STARKVILLE — The fifth class of the Ron Polk Ring of Honor will see their plaques unveiled this spring when the trio of Mark Gillaspie, Ken Tatum and Tommy Raffo is enshrined as the 2023 class.
The 2023 class will be celebrated during Mississippi State’s Southeastern Conference series versus Vanderbilt (March 24-26) with the induction ceremony set to be held March 25.
The Ring of Honor is named after legendary head coach Ron Polk, who led the Bulldogs from 1976-97 and again from 2002-08. Affectionately referred to as the father of SEC baseball, Polk served 31 years as head coach in the league, including a stint at the University of Georgia (2000-01).
The architect of five SEC championship teams and five SEC tournament-title winning squads, Polk was a four-time SEC coach of the year and two-time national coach of the year honoree.
The first SEC coach in any sport to reach 1,000 victories, Polk guided Mississippi State to six College World Series appearances and owned a 1,139-590 record with the Maroon and White. He totaled 1,373 career coaching victories, making eight total trips to Omaha. A two-time Team USA head coach, Polk is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association, Mississippi Sports and College Baseball Halls of Fame.
During his tenure as a head coach, Polk tutored 33 all-Americans, 71 All-SEC selections, 187 Major League Baseball draft picks, including 29 who reached the big leagues. Named an SEC Legend in 2017, Polk has also earned the prestigious Lefty Gomez Award from the ABCA and Rube Award from Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame for his tireless service to others during his career.
Mark Gillaspie (1980-81)
A threat from both sides of the plate, Gillaspie earned all-America accolades in 1981 and was a two-time all-SEC and ABCA all-region selection during his time as an outfielder for the Maroon and White. He played an integral part in State’s 1981 College World Series appearance before being named the team’s offensive MVP at the conclusion of that same season. Gillaspie finished his career at MSU as the program’s leader with a .523 career on base percentage. To this day, Gillaspie still ranks second in MSU history with a .384 career batting average and is third all-time with a .660 career slugging mark. In both of his seasons in Starkville, Gillaspie led the Bulldogs in hits, runs and batting average. His performance during his 1981 senior season still ranks in the top 10 in Mississippi State history in home runs (20), runs scored (81), batting average (.411), runs batted in (78) and walks (66). He was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 11th round of the 1981 MLB draft.
Tommy Raffo (1987-90)
A key part of Mississippi State’s rich baseball history, Raffo’s contributions to the program came as both a standout player and an assistant coach. From 1987 to 1990, Raffo excelled both on the diamond and in the classroom under head coach Ron Polk. He was a three-time All-SEC selection, while he was also a three-time SEC academic honor roll selection and two-time CoSIDA academic all-American. Raffo earned all-America accolades in both 1989 and 1990. He was an integral part of a Mississippi State team that claimed two SEC regular-season titles and a pair of SEC tournament championships. He helped guide the Bulldogs to the postseason all four seasons he played in Starkville, including a College World Series appearance as a senior. He continues to rank among the top 10 in MSU history in career batting average (.366), on-base percentage (.458), RBIs (207), slugging percentage (.628), home runs (45), hits (278) and doubles (52). In 1989, he led the team in hits (102), batting average (.383), home runs (22) and runs batted in (80) on his way to being named the team’s offensive MVP as a junior. Following his State career, Raffo was an eighth-round pick in the 1990 MLB draft by Miami. As an assistant coach for the Bulldogs from 1994 to 2008, Raffo was part of coaching staffs that led the Bulldogs to more than 500 wins, 11 NCAA Regionals, three Super Regionals, three College World Series appearances and two SEC tournament championships.
Ken Tatum (1964-66)
A dominant right-hander for the Bulldogs, Tatum compiled a 28-9 record on the mound for Mississippi State over the course of his three seasons in Starkville. He earned all-SEC honors in both 1965 and 1966, the same year he led the conference in ERA and a 10-2 record. Tatum was a vital member of the 1965 and 1966 teams who went on to capture conference titles both seasons. Additionally, Tatum was voted as the team’s pitching MVP in both years. In all three seasons at State, Tatum led the Bulldogs in wins and innings pitched, while he ranked first on the pitching staff in strikeouts in 1965-66. He was drafted on three separate occasions, eventually signing with the Los Angeles Angels after being selected in the second round of the 1966 Major League Baseball Secondary Draft. He played six seasons in the majors, finishing his professional career with 52 saves, 16 wins with a 2.93 ERA and 156 strikeouts. He was inducted into the Mississippi State Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.
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