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Cato, Saulman, Zimmerman inducted into Hall of Fame

Cato, Saulman, Zimmerman inducted into Hall of Fame Cato, Saulman, Zimmerman inducted into Hall of Fame
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]

Within the annals of Corydon Central High School athletics, three more names join a growing list of those who will be immortalized in the school’s Hall of Fame.

In its sixth year, the Hall of Fame once again inducted a trio of Panthers’ alumni within its ranks in former coach, teacher and South Harrison school board member Ralph Cato, and former athletes Bill Saulman and Joe Zimmerman. Prior to any of the speeches, John Atkins, CCHS athletic director, gave an opening shoutout to Hall of Famer Jack Miles, who is currently in his 50th year as the scoreboard operator for Corydon Central boys’ basketball games.

Cato’s career was defined on the sideline as he led the Panthers to a 101-37 record during his tenure as head coach from 1959 to 1965. In that span, the Panthers won the Mid-Southern Conference title in 1960, a trio of sectional titles in ’60, ’61 and ’64 and won the program’s first-ever regional crown in ’61. For his success on the hardwood, he was named the South Central Indiana Coaches and Officials Poll’s Coach of the Year for the 1963-64 season and is an honorary member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

His coaching experience expanded outside the varsity hardwood as he also coached high school baseball and track and field. From 1954 to 1959, Cato coached all three sports, as well as cross-country, at the junior high level.

The success of many of the girls’ sports at Corydon Central can be attributed to Cato as he championed the introduction of girls’ sports and racial integration of sports in the area.

In 1983, Cato retired from teaching after serving 41 years in the classroom, followed by a short stint as a South Harrison Community School Corp. board member from 1984 to 1987.

Accepting the award in his memory, his daughter Judy Cato spoke of her father’s devotion to sports and fitness and tried to use it to help all high school students, especially those who came from rough living conditions.

“I think I learned the word calisthenics before I could tie my own shoe,” Cato joked. “(Sports) got him into college and gave him his career. Because of his experience, he was sensitive to what basketball had to offer to young people. He probably favored kids who came from tougher family situations because he believed in the power of sports to help students be successful in their lives.”

Cato also noted her father’s contribution to both girls’ sports and racial integration, noting how she and her sister were unable to play on school-sponsored teams at the time. She also mentioned times where her father came to the defense of his African-American players to the point where he and his team would walk out of restaurants if they would not serve said players.

Cato concluded her remarks by noting her father’s sense of humor as his most prominent characteristic, referring to a number of times he would have his family laughing around the dinner table.

“Growing up, he would keep us all in stitches around the dinner table from his funny stories,” she said. “He liked to joke and make people laugh, and this is how I always remember him.”

Following Cato was Saulman, who earned 13 varsity letters during his time as a Panther, including four each in football and track and field, three in baseball and two in basketball. He is an eight-time MSC all-conference selection, many of which came from track and field, where he was a six-time champion between the 100-yard, 220-yard and 440-yard dashes. He won three sectional titles between the 220 and 440 and made four appearances at the Indiana High School Athletic Association state finals between the two events.

Upon graduation, Saulman was the school record holder in the 100-, 220-, 440- and 880-yard dashes, still holding the record for the former three events. He also had success in other sports, having led the Panthers’ baseball team in batting average, doubles, triples and stolen bases in 1976 while being named All-MSC in football later that calendar year. He is also sixth all-time in Panthers’ basketball history in field-goal percentage.

While his remarks were brief, Saulman made note of his love of playing sports at Corydon Central in his youth while also eliciting a few laughs.

“If I stand up here and talk very long, I’m gonna surprise a bunch of teachers,” Saulman joked. “I went to high school for sports. High school was my life. The book work I didn’t like; I just went for the sports and I worked my hardest. I was telling (Atkins) and (CCHS Principal) Keith (Marshall) that I think that I cheated some coaches like Mr. (Dennis) Hancock. He’d always do something and (some of us) would do something else and it would make him furious. Next thing you know, he’d grab your chair and bite his lip. I also blame myself for (Hancock’s) receding hair loss.”

When the laughter subsided, he concluded his remarks with his feelings about receiving the phone call from Atkins, admitting he didn’t know the Hall of Fame existed.

“This is great. When John called me that day, I was amazed. I didn’t know anything about any of this,” he said. “I was surprised.”

Rounding out the night was Joe Zimmerman, who was among the school’s first starts in both basketball and track and field. On the hardwood, Zimmerman led the team in scoring for three seasons and graduated in 1942 as the third leading scorer in school history.

In the spring, Zimmerman was a sensation in the field. He won the Southeastern Indiana Conference titles in both the high jump and pole vault in 1940, defending his title in the latter event in 1941. He also advanced to the state finals in the high jump and long jump in ’40 before returning for both events as well as the pole vault in ’41. Upon graduation, he held the school record in all three events.

Zimmerman’s grandson Alex Zimmerman accepted the honor in his memory. He began his remarks by talking with his father, Kerry, in their glass shop of what he was going to say, and the iconic movie known as “The Sandlot” came to mind. One of the film’s most iconic quotes, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die,” was what Zimmerman used to describe the Hall of Fame and its inductees.

He also took the time to poke fun at Saulman as he recalled a story about his father’s time in high school. While Kerry Zimmerman has won Big 10 and NCAA titles in track and field, Alex mentioned how he beat Saulman in a back-peddling race at football practice.

“I always see him light up whenever I tell this story,” Zimmerman said of his father. “But they were having a back-peddling race with the defensive backs at football practice, and Dad always said it was a big achievement for him because he tied with Billy.”

While he elicited a few chuckles with his story, he tied it back to the conversations he had with his father about the many great athletes who came through Corydon Central, including his grandfather.

“Dad and I talk a lot about how it’s not about being the best in your state or the country; you always want to be the best in your neighborhood. These local legends and Hall of Fame inductees, that’s what it’s about, and I love talking about it and listening to the stories and speeches every year,” he said.

Zimmerman concluded by noting how content his grandfather was, which is rare in sports these days.

“That contentment is something we all strive for … Dad and I always talk about how there’s a difference between contentment and complacency,” he said. “That’s a hard line to walk, especially in athletics. Whenever Dad told me that (Grandpa) was getting inducted into the Hall of Fame here, I think it would’ve really meant something to him and make him really proud.”