Hurdler Davis leads 4-athlete Class of '91 Phoebus,Cusick Stern also inducted

February 19, 1991|By John W. Stewart

Jack Griffin remembers the first time he heard about Tammy Davis. A gym teacher in the Frederick school system told the teacher/coach that one of her girls had run a phenomenal time. The next day, another teacher told him that another girl had run a fast time.

"The first one might have been suspicious, but after two of them I had to see for myself," Griffin said yesterday, recalling his introduction to Davis and Debbie Thompson, age 11 at the time.

"What are the odds of two girls living across the street from each other, the exact same age, attending the same school at the same time, going on to become world-class athletes? That's a million-to-1 shot."

This was part of Griffin's presentation of Tammy Davis Thompson for induction into the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame during the organization's annual ceremony at Martin's West yesterday.

Thompson was joined by former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Tom Phoebus, one-time powerboat racer George Cusick, and perhaps City College's all-time greatest athlete, Hyman "Lefty" Stern.

Griffin, Davis and Debbie Thompson, who was inducted into the hall last year, put Frederick on the track and field map during the 1960s.

Davis had run world-best indoor hurdle times at 50, 60, and 70 yards when she was 15, and a year later, in 1964, was the No. 1 American woman hurdler, holding every national hurdles record, indoors and out. She missed that year's Olympic team when she hit the last hurdle in the trials and finished fourth (the first three qualified). Thompson made the Olympic team in the 200 meters and finished eighth in Tokyo.

Davis later went on to college at Tennessee State, and today works for the post office in Frederick, where she is president of her union of 1,200 members.

"Perseverance," was the word used to describe Phoebus, 48, a Mount St. Joseph High School star who labored seven years in the minor leagues before being called up by the Orioles in September 1966. He began with back-to-back shutouts of the California Angels and Kansas City A's, and the next year (14-9) was named American League Rookie of the Year.

There was a no-hitter in 1968, and a World Series win in 1970, before going to the National League, where he pitched for the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs. He wound up 56-52 for a seven-year major-league career. At age 39, he enrolled in college, later earning a degree from the University of South Florida. Now, he is in the Port St. Lucie, Fla., school system.

Cusick, 65, from Cambridge, was a dominant figure in powerboat racing during a 13-year career that began when he was 32. When he retired from competition in 1970, he had set six world speed records, won five national championships, four of them in succession, and been an annual high-point leader five times.

Stern, 83, had a meteoric athletic career. At City College, he starred in football, basketball, boxing (intramural champion) and baseball. Some local observers called him the best amateur athlete they had seen. He went to work rather than to college, and continued his championship athletic exploits in softball and handball.

In accepting the award for his father, who is confined to a wheelchair, Barry Stern said, "You do my dad and the Hall a great honor."

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