The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

May 17, 2014

Four inducted to Joplin Area Sports Hall of Fame

Blaukat, Farr, Wright and Mantle honored

Becoming a professional angler worked out just fine for Randy Blaukat.

The 1980 Joplin Parkwood High School graduate has earned two tournament titles and more than $700,000 in winnings on the BASS Tour and nine top-10 finishes and more than $700,000 in winnings on the FLW Tour.

However, Blaukat admits that being a successful fisherman didn’t exactly make him a lady magnet back in high school.

“I can tell you one thing about it, a lot of the other athletes like basketball players and football players, girls are really attracted to them,” Blaukat said. “But when you’re a fisherman in high school, it doesn’t work that way. I had a little junker — a 16-foot flat bottom — I used to  pull to Parkwood with me on Fridays ... The girls just sort of thought it was weird.”

Blaukat, former University of Tulsa basketball star Leela Farr, former NFL defensive back Felix Wright and baseball legend Mickey Mantle were inducted into the Joplin Area Sports Hall of Fame on Friday night at Twin Hills Golf and Country Club.

“When I decided that I wanted to get into professional fishing as a kid, I never thought it would wind up with something like this,” Blaukat said.

Blaukat graduated from Missouri Southern in 1985 and turned professional at the age of 23, qualifying for his first Bassmaster Classic in 1986. During his career on the BASS Tour, he participated in 199 tournaments and caught a combined 4,545 pounds worth of bass. He posted 25 top-10 finishes, six third-place finishes, three runners-up and two tournament titles.

The Joplin resident doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.

“One of the good things about pro fishing is that your career doesn’t end after you’ve been in it for 20 years,” Blaukat said. “The more experience you get on the water, the better you get over the years. A lot of the professional anglers out there now are in their early 70s. It’s one of those sports you can continue to compete at as you get older.”

Farr, a 1997 Joplin High School graduate, helped the Eagles win 40 games over her junior and senior seasons. She averaged 17.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals, earning all-state honors as a senior.

Farr’s mother, Pam Gibbs, introduced her and told a story about a pregame ritual.

“It seemed like it was always a rush to get to games,” Gibbs said. “We had to get something in her belly. We run through Gringo’s. It was one of my favorite places, because you could get two bean burritos for $1 ... She scarfed them down, goes to her game and had a great game. Guess what? We didn’t go to any game after that without stopping in the drive-through at Gringo’s.”

It was a story Farr would have been OK with leaving out.

“Here I thought it was just me and that no one wanted to guard me,” Farr said. “But I think it might have just been the bean burritos. Thanks for that story, Mom.”

Even without the Mexican fastfood restaurant, Farr continued to succeed in college. The 5-foot-11 Farr left the Golden Hurricane as the No. 4 scorer (1,089 points) and No. 3 rebounder (539) in school history.

Farr is now a doctor with the Memorial Medical Group LLC in Belleville, Illinois, and specializes in orthopedic hand surgery.

Wright, a 1977 Carthage High School graduate, starred at Drake University and then took the long road to the NFL. After not being drafted, Wright becan coaching at Joplin Memorial High School before a tryout with the Houston Oilers led to a roster spot in the Canadian Football League. He played two seasons in the CFL before joining the Cleveland Browns in 1985. Wright went on to play nine seasons in the NFL with the Browns, Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs and led the Browns in interceptions for four consecutive seasons (1987-90). He led the NFL in interception with nine during the 1989 season.

“He wasn’t the biggest guy, but he was always around the football,” said former Drake teammate John Hoffman. “He had a knack for being around the football.”

Wright was unable to attend Friday’s ceremony because of travel complications from Cleveland, but his uncle, Doc Lounis, accepted the award on his behalf.

Mantle, who grew up in Commerce, Oklahoma, went on to become one of baseball’s greatest players of all time. Mantle played for the Class C Joplin Miners in 1950, hitting .383 with 26 home runs and 136 RBI.

The next year he was competing for the New York Yankees and helped the team to 12 World Series appearances in his career. Mantle finished his Hall of Fame career with 2,415 hits, 536 home runs, 1,509 RBI and three American League MVP awards.

He died in 1995 at the age of 63.

Longtime friend Terry Wilson accepted the honor for Mantle and told stories of Mantle’s good nature, as well as his talent as a golfer.

“He could hit it far,” Wilson said. “If he had started out playing golf, I think he could have become famous.”

The Joplin Sports Authority plans to place the plaque in Mantle’s childhood home at Commerce.

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