Arizona Sports Hall of Fame inducts class headed by Pat Tillman, Mark Grace, Gary Hall Jr.

Jeff Oscarson speaks with reporters before the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz. on November 1, 2018.

Sporting legends come in all types.

The range and diversity were on full display Thursday night at the 48th Arizona Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony where inductees ranged from the late Pat Tillman, who in his death during military service became a national hero, to Sister Lynn Winsor, for a life devoted to her faith and athletics at Phoenix Xavier Prep.

Others in the six-member class are former Diamondbacks first baseman Mark Grace, 10-time Olympic swimming medalist Gary Hall Jr., University of Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea and former Scottsdale Chaparral High School softball coach Jeff Oscarson.

“It’s great for all of us to get awards and it’s wonderful for our families and friends, but what happens after this is what’s important,” Winsor said. “Kids are getting involved in sports and activities that maybe (otherwise) couldn’t. That’s what I like.”

The Arizona Sports Hall of Fame, founded in 1957, is administered by the Arizona Sports & Entertainment Commission. The induction ceremony, held at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort, serves as a fundraiser for the commission, helping to fund the Grand Canyon State Games and Lori Piestewa National Native American Games.

Tillman, who died at 27 serving in Afghanistan in 2004, was represented by his brother Kevin and his former Arizona State and Arizona Cardinals teammate Jake Plummer.

Linebacker Tillman and quarterback Plummer were key players on ASU’s 1996 Rose Bowl team that came within seconds of winning a national championship.

“It’s always tough when asked to represent and speak on behalf of Pat because I never knew what he was going to say and I don’t think anybody else quite knew what he was thinking,” Plummer said. “But we became good friends and comrades. I feel honored to speak on his behalf. It gives me a chance to check myself and see where I stand in my whole life in trying to live up to the standards he set as a real badass. Just a great person, very genuine, very true, very honest, and a guy that made you want to be better and do better.”

Grace said of his induction: “Obviously Pat Tillman comes to mind. Any time Pat’s name and you’re involved with it, words can’t describe how honored you are. There’s not enough superlatives in the English language to talk about that.”

Best remembered for his days with the Chicago Cubs (1988-2000), Grace, 54, actually has spent longer in Arizona associated with the Diamondbacks, first as a player (2001-03) then as a broadcaster and coach. He joins former teammates Luis Gonzalez and Randy Johnson as D-Backs Hall of Fame inductees.

“I’m a very loyal person and I’m thankful after the time in Chicago that Jerry Colangelo and the rest of the Diamondback people at that time were there for me,” Grace said. “Now I’m still thankful for all the people that are now part of the ownership that have kept me around. I can’t say enough about the Diamondbacks organization. They’ve been faithful to me, and I will always be faithful to them.”

Hall, 44, was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2012. His latest honor brings him back to his roots growing up in Phoenix, swimming at Brophy Prep and the Phoenix Swim Club, built by his grandfather Charles Keating. From that start, he would qualify for three Olympics like his father Gary Hall Sr., and win six gold medals including in the 50-meter freestyle in 2000 and 2004.

“I went on a class field trip in grade school,” Hall recalled. “As an outing we went to a swimming pool, no surprise there. I was maybe sixth grade and some of the other classmates knew I was a fast swimmer so they staged this competition between the lifeguard and me, and I won this race. Not one of the more reported races in my career, but definitely had an impact in identifying as a swimmer early on.”

Candrea, 63, is going into his 34th season with UA softball with 1,563 wins (just shy of the all-time lead) and eighth national titles. He also is a two-time U.S. Olympic coach with his teams winning gold in 2004 and silver in 2008. He also is a member of four other Hall of Fames including National Softball and National Fastpitch Coaches Association.

“My dad told me a long time ago to surround myself with great people, and I’ve had great coaches, support staff, players,” Candrea said. “Really that’s what puts you in this position. I’m very honored and humbled.

“I never dreamed of coaching softball. I was a baseball guy and got talked into going into women’s softball. Then to look back and see what softball has given me, it’s pretty amazing. It’s always been in Arizona. I’m one of those fossils. I’ve always loved this state.”

For Winsor, 75, and Oscarson, 67, their impact on lives beyond sports resonates as much as their coaching success.

Winsor, also athletic director at Xavier, just won her 36th Division I state golf title (eighth straight). Oscarson won five state softball titles in 22 years, coaching through 2003.

“I taught for 42 years and you don’t think you ever made contact with the kids sometimes,” said Oscarson, who was selected for induction through public voting. “Then when something like this happens, I had kids from 40 years say they voted for me from 15 states. I just got the goosebumps thinking about it right now. It’s neat you can make connections like that, and you’re not even aware you’re making them.”

Winsor was honored earlier Thursday when Xavier unveiled a large banner reading Sister Lynn Winsor, Xavier College Prep, Class of ’61, Hall of Fame. “What a nice thing, I had no idea that was coming,” she said. “I was really moved by it. But that’s the way Xavier is. We are a community beyond belief. Once a Xavier girl, always a Xavier girl.”

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