UTRGV hosts 2023 Hall of Fame and Honor Induction ceremony
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Department of Intercollegiate Athletics inducted the 2023 Athletics Hall of Fame and Hall of Honor class on Saturday, including the 1975–78 men’s tennis teams, former baseball student-athletes Mike Duffey (1968-71) and Hector Salinas (1965-68), former women’s basketball student-athlete Bianca (Torre) Salinas (2009-13), and former baseball, track & field, and cross-country student-athlete D. Joe Williams (1954-57).
1975–78 Men’s Tennis Teams
Finished seasons in top 25 in the national rankings for four consecutive years – #24 in 1975, #18 in 1976, #14 in 1977, and #10 in 1978 … Ranked as high as #8 in 1978 … Ricardo Eynaudi and Antonio Hartmann represented Pan American at NCAA Championships in 1975 and 1976 … Hall of Famer Rob Hubbard selected for 1977 NCAA Singles and Doubles in first year of official invites based upon merit, along with Eynaudi for doubles … Hubbard, Sean Sorensen, and John Picken were selected in 1978 but did not compete as a protest for the team not being selected for the 16-team field for the team championships, despite being ranked #8 at the time (ranking dropped to #10 after the NCAA Championships despite the team not playing) … Pan American was the official host of the 1975 and 1976 NCAA Championships, held at the H-E-B Tennis Center in Corpus Christi. Teams featured some of the winningest players in program history, including Robert Bettauer, who ranks second in career singles wins (79) and fourth in total wins (130), Picken, who is tied for third in singles wins (78), fifth in doubles wins (56), and third in total wins (134), Hubbard, who is tied for fourth in singles wins (62), and Eynauldi, who is third in doubles wins (64).
“In 1975, I was a graduating senior, and these young kids came in from different cultures, and when the big teams came to Orville Cox Tennis Center, like Tennessee and LSU, we beat them,” Francisco (Paco) Ceron said. “Coach Dennis Conner put together this incredible team and together we put Pan American on the map.”
“This was among the best four years of my life because of our teammates,” Bettauer said. “We were an independent school, so we got to play everyone, but the reason we had such a great experience is we got plugged into the Rio Grande Valley. It’s a remarkable part of the world.”
“These Pan Am teams shocked other teams year in and year out,” Derek Sagal said. “We didn’t discriminate. We beat everybody. People constantly wondered how we did it. We took down all the big budget teams. We hope to serve as a beacon for all future teams to see what is possible if you work together as a team.”
Francisco (Paco) Ceron
Head Coach: Dennis Conner
Jose Luis Damiani
Head Coach: A.G. Longoria
Head Coach: A.G. Longoria
Head Coach: A.G. Longoria
Mike Duffey, Baseball, 1968-71
1971 The Sporting News All-American Honorable Mention … Helped team to lone College World Series appearance … 1970 All-District VI selection.
“You’re never too old to appreciate the things you’ve done in your life,” Duffey said. “They didn’t have all the stats back then that they have today, but my on-base percentage was really high, and I didn’t make an error in four years. I’m proud of those things. The four years I played here, I did what I had to do to help the team win, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”
Hector Salinas, Baseball, 1965-68
1968 NCAA & AABC All-American … Hit .375 as a senior to earn team Most Valuable Player honors … As a freshman, hit .306 (30-for-98) with three home runs, six doubles, three triples, 16 RBI, and 13 runs scored as a freshman while going 1-1 with a 4.30 ERA, striking out 15 and scattering 14 hits and four walks in 14 innings … 2009 RGV Sports Hall of Fame Inductee … 2012 Texas A&M-Kingsville Hall of Fame Inductee … 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award at the South Texas Winter Baseball Banquet … Earned bachelor’s degree from Pan American University and has a master’s from UT Brownsville … Passed away on April 30, 2021 … March 3 would have been his 78th birthday.
“Our children honor their dad everyday by carry the torch he stood for,” Salinas’ widow, Thelma, said. “We met at Pan Am around 1966. Fifty-three years later we had five children, 10 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. One thing he always told our children is that ‘it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and you need to finish strong.’”
Bianca (Torre) Salinas, Women’s Basketball, 2009-13
Finished her career as the program’s all-time leader in points (1,439) (now second), assists (393), steals (226), free throws made (277) (now second) and field goals attempted (1,250) (now second). She also ranked second in field goals made (461) (now third), and three-pointers made (240). She also ranked third in free throw percentage (.780), free throws attempted (355) (now fourth) and three-pointers attempted (677) (now fifth), and fourth in three-point field goal percentage (.355) (now fifth) … Only player to earn All-Great West Conference honors four years in a row … 2012-13 UTPA Comeback Athlete of the Year … 2011-12 UTPA Female Athlete of the Year and Ms. Bronc … 2009-10 Great West Conference Newcomer of the Year and All-Newcomer Team … Holds program records for most three-pointers (6) and free throws (13) made while hitting all shots in a single game … Scored 525 points in 2010-11, the fourth-highest single-season total in program history … Hit program record 132 free throws in 2010-11 … Holds two of the top-eight single-season assists totals and three of the top-nine single-season steals totals … One of only two players in program history to have at least two seasons with 64+ three-pointers made (the other is Hall of Famer Alex Gravel).
“I never had the advantage of being the tallest or the fastest on the court. I was just a little girl from Harlingen, Texas who loved playing basketball,” Salinas said. “The percentage of Hispanics playing at the Division I level made my being there unheard of. If you play with your heart, good things will happen. I believed in myself and always tried to work harder than the people in front of me. With that said, it takes a village to get to the big stage. I didn’t get into the record book alone. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”
Hall of Honor
D. Joe Williams, Baseball and Track & Field/Cross Country, 1954-57
Became the first African American to break the color barrier, integrate and participate in college athletics at a non-Historically Black College or University in the State of Texas as the center fielder for the 1954 baseball team, hitting .262 to help the team to the Big State Conference Championship … Won a pair of individual conference championships with the track & field team, taking titles in the 880-yard and one-mile runs … Born in Dobbin, grew up in McAllen … Attended Booker T. Washington High School, a segregated school that existed from 1941-57 … Scouted by St. Louis Browns in 1953 … One of the first African Americans to play in Junior League … Went on to coach at Charlie Brown High School in West Columbia for five years before coaching El Paso high schools for 47 years and helping found the El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame … Passed away on Dec. 15, 2013 … The date of the induction ceremony would have been Williams’ 87th birthday.
“The legacy he’s leaving will be remembered by generations to come,” Williams’ widow, Thelma, said. “One of my husband’s favorite quotes was, ‘it doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you want to go.’”
“My father always instilled in us that we had to work hard, and he also preached getting our education,” Michelle Williams Harrison, D. Joe’s daughter, said. “My parents were committed to making my brother and I understand that, being African American, being Black, if there’s something you desire, you have to work extra hard for it because nothing will be handed to you. He had a plaque hanging that said, ‘it ain’t bragging if you did it.’ Everything you hear out my father is not bragging. He did it.”
“When you’re blessed with something, it’s what you do with that blessing,” Dejeaux Williams, D. Joe’s son, said. “Everyone inducted today did something with that blessing. My dad used the blessing and moved us to a place like the Valley, El Paso, and used his blessing to encourage thousands of kids to go to college.”
For more information about the Athletics Hall of Fame and Hall of Honor, visit GoUTRGV.com/HallofFame.
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