Dec. 16, 2009
Columbia, S.C. - Former Western Carolina two-sport standout Wayne Tolleson will be inducted into the 50th-anniversary class of the 2010 South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the Board of Directors has announced. Tolleson is among a class of eight inductees which runs the gamut from football, basketball and baseball stars to swimming and tennis.
The Class of 2010 consists of University of South Carolina graduates Bill Currier, who played in the NFL, and Bob McNair, owner of the NFL's Houston Texans; Clemson grads Horace Grant, who won four NBA titles, and Joe Bostic, who played in the NFL. Also being inducted are Paul Scarpa, Furman's longtime coach who is the winningest active NCAA Division I tennis coach; MLB standout and Spartanburg native Wayne Tolleson, in addition to Courtney Shealy Hart of Irmo, who took home a swimming gold medal in the 2000 Olympics; and Stan Smith, a longtime Hilton Head resident who won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open tennis titles.
Tolleson, who played at Western Carolina from 1974 through 1978, starred at Spartanburg High School - where he had his jersey retired - and for the Catamounts in baseball and football. He also played 10 years of major league baseball.
On the gridiron, Tolleson spent two seasons competing in the Southern Conference, hauling in 105 passes for 1,747 yards and 14 touchdowns. In 1977, he was also WCU's emergency placekicker and was a perfect 6-of-6 on field goals, connected on 22 of his 24 on extra point kicks. Tolleson was named All-Southern Conference as a wide receiver after leading both the conference and the NCAA Division I in receiving in 1977 with 73 catches for 1,101 yards and seven touchdowns.
Tolleson played in the first-ever Canadian-American Bowl in Tampa, Florida and returned the opening kickoff. He was later named to WCU's All-20th Century Football Team and in 1990, was inducted into WCU's Athletics Hall of Fame.
On the diamond, Tolleson averaged .340 over two Southern Conference seasons (1977 & 1978) with 58 stolen bases and set 10 WCU season and career records. He was a two-time, All-Southern Conference shortstop (1977 & 1978), earning both the 1978 Southern Conference Baseball Player of the Year and 1978 SoCon Athlete of the Year plaudits. He was also selected to the SoCon's 75th Anniversary team.
An All-NCAA Atlantic Region selection in 1978, Tolleson was later drafted by Major League Baseball (Texas Rangers) in eighth round.
The slick fielding middle-infielder, who played second, shortstop and third during his 10-year career, began his MLB tenure with the Texas Rangers in 1981 and stayed with the organization through 1985. After a stint with the Chicago White Sox, he additionally played for the New York Yankees.
Tolleson enjoyed his best year as a hitter in 1985, posting a .313 batting average and finished his career with a .241 average and a .972 fielding average. With the Yankees, he won the New York Press Association's "Good Guy Award" in 1987. He ranked eighth in the American League in stolen bases in 1983 with 33.
In addition to his prowess on the playing fields, Tolleson was also accomplished in the classroom. He was named Academic All-Southern Conference (football & baseball) in both 1977 and `78. He also was recognized as Western Carolina's Department of Health & Physical Education Major of the Year, listed among the "Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities" and boasted a 3.78 cumulative academic average while playing two sports.
The eight-member class in the 2010 South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame will be inducted to the state's highest athletic honor on May 24, 2010 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Tickets (table of eight for $500) and program sponsorships may be purchased by calling the SCAHOF office at 803/779-0905. The affair, which includes a reception, dinner and a silent auction of sports memorabilia, begins at 5:30 pm.