Inductees Gene Petty was one of the most talented all-around athletes ever to play for Peoria Manual High School - or any other local high school.
Playing in the late 1950s, Petty was all-state first team in baseball and football and was selected to the all-city team in basketball.
As a 6-foot-1, 185 pound halfback, Petty was selected to the first team all-City team in both 1956 and 1957, playing a key offensive role on Ken Hinrichs-coached teams that went 8-1-1 in 1956 and 7-1-2 in 1957.
"I've always felt he was as good an athlete as we've had come out of Peoria," praises Hinrichs. "He's right alongside the best we've had."
Wooed by both the Big Ten and the Big Eight, Petty accepted a football scholarship to Missouri over Illinois and Michigan. But he never got around to college football.
Also an outstanding shortstop, he selected baseball over football and signed a $30,000 bonus contract with the Chicago Cubs after his senior year at Manual.
He was sent to Paris, Ill., of the Midwest League to close out the 1958 season and divided 1959 between Paris and Carlsbad, New Mexico in the Cub chain.
He played at St. Cloud, Minn., in the Northern League through the 1960 and 1961 seasons and then decided to leave professional baseball.
But he was not done with sports.
In 1963 Buffalo Bills coach Lou Saban signed him to an $8,000 contract as a place kicker, but he never appeared in an NFL game.
Always a fine golfer, after returning home, he concentrated on his links game and played 15 years in Championship flight in the city tournament, being medalist one year. He also qualified for five Peoria Publinks teams.
He joined the Peoria Park District in golf management and at the time of his induction was golf professional at Madison golf course.
Gene Petty was one of the most talented all-around athletes ever to play for Peoria Manual High School - or any other local high school.
|Marlys Taber Watts|
Described by Hall of Famer Lorene Ramsey (GPSHOF class of 1982) as the “best defensive shortstop in the nation while in her prime,” Marlys Taber Watts experienced a truly outstanding career in women’s softball. She played nine seasons (1964 – 1973) with the highly touted Pekin Lettes before finishing her career with the West Allis State Bankettes. The 1965 Lettes team (GPSHOF class of 1988) finished third in the Amateur Softball Association’s World Tournament. She was known for her speed and defensive ability and was sometimes considered one of the top two hitters in the lineup. Marlys was a five-time National Amateur Softball Association All American, twice named to the 1st team and three times selected to the 2nd team. Other recognitions included being selected to numerous All-West Central Region All-Star Teams and receiving an invitation to the USA Pan-American Games tryouts in 1979. Other noteworthy experiences on the “big stage,” Marlys participated in three National ASA All-Star Softball Series, most significantly in 1966 when she was the leading hitter with a .389 batting average. At Illinois State University, Marlys played four varsity sports, field hockey, basketball, volleyball, and softball. She was inducted into the ISU Hall of Fame in 1982. The ISU “Hall” is not the only one of which she is a member. Marlys was inducted into the Illinois ASA Hall of Fame in 1989 and the National Amateur Softball Hall of Fame in 1991.