An extremely diversified group of five has been selected for induction into the newly formed Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame Inc.
The organization, whose goals will be to induct deserving individuals into the county Hall of Fame and donate money to amateur sports,has picked Charlie Eckman, Gordon "Babe" Phelps, Daffy Russell, Betty Hallmark and Lloyd Keaser as the inaugural inductees.
The five will be honored at the first Hall of Fame Banquet on Thursday, Oct. 24, at Michael's 8th Avenue. Former Baltimore Oriole great Brooks Robinson will be the guest speaker.
Eckman, a Glen Burnie resident for more than 40 years, was the radio voice of Baltimore and Maryland sports, the last 18 at WFBR Radio in Baltimore. The radio career followed a distinguished career in refereeing and coaching that saw him become the only man to referee and coach an NBA all-star game on separate occasions.
After graduating from City College High School in Baltimore, where he played soccer, basketball and baseball, Eckman went on to become one of the top college hoop officials in the nation.
Known as "Charlie Be-Bop" when he put those zebra stripes on and that whistle around his neck, Eckman was, to understate, "a piece of work" on the basketball court. Yet he was highly respected because of his judgment, knowledge of the game and fairness.
He worked NCAA championship games and became a legend in the Atlantic Coast Conference up and down Tobacco Road. Soon he was calling games in the NBA. After a short stint as an NBA ref, Eckman became head coach of the Fort Wayne Pistons (who later moved to Detroit) in 1955 andloves to tell the story about how he eventually got fired.
In hisfirst three seasons as coach of the Pistons, Eckman won two Western Division titles and tied for the title his third year. Off to a slow start in his fourth year, he was called into the office of owner FredZollner.
"He told me, 'Charlie, we're going to make a change in your department,' and since I was the only one in that department, I knew it was time to call a cab," said Eckman, whose on-the-job experiences as a player, coach and referee made him arguably the greatest and most colorful broadcaster in Baltimore history.
Never one to getdiscouraged, Eckman got back into refereeing after being fired in Fort Wayne. After 16 more seasons, Eckman's bad knees had had enough, and he retired from officiating in 1960.
Other Eckman jobs over theyears have included scouting for the Milwaukee Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, TV broadcasting, writing newspaper columns and acting ascounty chief judge of Orphans Court back in the '50s.
Some of hisbiggest contributions have come in Maryland horse racing, where he is known as the "ambassador of horse racing." Eckman, who served on many advisory racing panels, was inducted into the Pennsylvania Hall ofFame several years ago for starting the World Series of Handicappingat Penn National.
Eckman retired from full-time broadcasting in June of 1987, but still does some free-lance work.
A native ofOdenton and graduate of the old Arundel High School, Phelps, a catcher, had a lifetime batting average of .310 in about six seasons in the National League with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, and Pittsburgh Pirates. He also had a short stint in the American League with the Washington Senators.
Nicknamed "Babe" because of his imposing 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound frame and striking resemblance to Babe Ruth, the left-handed-hitting Phelps' greatest season came in 1936 when he hit a robust .367. He lost the batting title by seven points to Paul Waner of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
During his career, Phelps played under legends Casey Stengel and Leo "The Lip" Durocher when each managed the Dodgers in different seasons.
"I hated 'The Lip' when I played against him, but when I played for him, he took to me like a glove."
Some of his greatest moments included a homer, triple and three singles off the great Giants lefty Carl Hubbell to end the Hall ofFamer's 19-game winning streak in 1933. He batted against Johnny VanderMeer in the southpaw's record second-straight no-hitter for the Cincinnati Red Stockings on June 15, 1938.
VanderMeer made big-league history with his 2-0 gem in what was the first night game played atBrooklyn's storied Ebbetts Field.
"VanderMeer was the luckiest guy I ever saw," said the Babe. "Hell, if we hit one, we musta hit 15 line drives that night, but all right at somebody."
Phelps also holds the distinction of being the only big leaguer to be suspended for not signing a contract. Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Landis suspended him in 1942 for not inking his contract by a May 1 deadline, and also suspended him in 1941 for his refusal to make a goodwill trip to Cuba.
At the age of 34, Phelps retired to become a train dispatcher atFort Meade during World War II.
In 1985, Phelps was named to the Maryland State Hall of Fame along with Keaser, the former wrestling great.