— Louisiana Sports HOF (@LaSportsHall) January 24, 2018
BATON ROUGE – LSU’s sports tradition is second to none, and that’s reflected with a long honor roll of inductees in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
That number will grow by three this summer. A Tiger baseball great, Russ Springer, along with LSU tennis coaching legend Jerry Simmons and broadcaster Lyn Rollins, who has called hundreds of LSU games in several sports, will be enshrined June 30 in Natchitoches. The trio was recognized last Tuesday during a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame “Celebrating Our Legends” recognition at halftime of LSU’s Southeastern Conference basketball win over Texas A&M.
Simmons, who coached LSU to 13 NCAA postseason berths, and Rollins, a four-time state broadcaster of the year, were atypically in the spotlight in front of a cheering crowd at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Springer, who had family obligations, was represented by LSU baseball coach Paul Maineri.
Ronnie Rantz, a two-time national championship pitcher for the Tigers a few years after Springer, is the CEO/President of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation and led the “Celebrating Our Legends” recognition honoring the LSU inductees.
For information on tickets and participation in the 2018 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration June 28-July 1 in Natchitoches, visit LaSportsHall.com or contact Rantz at RonnieRantz@LaSportsHall.com or at 225-802-6040.
The winningest tennis coach in LSU, UL Lafayette and Louisiana history (career record of 492-197-2 in 26 years), Simmons is the second winningest coach in Southeastern Conference history behind only the legendary Dan Magill of Georgia. He is one of the top 10 winningest NCAA Division I coaches of all-time.
Simmons led LSU to 13 NCAA appearances, all of which were at least to the Round of 16, in 15 years. He was named National, Regional, SEC and Louisiana Coach of the Year in 1988, when he led LSU to a school-record 27 wins (only 2 losses) and to the National Championship match. LSU was ranked No. 1 in the nation for four weeks in 1988, a first in school history.
He coached Donni Leaycraft to the 1989 NCAA Singles title, the first Grand Slam victory in school history. Simmons coached Johan Kjellesten to the 1989 Clay Court Singles title, the second Grand Slam victory at LSU. Tiger players earned 24 All-America honors and 34 All-SEC honors in 15 years under Simmons, and he had players earn 23 Academic All-SEC honors. His teams won 138 SEC dual matches in career, second in league history to Magill.
In 1998, Simmons was the youngest coach ever inducted into the ITA Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame, and is also in the Louisiana Tennis Hall of Fame. He was the first person to introduce corporate sponsorship to collegiate tennis with the USL Rolex Tennis Classic in 1977. He organized ESPN’s first televised college tennis match in 1979, served as tournament director of the Nokia Sugar Bowl tennis event from 1994-98 and is tour director of 2013 LSHOF inductee Chanda Rubin’s American ITF.
His record at LSU was 278-105, and at UL Lafayette he was 214-92-2 in 11 years. Along with the 1988 NCAA title match, his LSU teams advanced to the NCAA Final Eight in 1987-89-91-92, the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1984-85-86-90-93-95-96-97 and made NCAA appearances in 1984-85-86-87-88-89-90-91-92-93-95-96-97.
A right-hander from Grant Parish, Springer was a standout pitcher at LSU who played 18 major league seasons – from 1992-2010 (minus 2002) with 10 different teams. Only 73 pitchers in MLB history have more appearances than Springer (740), who also set an SEC strikeout-per-nine-innings record (14.5) as a freshman at LSU.
Springer played on three teams that went to the World Series – the 1999 Atlanta Braves, 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks and 2005 Houston Astros. He was the winning pitcher for Atlanta Game 6 of the 1999 NLDS against the Mets, which clinched the National League pennant.
The Grant Parish native played for LSU from 1987-89, compiling a 19-10 career record with a 3.39 ERA and 313 career strikeouts in 252 innings pitched for the Tigers. A seventh-round pick of the New York Yankees in 1989, he made his big-league debut in 1992 with the Yankees. He logged 755 strikeouts in the big leagues in a shade over 856 innings. Springer, mostly a reliever through his career, was 36-45 overall with a 4.52 ERA, but his best two seasons were late in his career – 2007 and 2008 with the St. Louis Cardinals, when he went 10-2 with an average ERA of 2.25 and registered 111 strikeouts. In 2007 (8-1, 2.18 ERA) he was given the Darryl Kile Good Guy Award, presented annually to the Cardinals (and Astros) player who best exemplifies Kile’s traits of “a good teammate, a great friend, a fine father and a humble man.”
Of all the baseball players in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, only three — Baseball Hall of Famers Mel Ott (22 years), Ted Lyons (21 years) and Lou Brock (19 years) — played for more seasons in the major leagues.
Rollins, who has a master’s degree from LSU, is a four-time Louisiana Sportscaster of the Year in his 45th year of sports broadcasting in Louisiana. He is believed to have called more televised college baseball games than anyone in the country, beginning as the primary play-by-play man for Jumbo Sports Network’s groundbreaking telecasts of LSU baseball in 1994, and has done a wide array of college sports including football, basketball, baseball, softball, gymnastics, soccer and volleyball, and many high school football radio broadcasts.
Rollins, a 1973 Northwestern State graduate, is a protégé of the late Norm Fletcher, the Natchitoches broadcaster who won the Distinguished Service Award in 2010. He succeeded Fletcher as the voice of the Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony and has been a co-host of the long-running CST Hall of Fame Showcase recap of each summer’s inductions.
Rollins was the Demon Sports Network play-by-play radio broadcaster from 1993-2003 and had also called games for Grambling and the Alexandria Aces minor league baseball team. He began working for Cox Sports Television in 2003 doing LSU football game replays and has more recently done LSU game telecasts for ESPN3 and the SEC Network, along with CST.
He has done state high school football game of the week telecasts, hundreds of prep football radio broadcasts and still hosts a weekly sports talk radio show in Alexandria. Rollins worked in public relations at Louisiana College and in the private sector, winning multiple Addy Awards for advertising and marketing production and campaigns.