PHOENIX – The careers of several Valley sports legends just got a little more embellished.
Six new people were inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame Tuesday night at a star-studded event at the Chateau Luxe that paid tribute to the state’s tremendous sporting heritage.
The Class of 2022 included Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the late Pedro Gomez, formerly of Arizona Republic and ESPN, former Phoenix Mercury player Jennifer Gillom, former Northern Arizona basketball player Peggy Kennedy, Seton Catholic Preparatory Girls basketball coach Karen Self and the late Michael K. Kennedy, an Arizona sports philanthropist.
“That’s Arizona history tonight,” said Peggy Kennedy. “Whatever I like about it, it’s forever. For our class, it’s forever.”
Kennedy began playing at NAU in 1976 and set several program records, including most career points (1,082), single-season points (411), and singles game record (45).
The former Lumberjack star said she’s impressed with the society around her.
“This class rocks,” Kennedy said. “These are the best of the best in the sport in Arizona. I read who they are (and I’m like, ‘Oh my God! Oh dear God! Oh dear God!’ It just kind of tells you the presence (around him) and we’re all special together.
Candidates had to meet one of three criteria to be inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame: be a native Arizonan or be immediately recognized as an Arizonan or have made at least two significant contributions to the Arizona sports community.
The biggest name in the loaded class was Fitzgerald, widely considered the greatest Arizona cardinal of all time. The 11-time Pro Bowler ranks second all-time in the NFL with 17,492 yards behind Jerry Rice’s mark of 22,895.
While Fitzgerald’s stats are tangible, much of his impact in the Valley with his foundation occurred off the field. For nearly two decades, Fitzgerald has been an integral part of the Arizona community, even owning a minority stake in the Phoenix Suns.
“In building relationships with so many people I truly admire and respect in this town and being a part of the fabric of the community, I couldn’t have asked God for a better[situation],” Fitzgerald said.
One of the most popular figures in the class was the late Pedro Gomez, who passed away unexpectedly in February 2021. Gomez was a dominant figure in the sports world, a writer who made the leap to television with no trouble. He covered all sports, but baseball was his specialty, and he became a staple of ESPN’s MLB coverage throughout his 35-year career. While he has covered many World Series, one of Gomez’s best stories came just before Game 7 of the 2001 World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees.
Gomez, then an Arizona Republic columnist, had written a highly critical article about Diamondbacks Game 7 starter Curt Schilling.
According to a story from Sports360AZ, Gomez was nervous when he arrived at the downtown Phoenix ballpark but ready to face the music over the harsh words he felt warranted in his column That Morning.
Gomez went onto the field to watch batting practice. After a few minutes, Diamondbacks pitcher Greg Swindell Gomez approached, looked into his eyes, shook his hand, nodded, and walked away. The story is widely considered a milestone in Gomez’s career. Rio Gomez, the son of Pedro and a Boston Red Sox pitcher, said this story captured his father perfectly.
“Fearlessness, I think, is the best way to put it,” Rio said. “He wasn’t afraid of what he was going to write and he wanted to be honest about the story. Regardless of (whether the players would be unhappy with him or not) and what (they) had to say. He was just there to do his job first and he made sure of that.”
Gillom and Self, two icons of women’s basketball in Arizona, were also inducted Tuesday night.
Gillom played with the Mercury from 1997 to 2002, averaging 13.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Gillom, a 1999 WNBA All-Star and Mercury Ring of Honor, was an assistant coach and head coach in the WNBA before taking the helm of the Xavier College Prep girls’ basketball team.
Self also coaches high school basketball in Arizona and has won a whopping 12 state titles, including the last two 4A championships, with the Seton Catholic Prep girls team. A product of the State of Arizona, she was named the 2020 McDonald’s All-American Game Coach, a high honor that matches her record of 775-155.
Kennedy, a philanthropist who has been very active in many of the Valley’s major sporting events, was also inducted into the star-studded Class of 2022. Kennedy served as chairman of the hosting committee for Super Bowl XLII and was a member of the executive committee for Super Bowl XLIX. He has also served as President of the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation since its inception in 1997 and served at the Phoenix Open as a member of the non-profit group Thunderbirds. Kennedy died in February 2021 after a long battle with cancer.