Lyons: River Parishes greats fill La. Sports Hall

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, June 22, 2016

As much as Louisiana loves its sports and its legends, this is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in the state.

For more than 50 years, the Louisiana Sports Writers Association has gathered annually to single out the greatest of the greats to be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

It wasn’t until 2013, however, that we actually had a hall to put them in.

The $23 million, 27,500 square foot museum, tucked along the beautiful Cane River in Natchitoches, was opened in June of 2013 to much fanfare.

Now visitors can view exhibits about their favorite sports legends and see some pretty cool memorabilia — like Will Clark’s San Francisco Giants jersey, Mel Ott’s baseball glove and a sock actually worn by “Pistol” Pete Maravich.

Sadly, not many people know it’s there or that among the inductees are the River Parishes’ own A.J. Duhe from Reserve, Terry Robiskie from Edgard and Lutcher’s Lionel Washington, who was inducted last summer.

Former NFL great Ed Reed, who calls Destrehan home, becomes eligible in 2017.

The membership will reach an even 400 this week with the addition of former major league pitcher Ben Sheets, NBA standout P.J. Brown, NFL star Anthony “A-train” Thomas, Tulane baseball coach Rick Jones, prep coach Jim Hightower, Southeastern coach Arthur “Red” Swanson, two-time All-America basketball player Janice Joseph Richard and “Gentleman” Dave Malarcher.

The ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Natchitoches Event Center, which is located just a few yards from the Hall of Fame.

Malarcher is another well-kept secret, even to many of the sports savvy folks in the River Parishes.

He was a native of Convent, the youngest of 10 children born to a father who worked on a plantation and a mother who was a former slave.

He graduated from New Orleans University (which became Dillard University), served in World War I then chased his dreams in the Negro Baseball Leagues.

He played for the New Orleans Eagles and was 22 when he was scooped up by the Indianapolis ABCs, one of the first teams in the Negro National League, signing a contract for $50.

Polite, quiet, unassuming and well-educated were all adjectives used to describe Malarcher, who obviously earned his appropriate nickname of “Gentleman.”

He was a poet. He also was a stellar third baseman with speed and a stalwart student of the game.

He became a master strategist, learning at the side of the legendary Rube Foster. He learned so much that, when Foster retired in 1926, Malarcher took over the team and led it to several NNL titles and two Negro World Series crowns.

He died in his adopted hometown of Chicago in 1982.

Yet, until this week, hardly anyone knew his name, much less his many accomplishments.

“As much as I love baseball I was not aware,” said former Lutcher football coach Tim Detillier, who learned about Malarcher in December while preparing for the state championship game when a reporter asked.

Current Lutcher football coach Dwain Jenkins knew the name Malarcher and knew he had a young player named Malarcher, but never put the two together until he read one of a series of profile stories distributed by the LSWA this week.

Lutcher High rising junior Kamron Malarcher is the great-great grand nephew of the legend.

“That’s how I found out about it,” Jenkins said.

The good news is, there’s a nice spot in Natchitoches where the legends are remembered and sports history is preserved.

Spread the word.

* The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame is located at 800 Front St. in Natchitoches.

Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sundays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for students, senior citizens and active military. Children 12 and under are admitted free.

For more information visit

Lori Lyons is sports editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. She can be reached at 985-652-9545 or