Wayne Tolleson, a former two-sport standout at Western Carolina and a member of the inaugural class of the WCU Athletic Hall of Fame, is one of five individuals selected for induction into the Southern Conference Hall of Fame.
A middle infielder who had a 10-year Major League Baseball career with the Texas Rangers (1981-85), Chicago White Sox (1986) and New York Yankees (1986-90), Tolleson played both baseball and football during his collegiate career, earning spots on the SoCon’s 75th Anniversary Baseball Team and the Western Carolina All-20th Century Football Team.
He was WCU’s first-ever Southern Conference Male Athlete of the Year, garnering the honor in 1977-78. Tolleson was also a two-time all-conference selection at shortstop and the 1978 Conference Player of the Year in baseball, while also earning all-conference honors in football at wide receiver in 1977, the first season WCU played a conference schedule after joining the league in 1976.
Also, a two-time All-Atlantic Region pick in baseball, Tolleson hit .340 with 58 stolen bases in his two Southern Conference seasons and finished his collegiate career with 10 school season and career records. His 84 stolen bases from 1975-78 remain the most by a Catamount.
On the gridiron, Tolleson led the nation in receptions per game in 1977 with a 6.6 average and paced the league with 100.1 receiving yards per game. His 73 catches and 1,101 yards that season were both school records at the time and currently rank third and fourth, respectively.
Tolleson, who received a tryout invitation from the NFL’s New England Patriots, opted for baseball where he was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 12th round in 1977 but returned to school. Texas drafted him a season later in the eighth round. He made his MLB debut with the Rangers in September of 1981 against the Toronto Blue Jays and spent the first five years of his career with the organization before being traded to the White Sox after the 1985 season and then to the Yankees in 1986. He tallied 60 career doubles, 17 triples, and nine home runs with 133 RBIs, while stealing 108 bases.
Tolleson, a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, was enshrined in the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.