Vinny Testaverde honored by Sports Club of Tampa Bay

TAMPA -- A Heisman Trophy winner, World Series hero and local baseball hero in the community were the 31st class to be inducted into the Sports Club of Tampa Bay Hall of Fame on Wednesday night.

Vinny Testaverde, the College Football Hall of Famer and longtime NFL quarterback, became the second Buccaneers quarterback to be inducted, joining Doug Williams, who was enshrined in 2008.

Testaverde, a Heisman Trophy winner with the Miami Hurricanes, spent six seasons with the Bucs, before leading the New York Jets to an AFC Championship game in 1998. Testaverde is also the oldest NFL quarterback to throw a touchdown and win a game. He retired in 2007 at the age of 44.
"Vinny taught me how to be a better player, a better man and a better father," said Anthony Becht, Testaverde's teammate with the Jets. Becht spoke for Testaverde, who was in New York on a prior commitment.

Also inducted was Luis Gonzalez, the Jefferson High School product who ended the New York Yankees' run of three-straight World Series crowns in 2001.
As a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Gonzalez drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 off of Mariano Rivera to cap a come-from-behind effort off of the recently-retired legendary closer.

Besides that bloop single, Gonzalez was a five-time All-Star in his 19-year career with Houston, the Diamondbacks and Marlins, who had a lifetime average of .283 and hit 354 home runs.

"I played to inspire the younger generation of players in Tampa," Gonzalez said during his induction speech. "And I wanted the men in the coffee shops back home to see my name in the box score."

Gonzalez also noted that one of the highlights of his career was hitting the first home run in the history of Tropicana Field, as a member of the Detroit Tigers in 1998.

The final member of the 2013 class was Tony Saladino, Jr. Saladino is also an alumnus of the Jefferson High School baseball program, and has organized a week-long springtime high school baseball tournament in Hillsborough County every year since 1981. 

The tournament's championship game is an annual event televised by Bright House Sports Network.

The tournament has had 39 eventual Major Leaguers play in it, but Saladino calls that a bonus. The main goal of the tournament is to stress sportsmanship, patriotism and good manners, one inning at a time. Always while showing humility.

"I'll be basking in these accolades tonight, but tomorrow it's back to teaching," Saladino said while accepting the honor.

The Sports Club of Tampa Bay was formed in 1961 and was instrumental in bringing professional sports teams to the Bay Area. This was the 31st Annual Hall of Fame class.

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