Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame Honors 10th Annual Class

Posted In: Sports, Local Sports,   From Issue 727   By: Mike Thompson

09th June, 2011     0

Basketball achievements are front and center among honorees for the 10th annual Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame ceremony.

Three hoops coaches are joining the Hall of Fame. They are Ron Vondette of Carrollton High, Marshall Thomas of Saginaw High and Art Pelzer of Frankenmuth High. Top players are Archie Tullos of Buena Vista High and the former St. Mary's Cathedral, and members of Arthur Hill High's 1943-44 Class A State Champions.

thers among this year's inductees are speed skater Joe McDonald from the former St. Andrew's High, swimmer Tammie Spatz-Stone and soccer player Tom Anagnost, both from Heritage High, sports administrator Bob Becker Sr. (deceased) from Saginaw Valley State University and baseball pitcher Ed Albosta (deceased) from Arthur Hill High.

As more folks stay home and watch nightly sports on cable TV instead of going to live high school games, the Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame keeps a local emphasis in the spotlight.

Saginaw sports fans who wish to support the endeavor may attend the awards dinner at 3 p.m. on Nov. 6, which is a Sunday. Advance tickets are $40, or $45 after Oct. 30. Numbers to call are 792-3022 or 777-5363.

ARCHIE TULLOS was one of the final Saginaw prepsters to perform before the onset of the cable era. He played his first two varsity seasons at St. Mary's in 1981-82 and 1982-83 before the Diocese of Saginaw closed the school in favor of creating a consolidated Nouvel Catholic Central, achieving Class D all-state honors at a junior with 25 points per game. He transferred to Buena Vista for his senior year and upped his average to 30 points, making the Class B all-state team and finishing eighth for Mr. Basketball among statewide players from schools of all sizes.

"I think nowadays you might find people who are more comfortable watching games in their homes, but our games back then were always packed," Tullos says.

The price of gas also was cheaper.

"Sometimes, for our away games we had as many people as for our home games," he recalls.

His prep career highlight came as a senior, hitting a buzzer-beating shot in the Class B state semifinals to defeat Rogers Park. Alas, Buena Vista fell to Oak Park in the championship content.

But Tullos wasn't through with hoops. He played four seasons with honors under scholarship at the University of Detroit, and as a senior he made like Chauncey Billups or Ray Allen by hitting 91 percent of his free throws and averaging 26 points per game. He scored 49 points against Bradley, a school where Saginaw Hall of Famer Ernie Thompson, a 2002 inductee, played during an earlier era.

Tullos made a bid to play NBA ball, participating on teams in various developmental leagues.

He says an advantage of modern media and technology is that players such as himself from smaller towns and schools have a better chance of being discovered.

"For high school kids today, it doesn't matter where you live or what town you play in," he says. "If you have some talent, you'll definitely be seen. When I was coming up, you had to go to various camps to try to get exposure."

RON VONDETTE coached Carrollton High's boys' varsity basketball team for 27 seasons from 1965 to 1994. Younger readers may not recall, but up until the 1960s students from most suburbs didn't have high schools in their own districts, but instead attended Arthur Hill and Saginaw High. Therefore, it was up to Ron to develop a hoops program virtually from the bottom up, and he compiled a 425-164 record with 20 league championships, seven district titles, four regional crowns, and a 1969-70 appearance in the Class B state finals that thrilled a community with such a young school.

"I stared coaching at the junior high in 1960 and when I told the kids to get in line for layups, some of them looked at me like, 'What do you mean?'" Ron remembers. "I realized that I practically had to start from scratch. Later on, some of those same boys were on my first varsity teams."

He described the 1970 state finals appearance as a career highlight.

"That was huge for the program, because it made the kids realize that they could compete like everybody else.

Similar to Archie Tullos, Ron laments the smaller attendance at many high school contests and says the quality of play is affected, not just crowd sizes.

"I follow my grandkids and they don't pack the gyms like we used to," Ron says. "There are rivalry games that still draw good crowds, such as Hemlock and Swan Valley. As far as the players, it's a change with the computer age. They don't go out and practice and play like they need to.

Ron also coached girls' basketball, boys' golf and softball at Carrollton High, and enjoyed a "second career" in basketball with five years as coach of the men's team at Delta College, where he was 72-63 with one league championship and one state ju-co runner-up finish. Somehow, Ron still found time to help establish the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan and to serve as director for 20 years. He set an example for adult fitness with his performances in local recreation softball and basketball.

Following are highlights for other Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame 2011 inductees:

MARSHALL THOMAS never ducked the pressure. He performed in football, basketball and track at Saginaw High before his 1966 graduation, and then achieved honors in all three sports as a scholar-athlete at Western New Mexico University. He could have found a career just about anywhere, but he returned home to Saginaw High as a teacher and coach where one of the challenges he eventually undertook was to follow the footsteps of highly-regarded Charlie Coles as boys' varsity basketball coach. All Marshall did was to compile a 381-133 record over 22 seasons with 16 district championships, five Class A state semifinal appearances and a 1995-96 state crown. Before Greg Kelser came along, Marshall also sat in a few times as the analyst for telecasts of the state championship hoops contests. He also gave his heart to Saginaw High in roles that didn't grab so much attention by coaching sports such as girls' basketball (53-13 over three seasons), cross country and golf, and by serving as athletic director. For all he gave to others, he was named a 2009 Saginawian of the Year.

