Wichita State’s Gene Stephenson named to college hall of fame

02/11/2014 10:56 AM

02/11/2014 3:04 PM

Former Wichita State baseball coach Gene Stephenson headlines the 2014 class of inductees into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.

Former Shocker first baseman Phil Stephenson, his younger brother, is also a member, making them the first brothers inducted. He also joins pitchers Don Heinkel and Darren Dreifort and outfielder Joe Carter, all coached by Stephenson, as Shockers in the hall of fame.

Stephenson adds his legacy to the list of coaches in the hall and he fits with a group that helped raise the sport from obscurity into a sport that is much-televised and well-attended at many schools. Fellow pioneers such as Skip Bertman, Ron Fraser and Gary Ward are already members.

“(Stephenson) is one of the people directly responsible for the growth and strength and popularity of college baseball,” said Jana Howser, executive vice president of the hall.

Stephenson, 68, is 1,837-675-3 and his wins rank second among active NCAA Division I coaches. He coached WSU to seven College World Series and won the school’s lone NCAA title, in 1989. WSU hired him in 1977 to restart its program and he coached 36 seasons, making 28 appearances in NCAA play. WSU fired Stephenson in June.

“It’s great to unite the Stephenson brothers as inductees,” Mike Gustafson, president and CEO of the hall, said in a news release. “Once Gene went on the ballot this year, there was no doubt he’d be a part of this year’s class.”

Stephenson’s induction is personally satisfying to Howser, daughter of the late Kansas City Royals manager Dick Howser. Her father helped Stephenson in the early years by attending baseball clinics in Wichita to promote the sport and the Shockers.

“That speaks to a bigger picture of how coaches support each other and the growth of programs around the country,” she said.

Southern Cal pitcher Bill Bordley, Miami (Fla.) pitcher Alex Fernandez, Miami (Fla.) outfielder Mike Fiore, Miami-Dade North Community College coach Demie Mainieri, Baylor player and coach Mickey Sullivan and William C. Matthews, a player at Tuskegee Institute and Harvard are also members of the class of 2014.

Howser said 220 voters, coaches, media members and hall of fame members, choose the class. There is no waiting period after a coaching or playing career before people become eligible, she said.

The induction ceremony is June 28 in Lubbock, Texas. The hall of fame is scheduled to break ground in June on a building to house the hall of fame.

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