As Charley Eckman would say, it "was better than the movies."
It was a great night for county sports and the start of something big Thursday night at Michael's 8th Avenue as five greats became the first to be enshrined in the newly formed Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame.
Eckman, the former NBA coach and referee and broadcasting great, joined ex-big league catcher and slugger, Babe Phelps, Anne Arundel coach and educator, Betty Hallmark, Olympic silver medal wrestler Lloyd Keaser and the "Father of Lacrosse" Daffy Russell in the hall.
After Hall of Fame president Ted Sophocleus introduced master of ceremonies Keith Mills, the WMAR-TV sportscaster, the evening started witha beautiful rendition of the national anthem by 11-year-old BrooklynPark-Lindale Junior High student and Brooklyn Park Broncos cheerleader Lauren Pokrywka.
She brought down the house with "The Star-Spangled Banner", and the Rev. Lloyd Marcus followed with the invocation.
After dinner, an unforgettable program followed that ended with remarks from Brooks Robinson.
"It was unbelievable. I couldn't be happier, not one person got up and left until the affair was over. Nowhow many times do you see that happen," said Sen. Mike Wagner, who orchestrated the affair to honor the county's greatest and to raise money for amateur athletics.
Veteran Evening Sun columnist John Steadman presented Phelps, a life-long resident of Odenton.
Steadman began by telling the Hall of Fame committee, "This is really an extraordinary night. To stop and consider that this is the very first of what is going to be a long series of Hall of Fame installations, tonight you have covered yourself with glory.
"You truly have a galaxy of stars, known internationally, nationally, and across this state andall areas of America."
Steadman continued with the introduction of the Babe, who had a lifetime batting average of .310 while catchingin the National League for 11 seasons with the Washington Senators, Chicago Cubs, Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates.
"It's most fitting that your lead-off enshrinee be Ernest Gordon 'Babe' Phelps,"said Steadman.
Steadman noted Babe as a member of the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame, the Brooklyn Dodger Hall of Fame, "and nowon this grand occasion" the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame.
The 83-year-old Phelps graciously accepted the honor and said, "Itrust that this county will continue to honor their sons and daughters for their contributions to athletics."
Southern of Harwood's very successful basketball and lacrosse coach Linda Kilpatrick, a recent Anne Arundel Community College Hall of Fame inductee, returned a favor as she presented Hallmark for induction. Hallmark presented Kilpatrick at the Anne Arundel ceremony a couple of weeks ago.
"It gives me great pride tonight to have the tables reversed and have the honor of presenting this award to a person who is very special to me," said Kilpatrick of her former community college coach.
Hallmark, the first lady of women's sports in Anne Arundel, was inducted into herfourth hall of fame. She already had been inducted into the Western Maryland College (1987), Chesapeake Division of the National Red Cross (1979) and the AACC hall of fames.
"Mrs. Hallmark showed me how to teach and give students something special," said Kilpatrick. "She has worked so very, very hard to promote women's sports in our county."
After Hallmark, the Severna Park resident who started the AACC women's sports program, accepted her award, Capital-Gazette writer Bill Wagner introduced Keaser.
Wagner pointed to his older brother, a state champion wrestler at Annapolis High School, and said that "Lloyd Keaser was his idol. He had a poster of Lloyd in his room and indirectly he helped my brother become a champion and I would be willingto bet that he has done the same for hundreds of others in this county."
A graduate of Brooklyn Park High and the U.S. Naval Academy, the 40-year-old Keaser won a silver medal in wrestling at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, the highlight of an incomparable mat career.
In a moving acceptance speech, Keaser clearly showed why he is reveredas a role model in the communities of Pumphrey and Brooklyn Park where he grew up.
"I can't tell you how touched I was to be named oneof the five original inductees," said Keaser, who was inducted into the state Hall of Fame with Phelps in 1985.
"To be here tonight with Brooks Robinson is very special to me. The feeling of representingmy country in the Olympics was indescribable.
"I locked myself ina bathroom before the Olympics and looked into the mirror and becameoverwhelmed with emotion because all I could think about was all thepeople who were my teammates throughout my life.
"My father, who is not here now . . . I can't begin to tell you what inspiration he was to me. My mom is sitting over there, one of the strongest people you will ever know. She has a quiet strength and motivated me to do things the right way."