50 Classes of ASHOF Class of 1978

Class of 1978

Published Wednesday, July 19, 2017 4:00 pm

On April 28, 2018, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame will induct its 50th Class.  In celebration of this milestone, we will be sending an email out each week, over the next 50 weeks, beginning with the Inaugural Class of 1969, and culminating with the

Class of 2018.

This is the 9th of 50 Classes of the ASHOF

Class of 1978


Norman Tellous Cooper 

Norman Tellous Cooper was born August 8, 1913 in Rogersville, Alabama. "Shorty" was Little All-American in football at Howard college in 1936 and All-Dixie in 1935 and ‘36. He captained the team his senior year.  He played center for the Brooklyn Dodgers professional football team in 1936 and ‘38. In 1939 he coached freshman football.  He then went to Vanderbilt as an assistant football coach.  He was also the Head Baseball Coach from 1941-'42.  After serving our country during World War II,  he went back to Vanderbilt as Head Baseball from 1946-47.  He left Vanderbilt in 1948 to be an assistant football coach at Kansas University.  From 1949-'52 was an assistant head coach at  LSU.  He started Little League baseball in Birmingham and served as president of softball and baseball leagues in the 1950's.  He passed away December 26, 1994


Joel Harry Eaves  

 Joel Harry Eaves was born June 3, 1914 in Copper Hill, Tennessee. He played football, basketball and baseball at Auburn. He was named an All-SEC end in  football (1936). In 1937 he was on the pitching staff  for the Tigers when they won the SEC Baseball Championship.  He captained the basketball team his senior year.  He was drafted in the eighth round of the 1937 NFL draft by the Boston Redskins but never played in the NFL.  Instead he went into coaching basketball as an assistant coach at Sewanee in 1937.  He was Head Basketball Coach from 1938  to 1941. In 1949 he went to Auburn to coach basketball for 14 seasons. In 1960 his Auburn Tigers won the SEC Basketball Championship. It was here that Coach Eaves introduced the "shuffle offense" that caught on nationwide. He finished with a record of 213-100 (.681), making him the winningest men's basketball coach in Auburn history at that time.  He also assisted with the football team while at Auburn, helping with the freshmen ends for two years before coaching varsity defensive ends, contributing to Auburn's  first National Championship in 1957. In 1963 he took over as Athletic Director at the University of Georgia. While at Georgia he hired fellow ASHOF Inductee Vince Dooley as Head Football Coach.  He retired as Athletic Director in 1979.  In 1987 Auburn's Memorial Coliseum was renamed after him to Joel H. Eaves Memorial Coliseum and later to Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum in 1993. He passed away July 18, 1991.

George Vernon Irons, Sr. 
 George Vernon Irons, Sr. was born August 7, 1902 in Demopolis, AL. He ran track at the University of Alabama from 1920-'23.  He won the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championship three mile road race three consecutive years (1921-'23). In doing so, he broke the existing records by 20 seconds. In 1921 he won the AAU Championship Cross Country run in Atlanta.  He broke conference records in the two mile run, the three mile run and the 3.5 mile run. He was hailed a "self-made distance star" and the "South's premier distance runner." He was considered one the most outstanding distance runners of his time.  He was also dubbed the "Knight of the Cinder Path." He was Phi Beta Kappa honors student at Alabama.  At the time of his death there had only been seven athletes in history of the University of Alabama to have been selected to become a member of Phi Beta Kappa.  Dr. Irons was a Samford University faculty member for 43 years. He passed away July 21, 1998.
Frank Lary 
Frank Lary was born April 10, 1913 in Northport, Alabama.   He followed in the footsteps of his older brothers and attended the University of Alabama and played on the baseball team..  In his sophomore year (1950) he went 10-1 for the Crimson Tide and helped lead the Tide to the College World Series that year.  He won two additional games during the College World Series.  After his sophomore year he signed a professional contract with Detroit Tigers.  He spent one year in the minor leagues and the following two years serving our country in the U.S. Army.  After his tour of duty he spent another year and half in minors before the Tigers called him up late in the 1954 season.   He played 11 seasons for the Tigers.  In 1956 he lead the American League in wins with 21, games started (38), innings pitched (294), hits allowed (289), hit batsmen (12), and batters faced (1,269).  He played in two All-Star games (1960 & '61). In 1961, he had the best season of his career, with a record of 23-9.   His 23 wins were a career-high and second in the American League. He also threw a career-high and league-leading 22 complete games.  He also won the Gold Glove Award and finished third in the 1961 Cy Young Award. He was a workhorse for the Tigers from 1955 to 1961. During that seven-year span, he led the American League in wins (117), complete games (115), innings pitched (1,799-2/3), games started (242), and batters faced (7,569).  He started more than 30 games in each of those seven season and led the American League in complete games three times in four years from 1958 to 1961.  During his years with the Tigers, he became known as "The Yankee Killer." He had a 27-10 record against the New York Yankees from 1955 to 1961.  He also played for the New York Mets, Milwaukee Braves, and the Chicago White Sox.


Riley Henry Smith 

 Riley Henry Smith was born in Greenwood, Mississippi July 13, 1911. He played collegiately at the University of Alabama. He quarterbacked the Crimson Tide to a National Championship in 1934.  He led the Tide to victory over Stanford in the 1935 Rose Bowl.  He was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American, and also won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the best blocker in the Southeastern Conference. He was All-Southeastern Conference three consecutive years (1933-'35).  He was also the punter, kicked extra points and kicked field goals.  He also lettered in track for three years.   He was the second player chosen in the first-ever NFL Draft in 1936.  He played for the  Boston Patriots in ‘36 and the Washington Redskins in ‘37-'38.  He played on the Redskins NFL Championship team in 1937.  After retiring from football, he was an assistant football coach at Washington and Lee in 1938 and Head Coach from from 1939-'42.  He served our country from 1942 to '45 during World War II in the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander.  He passed away August 9, 1999.


Harry William Walker 
 Harry William Walker was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi on October 22, 1918. He played 15 years in major leagues with four different teams (St. Louis Cardinals for two stints,  Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, and the Chicago Cubs. He was the National League batting champion in 1947 with a .363 batting average. He was selected to play in two All-Star games (1942 and '46).  He was on two World Series Championship teams with the Cardinals (1942 and '46).  In the seventh game of the 1946 World Series, he doubled in the winning run.  For the series he knocked in six runs, and batted .412.  He had a lifetime batting average .296.  His nickname "Harry the hat" came from his habit during at-bats of continually adjusting his cap between pitches—there were no batting helmets in his day.   After his playing career he was manager of the three teams (St. Louis, Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros).  He served as the head baseball coach at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) from 1979 to 1986. He was the program's first coach. In ten seasons he compiled a record of 211-171, good for a .552 winning percentage. In 1981 the Blazers were the champions of the Sun Belt Conference's North Division in just the third year of the program's existence. The Blazers repeated as North Division champions in 1982.  He passed away August 8, 1999.