Henry “Zeke” Bonura – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
A standout athlete at Loyola University in the late 1920s, Henry “Zeke” Bonura lettered in basketball, track and football before leaving school early to pursue a professional baseball career – Loyola did not have a baseball team at the time.
As a freshman in 1927, Bonura played on and coached the freshman basketball team because Loyola did not field a varsity team that year. He also served as captain of the team and was its “super player,” scoring 226 points, an average of 25 points per game. His total was more than half of the team’s total.
As a sophomore, he continued his phenomenal scoring record in varsity competition, and was named the outstanding forward of the AAU League in which Loyola participated.
If he had continued his Wolfpack career, Bonura likely would have become one of Loyola’s all-time great athletes, but he left the university at the end of his second year to play professional baseball – though he did return to Loyola for the 1930-31 season to coach the varsity basketball team.
His professional baseball career lasted 10 years, including seven years in the major leagues. As a Chicago White Sox rookie in 1934, hit .302 with 110 RBIs and a then team-record 27 homers (which also stood as the Sox rookie record until Ron Kittle broke it in 1983). In 1936, he drove in 138 runs, also a White Sox record until Albert Belle broke it in 1998. Over four seasons in Chicago, he hit .317 and smashed 79 home runs.
Bonura was traded to the Washington Senators for the 1938 season and he had another big year, belting 22 home runs with 114 RBIs.
He played for the New York Giants in 1939 and then returned to Washington in 1940 before being traded in midseason to the Chicago Cubs from whom he played 49 games before serving in the military for World War II. He returned to baseball as a minor league manager for eight years after the War.
Born September 20, 1908 in New Orleans, he graduated from St. Stanislaus High School in Mississippi. As a teen, he was the 1925 National AAU Champion in the javelin throw, defeating 1924 Olympic gold medalist Johnny Myra, and set an American record (213 feet, 10 1/2 inches), which stayed on the books until 1930. He died on March 9, 1987 at the age of 78 in New Orleans.