The New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame is back – not that it was ever really gone.
Still, there have been some changes.
The NMSHOF on Wednesday announced a five-person induction class, its first since 2019. The decades-long induction process had been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new inductees are:
• Bill Gracey, a longtime college basketball official who coached the Cibola Cougars to a big-school state baseball championship in 1983.
• Lou Pierotti, whose touring, Los Alamos-based, five-person softball team entertained fans around the state, the region and the country for decades. Pierotti died in 2015 at age 94.
• Emanuel “Manny” Smith, an 11-time city and nine-time state handball champion. Smith died in 1995.
• Herb Stinson, the longtime, highly successful wrestling coach at Aztec High School.
• Gene Torres, a Colorado native who came to Las Vegas, New Mexico, and became one of the state’s most successful golfers of all time. Torres died in 2005.
This class constitutes a new beginning for the Hall of Fame, headed by first-year board president Theo Barela.
For years, the NMHOF has introduced each induction class on New Mexico Bowl Saturday in late December – affording an opportunity to introduce those inductees at the football game.
Typically, the Hall of Fame banquet and accompanying festivities were staged in February, March or April.
This year, the banquet is scheduled for Aug. 20 at the Albuquerque Convention Center – following the pattern established last year, when the banquet honoring the 2019 inductees was held in August in light of COVID concerns.
Barela said in a news release that he felt an August date for the banquet offered fewer conflicts with other sports-related events.
The 2022 banquet is scheduled for a Saturday, another departure from the past, when the event was staged on Sundays.
“The board felt that Saturday allows for a more lively and festive atmosphere and gives attendees a chance to relax and not stress about work the next day,” Barela said.
A charity golf tournament is scheduled for July 29 at Santa Ana Golf Club.
More on the inductees:
• Gracey coached the Cibola baseball team from 1980-97, coached La Cueva baseball for two seasons, then assisted Susan Craig, a 2018 Hall of Fame inductee, with the University of New Mexico softball team from 1998-2002.
As a basketball official, Gracey worked games involving at least nine college conferences.
• Pierotti founded his five-man softball team in 1953. With TV sets not yet in every living room, his Clowns became immensely popular. The following year, Pierotti’s Clowns were featured in the inaugural edition of Sports Illustrated.
“We became the biggest draw during the summer in New Mexico,” Pierotti told the Journal in 1998. “We outdrew the (Albuquerque) Dukes and everyone else. The fans really took to us.”
• Smith’s handball excellence and his long rivalry with fellow Albuquerquean Cordy Garcia got copious coverage in Albuquerque newspapers during the 1960s. A longtime Albuquerque Public Schools teacher and principal, Smith officiated recreational basketball games and umpired baseball and softball games. He also performed in local theatrical productions.
He’s the father of longtime Albuquerque sports journalist Mark Smith.
• During Stinson’s tenure as Aztec’s wrestling coach, the Tigers have won 13 titles – including 10 in an 11-year stretch.
Stinson stepped down in 2000 and coached and taught in Bayfield, Colorado, for 13 years. He returned to lead Aztec to its 13th state title earlier this year.
• Torres won more than 80 tournaments during his golf career, including five New Mexico Open titles. He won four straight New Mexico Opens from 1968-71.
An outstanding teaching pro, he spent his entire career at New Mexico Highlands University.