismith.
“He was very strict with his players both in basketball and football, but he was
also very fair,” Rose wrote in a letter nominating Johnson.
His Ridgeview teams were dominant, nearly doubling the score of opponents in
state championship game victories. His Panthers scored more than 100 points
eight times, including the two highest scoring games in Catawba County history,
a pair of 1951 wins over Taylorsville, 134-33 and 133-29.
Johnson’s LeMoyne-Owen College teams won 10 conference championships
and the 1975 NCAA Division III Championship. He was elected conference coach
of the year seven times (1971-74, 1999, 2000, 2005). Johnson was inducted to
the Fayetteville State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991, to the Southern
Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995 and the
Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
An integral member of Hickory High School’s 1966 state football championship
team, Mike Mallan is hailed by many as the school’s best all-around athlete
during its most successful football decade.
“I doubt Coach Barger ever had a finer all-around, more competitive athlete,”
shared Dennis Benfield, a fellow teammate on Hickory’s 1966 state
championship team. “I wrote and broadcast sports for over 30 years for a variety
of Hickory area media outlets, and I never saw a better athlete. If there’s a tiddly
winks title in heaven, somebody is going to have to beat Mike Mallan for the
Mallan was killed in a training exercise Oct. 11, 1976. The U.S. Navy Pilot died in
an F4 Phantom during a crash at Fort Campbell, KY. He left behind a
distinguished athletic career and fond memories for a generation of Hickory
As a Tornado, Mallan lettered in baseball and basketball where he earned all
conference honors his junior and senior seasons.
The talented athlete was most impressive on the high school gridiron. He earned
all-conference honors in 1965 and 1966, when Hickory assembled a 15-game
win streak, a record at the time. He was also named to the 1966 Shrine Bowl and
the 1966 All Southern Football team.
As senior fullback on Hickory’s state championship he led the punishing ground
game that posted 465 points over the season, another school record at the time.
Mallan rushed for more than 1,441 yards and 23 touchdowns during the season.
His single-season rushing total placed third highest in Hickory football history at
the time – it still holds the sixth place position.
Against Rutherford County in 1966, Mallan rushed for 238 yards, including a
career-high 70-yard touchdown run.
Over his high school career, Mallan rushed for 2,397, and he left Hickory as the
school’s third all-time leading rusher. Today, his yards gained on the ground total
is 10th highest in Hickory football history.
Mallan earned a football scholarship at N.C. State, where he was a member of
the undefeated freshman team, before he was redshirted as a sophomore. He
returned to the field for his junior season before shifting full-time to the baseball
to work as a Wolfpack catcher.
After graduating from N.C. State, Mallan enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he
excelled as a pilot before his tragic death.
“I remember Mike as a great fullback, point guard, and catcher,” said high school
friend and Newton-Conover stand-out Dennis Punch, who included Mallan in his
bridal party. “He was truly one of the best high school athletes in this area during
the late 60s.”
Tom Watson was successful as an athlete at Maiden High School, Lenoir-Rhyne
and Gardner-Webb, but his greatest service to Catawba County sports has come
after he left the field of competition.
“I feel totally inadequate in explaining the value of his ‘SERVICE’ to high school
administrators and athletic directors over these many years,” shared Hall of
Fame member Don Patrick in endorsing Watson. “His dependability, credibility,
fairness, organization, accuracy and thoroughness has drawn praise from school
officials throughout Iredell County, Lincoln County, Cleveland County, Burke
County, Caldwell County and from every school in Catawba County.”
While much of Watson’s service is often out of public view, his work in Hickory
Metro athletics has been integral for more than a quarter century.
Watson has served as the N.C. High School Athletic Association administrator for
Hickory Metro 2A athletic conference since 1993, from the days of the Southern
District VII AA Athletic Conference to the current conference alignment.
“This has been a tremendous amount of work for very little pay,” Hall of Fame
member Randy Lowman shared in his endorsement of Watson. “Every four years
he led the way to structure new conferences, and dissolve the old ones. He
worked side-by-side with coaches, athletic directors and administrators.”
Watson helped launch the Catawba Valley Classic High School Basketball
tournament, a holiday event started in 1988. He served as the tournament’s
director through 2004.
He’s served the Hickory Metro Sports Commission as a board member, vicepresident
and chairman of program sales for the Greater Hickory Classic. Watson
has also served in the Sports Commission’s Hall of Fame Committee for 10
years, including two spent as chairperson.
One exception in Watson’s behind-the-scenes track record was his six-year stint
as host of the Catawba County High School coaches show on Catawba Valley
Cable TV, 1984-1990.
“I cannot think of many people in Catawba County sports history who has given
so much for the betterment of athletics and not ask for anything in return,” Hall of
Fame member Tom Brown wrote in support of Watson.
Much of Watson’s service to Hickory Metro sports came toward the end of his
career as an educator, which spanned 29 years. He got his start in 1966 at
Newton-Conover Junior High School, where he coached basketball. In positions
with West Lincoln and Fred T. Foard high schools as well as Claremont
Elementary School, Watson has served as assistant football coach, boys
basketball coach, assistant principal, athletic director and principal.
Watson played football, basketball and baseball at Maiden High School before
attending Lenoir-Rhyne College where he was a member of the 1960-61 regular
season conference champions. He moved to Gardner-Webb, where he was part
of the team’s first basketball tournament championship in 1962-63. Watson
earned his MA from Appalachian State in 1974, followed by his Ed. S in 1976.
“Tom has been and continues to be a selfless leader of the coaches and high
school athletes in Catawba County,” wrote St. Stephens Athletic Director Jim