MARIETTA, Ga. -- The Southern League of Professional Baseball Clubs announces the induction of four members to the Southern League Hall of Fame Class of 2016, as chosen by a panel of 30 voters. The inductees are Peter Bragan, Jr., John Shoemaker, Larry Ward and Larry Schmittou.
As part of the third induction class to the Southern League Hall of Fame, nominees were accepted from the member clubs and voting committee. Upon receipt of the nominees, the 2016 ballot was sent back to the committee and the top three names were selected by the voting panel. The fourth and final member of the 2016 Hall of Fame class, Schmittou, was chosen from the Special Consideration Ballot.
The inductees' names will be recognized at the 2016 All-Star Game in Pearl, Mississippi, while individual clubs may honor those relevant inductees during the season. The purpose of the Southern League Hall of Fame is to recognize individuals for their accomplishments and contributions to the League on the field of play or in an administrative role. This shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, players, managers, coaches, umpires, League and team executives, owners, and media members.
Peter Bragan, Jr. (Jacksonville Suns, Owner and Operator, 1985-2015)
A member of "baseball royalty," Peter Bragan, Jr. or "Pedro" as he is affectionately known, served 31 years in the front office of the Jacksonville Suns as General Manager, President and after his father, SL Hall of Famer Peter Bragan, Sr.'s passing in 2012, primary owner. As a leader of one of the most successful brands in league history, Bragan helped revitalize the Jacksonville Expos and Wolfson Park in the mid-1980s before his instrumental role in the development and opening of Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in 2003. The Suns led the League in attendance over the first nine years of the park's existence and captured six total Southern League Championships in his 31 years on board. Serving on the League's Board of Directors and Rules and Competition Committee, Pedro was recently named the Southern League Vice President-Emeritus.
John Shoemaker (Jacksonville Suns, 2001, 2005-08)
The two-time Southern League Champion manager and 2015 Mike Coolbaugh Award recipient, John Shoemaker has made his name both on and off the field of play as a skipper and leader of men. His first season in Jacksonville saw Shoemaker guide the Suns to a league-best 83-56 record and a share of the 2001 Southern League title before he was named SL Manager of the Year. In 2005, after three years away from the loop, Shoemaker made his return to Jacksonville and the Southern League, where he would win his second title in two seasons at the helm, also claiming the Baseball America MiLB Team of the Year. Shoemaker again led his club to the circuit's best record in 2006, also his third and final playoff appearance. After two more seasons in Jacksonville, Shoemaker finished with 396 total wins in the League. Spending 22 years with the Dodgers organization, he continues to work passionately with players as a highly respected member of the game.
Larry Ward (Chattanooga Lookouts, 1989-Present)
Known simply as the "The Voice," Chattanooga's long-time radio broadcaster Larry Ward completed his 27th season calling Lookouts action in 2015. Notably, his most recent campaign brought with it his first Southern League Championship. The last time the Lookouts won the SL title came in 1988, the last season a broadcaster not named Larry Ward was the active man in the radio booth. The longest-employed radio broadcaster with the same team in the Southern League, Ward was elected to the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. Prior to his time in Chattanooga, Ward manned the booth in Portland, Tucson, Charleston (SC), as well as a stint with Jacksonville. During the offseason, Ward serves as voice of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Lady Mocs basketball program.
Larry Schmittou (Nashville Sounds, Owner and Operator, 1978-84)
Selected by Baseball America as one of the top-25 people that helped shape MiLB, Larry Schmittou shattered Southern League attendance records as operator of the Nashville Sounds. After a run as the head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores baseball team, Schmittou turned his sights in Nashville to affiliated baseball. In 1978, working with country music singers including Conway Twitty, he oversaw the construction of Herschel Greer Stadium in the Music City. The Sounds were an immediate success, drawing a then-Southern League record 380,159 fans, over 200,000 more fans than the next highest total. Schmittou did not stop there, drawing more than 500,000 fans every year from 1979-1982 season, including 575,676 in 1980, still a League record. His biggest draw came on August 18, 1982 when Schmittou saw 22,315 fans pass through the turnstiles, also a Southern League high. Schmittou's service to the league continued well after his Sounds moved to Triple-A baseball, when he allowed the Nashville Xpress to play at Herschel Greer for two years in 1993 and 1994 before procurement of a permanent stadium.