The late Grambling State University coaching legend Eddie Robinson and Vida Blue, one of only 14 “Black Aces” pitchers to win 20 games in a major-league season, will head up a deserving list of Sports Task Force Pioneer Award honorees at the 2012 NABJ Convention in New Orleans.
The Pioneer Awards buffet dinner and awards ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday evening, June 22, during the convention that extends from June 20-24. Our sponsors this year will be Major League Baseball, the National Football League, Fox Sports, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League Players Association, and NASCAR.
Although he died in 2007, the Sports Task Force could not turn down the opportunity to posthumously honor Robinson, whose victory total was the highest in football history when he retired with a 408-165-15 record compiled during 57 seasons. When his star running back, Paul (Tank) Younger, signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 1949, Younger became the first NFL player to come from a historically black college. Before he retired, Robinson had sent more than 200 players to the league.
One of them, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Doug Williams, succeeded Robinson as the Tigers’ head coach. Now in his second stint in that role, Williams will introduce Robinson’s accomplishments to the Pioneer Awards audience and present our plaque to members of his family.
Blue became a member of the “Black Aces” in 1971 when he went 24-8 with the Oakland A’s to earn the American League’s MVP and Cy Young Awards. He also recorded 20 or more victories in 1973 and 1975, and is the only pitcher to win All-Star games for both the American and National Leagues.
Blue threw a no-hitter against Minnesota in 1970 and joined three other pitchers in no-hitting the California Angels in 1975. When he retired in 1986, he had a 209-161 record and a 3.27 ERA.
Other honorees will be:
• Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, who led his team to the last two World Series and will accept his award via a thank you letter to our audience.
• Javonne Brooks Grant, whose fearsome spike mad
e her a force in volleyball at the University of New Orleans from 1988-92. When she was inducted into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame last year, her 2,932 kills ranked second all-time in NCAA history.
• Basketball coach Bernard Griffith, who won three state titles for St. Augustine’s High School, compiled a 635-145 record over 25 seasons and coached former NBA players Kerry Kittles and Avery Johnson, head coach of the New Jersey Nets. Griffith was Johnson’s assistant for two years with the Dallas Mavericks and now is the head coach at Dillard University.
• Sports print reporter R.L. Stockard, who integrated newspapers in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, was the sports editor at two black-owned newspapers, and covered budding stars such as Walter Payton and Jerry Rice. He achieved all of that while doubling as a Southern University geography professor, where he taught baseball great Lou Brock.
• Sports broadcasting groundbreaker Ro Brown, for more than 20 years a sports anchor and reporter for New Orleans’ local NBC affiliate. He’s well-known for his incredible memory of New Orleans sports and his network of contacts in the local sports scene. As Sports Task Force members Greg Lee and Freddie Willis grew up in New Orleans, Ro Brown was the face of TV sports media they remember most.
Co-host J.A. Adande and I expect the 2012 Pioneer Awards class to rank among the best ever. Be sure to help us celebrate their achievements.