ART PELZER compiled a 432-44 record during 19 seasons as Frankenmuth High's girls' basketball coach and his teams won 16 league titles, 15 districts, 10 regionals and a Class B state crown in 1992, in addition to four state runner-up finishes. Keep in mind Art's accomplishments and leadership took place shortly after federal passage of Title VII in 1972, when girls' sports were not fully respected and were not always treated equally. Needless to say, he achieved countless statewide coaching honors. But that's not all. He was 70-0 during two seasons as the girls' jayvee coach, and 141-43 during a decade as the boys' jayvee coach. And that's still not all. He coached boys' varsity track and field for 20 years and his teams won 14 conference titles. Art reflects an era when coaches handled virtually all the sports, rather than specializing, and he is a symbol of Frankenmuth High's stellar athletic tradition.

ARTHUR HILL HIGH'S 1943-44 boys' varsity basketball team furnished Saginaw community pride during the difficult time of a world war by capturing the Class A state championship. First-year Coach Kenneth Kelly's team needed five victories: over Midland High, 40,30; over Flint Northern, 33-18; over Flint Central, 40-35; over Detroit Catholic Central, 30-24; and over Kalamazoo Central, 44-39. The Hillites prepared for the tourney with a perfect Saginaw Valley League regular season of 14-0. Dick Rifenburg, an individual Hall of Fame inductee in 2002, was the star senior center at 6-foot-4, quite tall for the time, and his scoring average was 18.5 points per game, quite high for the time. Rifenburg's supporting cast included Jackie Mott, Dean Ousterhout, Mel Sternhagen, Gerald Robinson, Mel Baumgartner, Gene Glick, Robert Symons, James Michel, Dan Haft, Ray Mason, and Don Kushmaul.

JOE McDONALD'S first love has always been speed skating, but that didn't stop him from excelling in football, baseball and swimming. Across the Saginaw River from the former St. Andrew's campus, he gained experience on Hoyt Park's massive ice pond, where in 1937 he won five races ranging in distance from 220 yards to two miles. He took his local talent in 1938 to a statewide meet at Grand Ledge, where he won all four races he entered, and then he won an array of events in 1939. Eventually, even the State of Michigan wasn't big enough for him. He headed for Lake Placid and won the North American crowns in the half-mile (world record 1:16, which still stands), in the three-quarter mile and in the mile. In warm surroundings rather than on ice, Joe was a teenager when he set the city's 40-yard backstroke swimming record in :28.1 Meanwhile, he achieved three St. Andrew's varsity letters in football and two in baseball. He later coached skaters with the Saginaw Transfer team. As a senior skater, Joe has won events in Quebec, Germany, Norway and Finland, setting several world records for his age group. Well into his 80s, he's still going strong.

TAMMIE SPATZ, who today is Tammie Spatz-Stone, showed early signs of swimming stardom during the early 1980s as a 10-year-old with the YMCA Sharks. She set a national record in her age group in winning the 50-yard freestyle. She maintained her love for the sport and at Heritage High she once was part of regional groups with "top area times" in an unprecedented 11 events, maintaining area records in several of them. She selected the 100-yard freestyle for a Class A state crown as a senior. Tammie won a scholarship to the University of Texas and achieved an array of NCAA national honors, while being named the team's most valuable swimmer during three seasons. Tammie is young enough that the University of Texas already was departing the Southwest Conference for the Big 12 Conference while she was there, and she capped her career as a senior with four Big 12 championships and a league record in her favorite event, the 100-yard freestyle (:49.15).

Her achievements were recognized post-college with membership on the USA national team from 1999 to 2004, on which she won several world and international races.

TOM ANAGNOST was a standout in the Saginaw Township Soccer Association youth leagues during the 1980s, at Heritage High where he graduated in 1991, and at Kalamazoo College, where he was captain and MVP three years in a row. For all four of his seasons in K'zoo, he made the first team in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association and became the first player in MIAA history to achieve all-Midwest regional first-team honors. He was an NCAA Division III All-American and went on to play pro soccer with the Chicago Power. Readers may remember the Mid-Michigan Bucks, for whom Anagnost played from 1995 to 1997. Since then he has coached girls' and boys' high school soccer and spent several seasons at the helm with the women's team at Central Michigan University. Tom now toils in warmer climes as the head women's coach at the University of Miami, Fla.

The late ED ALBOSTA, similar to a number of pro baseball players from his pre-World War II era, was nicknamed "Rube." He played three sports at Arthur Hill during the late 1930s, and the basketball team barely lost in the 1938 Class A state finals, but his best sport was baseball. The Detroit Tigers signed him to a minor league contact out of high school, but lost him to the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1941. He compiled a 15-5 record in Durham in 1941 and was league MVP, but unfortunately, Hollywood wasn't yet making movies such as "Bull Durham." He ultimately pitched two games for the Dodgers, served three years in the Army during the war, and appeared in 17 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1946. He closed his career with the semi-pro Saginaw Bears/Jack Rabbits at the old Vet's Stadium before managing in the minor leagues. Ed passed away in January 2003.

The late BOB BECKER, SR. often is described as the father of Saginaw Valley State University athletics. Back when Saginaw Valley was the new "college in the cornfield" during the 1960s, he signed on as director of business and auxiliary services. He was athletic director for 18 years before his 1998 retirement. He coached the SVSU men's golf team for 20 years and guided the team to 14 national finals tournaments, including a 1984 runner-up finish. During his tenure as A.D. Saginaw Valley State's athletic teams won 63 conference titles in 12 sports and captured five national championships in men's track and field, women's softball and bowling.

With his input on selecting Cardinals as the school nickname, he refrained from pushing for his alma mater Arthur Hill's blue and gold. Other parts of his legacy are the development of design of the Jack Ryder Center and the rebuilding of the Harvey Randall Wickes Memorial Stadium.

He also was involved in luring both the Detroit Pistons and, more notably, the Detroit Lions to SVSU to conduct their training camps during the 1990s. Bob passed away in October 2008.

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