HARRIS - Jim Corgiat of Bessemer kept them laughing Saturday night during the 43rd Annual Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet at the Island Resort and Casino.
By far one of the most entertaining characters of the evening, Corgiat, a football, softball and baseball standout, cracked several jokes during his speech and recalled several moments during a prep and professional career he thoroughly enjoyed.
Corgiat, one of 10 UPSHF inductees honored Saturday night said he did things the hard or unconventional way, and that the first two words he learned was "play ball."
He recalled traveling all over the state as a member of the Lansing Rockets fastpitch softball team that won the ASA state title in 1962.
Corgiat said during his speech, after relating a story, "My wife was from France and she didn't understand U.S. ball. I didn't understand French, so that made us even," he cracked.
Corgiat notably turned down a minor league baseball contract offer to play football at Michigan State University, where he credited Buck Nystrom (1975 UPSHF inductee) for recruiting him.
He said being inducted "feels like the greatest thing that's ever happened to me."
Other inductees included Whitney Bell of Sault Ste. Marie, Mike Caruso of Iron Mountain, Bill Lucier of Hancock, Holly Jean (Anderson) McCullah of Laurium, Terry Duval of Escanaba, Jill (Gobert) VanDamme of Perkins, Jon LeBrasseur, originally of Nahma and now living in Muenster, Texas, Sharon (Schultz) Ruibal of Escanaba and Mike Photenhauer of Menominee.
Lucier had incredible college athletic and coaching careers, participating in seven NCAA championship games and winning five titles, three as a player and two as an assistant coach with Michigan and Michigan Tech respectively.
Of his accomplishments, he said he was most proud of having 19 Michigan Tech athletes that he coached having been inducted into the Michigan Tech Hall of Fame. Four of those players were present for Lucier's induction Saturday night and three of them were U.P. natives.
McCullah, then known as Holly Jean Anderson, pitched two teams to U.P. fastpitch softball titles at age 14 before returning to the mound 18 years later after becoming the mother of nine children. At the age of 32, she threw a no-hitter and struck out 15 in her first game back and was 46-3 over four seasons, helping Horner's Hornets win the Class D state title in 1970.
Now deceased, McCullah was represented by her daughter June, who said she and her siblings viewed her as "just a mom who loved to have fun."
She recalled that, "neighbors would always come by, ring the doorbell and ask if my mom could come out and play," and that "summers were always spent watching my mom play softball."
McCullah died at age 57 in 1994 waiting for a lung transplant. A softball tournament in Calumet is now played annually in her honor.
Photenhauer was a three-time Upper Peninsula cross country champion at Menominee High School where he set Class A-B track record in the mile, 1600 and two mile events. Later he was a four-year letterman in cross country and track at Central Michigan University.
Bell was a hockey and baseball standout at Sault High but made a name for himself with football, where was a two time U.P. Dream Team selection who went on to standout at Ferris State University. Later he played in the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League with the British Columbia Lions.
Caruso was a three-sport athlete at Iron Mountain who later had a long and noteworthy career as a broadcaster.
Duval had a noteworthy prep career at Kingsford High School before coming to Escanaba High School, where he spent three decades coaching football, wrestling and track teams, going 205-60 in 17 years as a head wrestling coach.
LeBrasseur has compiled an extraordinary 850-11 record as girls varsity basketball coach at Sacred Heart High School in Muenster, Texas. His teams have won 14 state titles, including seven straight at one point (from 1998-2004). He has a daughter on the team who graduates in May, and has over 1,800 career points.
A pioneer in many things, Ruibal, known then as Sharon Schultz played in the early days of girls high school sports before later becoming one of the first female sportswriters at the Green Bay Press Gazette.
VanDamme, known as Jlll Gobert during her high school days, scored 1,614 points during her basketball career at Mid Peninsula, still the girls career record there. She was named Class D All-State in 1996. She went on to play three years at Northern Michigan University where she scored 1,243 points and was a three-time GLIAC All-Academic choice.