Biloxi Dodgers, boxers headline 2016 Hall of Fame class

Five former Biloxi Dodgers, three local club boxers and a nationally renowned boxing referee are among a list of 17 inductees into the Biloxi Sports Hall of Fame this year.

The newest class will be honored Sunday, Aug. 28 in a 5:30 p.m. ceremony at the Biloxi Civic Center. The program, which will feature the inductions and a reception, is free and open to the public.

“Once again the selection committee has done an outstanding job of identifying worthy additions to the Biloxi Sports Hall of Fame,” said Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich. “And being a former boxer, I’m especially pleased to see some local legends from the ring added to the Hall.”

Amateur boxing champions Wayne Kopszywa, Richard Frentz and Forrest Rodolfich were selected as a group induction. Similarly, a group of former standouts with the Biloxi Dodgers were chosen: George Wright, Freddie Wright, Andrew Wright, Randolph “Kitty Kat” Peyton and Frank Gill.

Freddie Steinwinder III was named to the prestigious Biloxi Sports Hall of Fame after a laudable career as an amateur boxing referee and an even more noteworthy professional career that included officiating more than 1,000 bouts.

Baseball star Mark Graham was the only unanimous selection this year. A member of the Biloxi High School Hall of Fame and Delta State Sports Hall of Fame, Graham had a .373 career batting average for the Statesmen and set a NCAA Div. II single game record with 9 RBI.

Inductee Gene Ganucheau won a state football championship at Biloxi High, a national junior college football title at Mississippi Gulf Coast, and was a star tight end for the University of Kentucky.

Coaches Ronnie Farris (baseball), John Pugh (basketball) and Barbara Ferrill (softball) also were selected this year, along with Biloxi High distance runner Walter Blessey IV, Indians football star and track speedster Ronald Bond and BHS quarterback Richard “Rick” Pitalo.


2016 Class of the Biloxi Sports Hall of Fame

Ronald Bond: A starting end on the BHS football team from 1954-1956, Bond was named All-Big 8 first team his senior year and selected to play in the North-South All-Star game in Jackson. As a sprinter on the track team at Biloxi High, he set state records in the 100-yard dash, the 220-yard dash, the 440-, 880- and mile relays, and in the broad jump.

Walter Blessey: A three-year star letterman in track at Biloxi High, Blessey ran the mile and mile relay, and was team captain in 1957. He was the Big 8 mile champion his senior year, setting a mile record at the South State Meet.  He was a scholarship track star at Ole Miss, helping set a school record in the mile relay.

Ronnie Farris: A native of Corinth, Farris coached football and basketball for many years at BHS, but was best known for his state championship baseball teams in 1965 and 1970. His teams were always considered among the best-coached in the state during his tenure with the Indians.

Barbara Ferrill: A 1950 graduate of Biloxi High, Ferrill had a legendary career as a softball, basketball and swimming coach. The softball fields at Hiller Park were named in her honor in 1996 for her decades of dedication to girls athletics. She joins her husband Tom in the Biloxi Sports Hall of Fame.

Gene Ganucheau: A multi-sport star, Ganucheau was one of the main contributors to Biloxi High’s 1969 State Championship in football. His performance as tight end helped the Mississippi Gulf Coast Bulldogs win a national Junior College title in 1971. He was a two-year starter at Kentucky and is a member of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Hall of Fame.

Mark Graham: A star in football and baseball, Graham is a member of the Biloxi High School Hall of Fame and the Delta State Sports Hall of Fame. As a senior at Biloxi in 1979, he was named to the first team All-State squad. He was a four-year starter at Delta State, a three-time Academic All-American and a third-team NCA All-American in 1982. He also led the Statesmen to the 1982 Division II College World Series, where Delta State finished third.

Richard “Rick” Pitalo: A high school All-American in 1968, Pitalo led the Biloxi Indians to an undefeated 11-0 season his senior year with a record-setting 25 touchdowns passing and 7 running. He was offered and accepted a scholarship to play for Bear Bryant at Alabama, but injuries eventually resulted in a transfer to Tulsa, where he finished his college career playing baseball.

John Pugh: Pugh’s 20-year coaching career at Biloxi High was highlighted by state basketball championships in 2001 and 2004. He also won five district championships and a South State title for his alma mater. His record as a head coach was 243-73 for a .7689 career winning percentage.

Freddie Steinwinder III: A 1974 graduate of Biloxi High, Steinwinder crafted a 30-year career of amateur and professional boxing officiating. He was a well-respected referee who seamlessly moved from the amateur ranks to the professional, where he excelled in more than 1,000 bouts, including 38 world title fights.

Biloxi Boxing Group: Wayne Kopszywa was the most chronicled of the three boxing inductees, which also included Richard Frentz and Forrest Rodolfich. A 14-year star of local boxing, Kopszywa was a multi-state and regional Golden Gloves champion. Rodolfich and Frentz were recognized for their numerous titles, too, although records of their accomplishments have been lost to Hurricane Katrina.

Biloxi Dodgers Group: Kitty Kat Peyton was the most recent standout among the Biloxi Dodgers group inductees. His playing career as a slugging first baseman spanned four decades. Although Katrina also resulted in the loss of newspaper articles and memorabilia about the other Dodgers inductees this year, each was widely respected for their careers with the former Negro League team. They include George, Freddie and Andrew Wright, and Frank Gill.

To see photographs from the induction banquet on Aug. 28, click here.