Three happy sports events took place at the University of Texas-Pan American on Saturday, Feb. 13.
The Lady Broncs earned a 78-69 basketball victory to defeat Utah Valley and improved to 6-2 in the Great West Conference.
Later that night the Broncs used their last home game to upset Utah Valley’s men, 74-61. The Broncs also advanced to the open-for-all tournament in Utah Valley, a high altitude in which to win.
Six new members of the UTPA Sports Hall of Fame that day attracted a ballroom full of Pan Am sports fans. These included new UTPA President Dr. Robert Nelsen, who attends both team’s home basketball games.
The president’s strong backing of athletics, popular at virtually all major universities, set a great tone to the ceremonies. He and all the speakers recognized the importance of sports in education.
This proved to be one of the best of all the Athletic Hall of Fame dinners in history, and this former Sports Information Director has witnessed nearly all of them. They may need a much larger room next year, because the event is handled so well and is interesting.
The only woman honored this year, Nancy Mireles, won the best acceptance speech, in this writer’s opinion. She calmly explained how both her parents had died when she was young, and she dedicated all her victories in women’s track to them. Many of her university records still stand from 1985-89.
Once she ran and won three distance victories in one day, to clinch the conference championship.
Three baseball stars were honored.
Felipe Leal pitched brilliantly from 1963-65 to lead the Broncs to the NAIA playoffs twice.
He still ranks fourth in wins for the Broncs and third in career strikeouts. Born in Matamoros, he went on to play professional baseball both in Mexico and the U.S. The Baltimore Orioles bought him from the Mexican League for $35,00O, a lot of money in l966.
Jim Hickey, a great pitcher for the Broncs, led them to their record 64 victories by winning 16 games, losing only two, in 1983. He struck out 109 and walked only 19 batters in 103 innings.
After pitching seven years in the minors, he succeeded spectacularly in the majors as a great pitching coach. He became one of seven men to reach two World Series, the Astros and Tampa Bay, as a pitching coach.
Lupe Salinas, another baseball legend, pitched the Broncs to their only spot in the College World Series (so far). He beat Longhorn legend Burt Hooton, 1-0, in San Antono to stop the Texas Longhorns for the trip to Omaha, Neb. Lupe still holds the Bronc record for career earned runs, a super l.16 a game. He later starred in Mexico, was traded for five players, and has owned A&L Athletics in McAllen for 30 years.
Fred Taylor, perhaps the most versatile basketball star in Bronc history, often played guard, forward and center… all in one game. At 6-foot-6, a great jumper, he scored all over the court. He was UTPA’s fourth highest scorer with 1,621 points. In his senior season, he averaged 27.9 points and 13 rebounds a game. He played in the National Basketball Association for Phoenix and Cincinnati. He also played in Europe.
Dr. Ben Garza was inducted into the Hall of Honor as UTPA’s sports doctor from l982-present. His stories and comments were appreciated like his long service to countless athletes. His stories ranked with the athletes’ best. He was quoted in the program saying, “A true athlete doesn’t understand being hurt. I always tried to get them back in there when I could. The thing I take away from all this is having learned the true value of athletics.”