Gilligan added to 2018 ABCA Hall of Fame Class
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Former Lamar University baseball head coach Jim Gilligan was announced as one of 11 individuals to be inducted in to the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in January 2018, announced the organization Tuesday.
Induction into the ABCA Hall of Fame is the highest honor bestowed by the organization, which was founded in 1945 and the Hall of fame began in 1966. He will be inducted with the following: Ed Blankmeyer, St. John’s; Hill Denson, Belhaven; Don Freeman, Prairie High School (Wash.); Tim Hill, Sr., State College of Florida; Bobby Howard, Columbus High School (Ga.); Andy Lopez, Arizona; Stan Luketich, Desert Vista High School (Ariz.); Pat Mcmahon, New York Yankees; Frank Permuy, Gaither High School (Florida); John Schaly, Ashland.
For the better part of 39 years, Gilligan – a former pitching ace for LU from 1967-68 – was the face of Lamar Baseball. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Bill Vincent in 1970 after a brief stint in Detroit’s Class-A affiliate in New York.
In 1972, he took his first head coaching job and led Western New Mexico to a 10-10 record. After one year, his alma mater came calling; he answered and took over as head coach in 1973. Other than a brief stint as a professional club coach from 1987-1991, he’s been the skipper since.
With his first win of the 2015 season, he accomplished something that only 18 coaches in the history of the NCAA did before him, attain 1,300 career wins. That win came in a 7-6 victory over New Mexico State, and by the end of the season Gilligan claimed with 1,320 wins. His career record stands at 1,355-894-1, which stands at 13th all-time in wins in NCAA history, and all but two of Lamar’s 12 conference championships were won under Gilligan’s tutelage.
In his final year, he downed College World Series finalist Arizona 13-5 on the backs of two grand slams in the contest. Just two days later he guided an eight-run comeback and victory over fifth-ranked powerhouse LSU. His final year had him with a 35-19 record including a staggering 15-game win streak.
Counting his playing and graduate assistant days, he faithfully served Lamar for more than 40 years and saw nearly every Cardinal win. As a head coach, he has accounted for an astounding 30 30-win seasons, eight 40-win seasons and one 50-win season. His 1981 squad set a school record for wins in a season at 54.
The six-time league coach of the year considers one of his greatest accomplishments, prior to this one, to be his induction into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004. He went in alongside Houston Astro greats Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio and Rangers’ Kenny Rogers.
He was also inducted into the Southland Conference Hall of Honor, and joined eight of LU’s best, J.B. Higgins, F.L. McDonald, Billy Tubbs, Belle Mead, Sonny Jolly, Katrinka Jo Crawford, Paul Zeek and Chris Stroud.
The City of Beaumont loved him so much that in 2010 it voted unanimously to rename a stretch of Florida Avenue running adjacent to Vincent-Beck Stadium to Jim Gilligan Way. Additionally, he was honored as a Distinguished Lamar Alum in 2012.
During his tenure, Gilligan guided the Cardinals to 12 NCAA Regional Tournaments, the most recent being 2010 after his group swept its way through the Southland Conference Tournament in Corpus Christi. From 1976-1981, a span of six years, he ran through four NCAA Regionals and worked up a 296-108-5 record during the time period. Three times in his career he went to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, including three-straight from 2002-04. In those three seasons he accumulated a 117-58 record.
His 1976, 1977, 1993, 2002, 2003, 2004 seasons all netted him league coach of the year honors, all were Southland Conference honors except the 1993 award. He alone has more SLC Coach of the Year honors than every current program in the conference except Northwestern State.
His head coaching career is split into two periods. His first phase spanned from 1973-86 to which he led the Cardinals to seven league championships and six NCAA appearances.
His teams played twice in the NCAA Regional Finals, one step from a shot at the College World Series, but fell in both. He earned his 500th career victory in 1986, and was the youngest coach to ever do so at the time.
When he returned in 1992, Gilligan had to revive a struggling Cardinal program that had a 120-152-1 record in his absence. The worst of those in the season before he returned at 18-34. In 1992, he improved the Cards to a 32-21 record and followed that with a Sun Belt Conference Championship in 1993. Since that championship, he won two more league crowns, three tournament championships and made five NCAA Regional appearances.
During his stint away from Lamar, Gilligan managed the 1987 Salt Lake Trappers of the Pioneer League. That team broke a 68-year professional record by winning 29 consecutive games. To recognize the achievement, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., created a permanent display featuring Gilligan’s No. 29 jersey, a number he still proudly wears today. Before becoming Salt Lake’s manager in 1987, he served as the Trappers’ pitching coach in 1986. In that season Salt Lake had the best pitching staff in the league and led the Trappers to the Pioneer League Championship.
The skipper claimed three-straight conference championships from 1975-77, which was only the second time a team in the league had done so. He accumulated 33 wins and only 12 losses in league play during that span, and the Cardinals did not drop a single conference series during the 1977 campaign.
When the Southland Conference celebrated its 50th anniversary, it released five all-decade teams and Gilligan was listed on four of them. For the 1960s, he was listed on the team as a pitcher, and for the 1970s, 1980s and 2000s, he was listed as a coach. Gilligan is the Southland Conference’s and Lamar’s winningest coach.
In 2003, Gilligan guided Lamar to its 11th regular season title and a spot in to a NCAA Regional hosted by Texas. Big Red came within one win of advancing a NCAA Super Regional after pushing the host Longhorns to a championship game. UT pulled out a 6-3 win over the Cardinals and went on to the College World Series.
Gilligan coached 140 all-conference selections, 81 major league draftees, six major leaguers and four All-Americans during his career. Joe McCann (1976-79) is one of only two players to be named All-Southland Conference for four seasons, and Mike Laudig (1976-78) is one of only 13 to take the honors three times.
He coached one Southland Conference Player of the Year, five Hitters of the Year and nine Pitchers of the Year.
His trademark was always getting the most out of his players, especially the pitching staff, having been a pitcher himself. A former southpaw for LU, Gilligan led Lamar’s 1967 staff in victories (five), earned run average (2.54) and strikeouts (60).
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1969 and earned his master’s degree the following year. He and LaVerne, who was always instrumental in the success of the annual Lamar Baseball Banquet and securing outfield billboard sponsors, reside in Beaumont.
The 2018 ABCA Hall of Fame inductions will be held during the ABCA Convention on Jan. 5, 2018 at the J.W. Marriott in Indianapolis, Indiana. Tickets to the event will go on sale starting in September.