Maryland 'Hall' has maintained its exclusivity

John Steadman

February 12, 1993|By John Steadman

Honoring the elite of Maryland athletes with a coveted place in their own Hall of Fame has become an ongoing ceremony dedicated to excellence. To the credit of the charter team that began this annual odyssey 37 years ago, the concept hasn't changed.

Its membership is held exclusively for those born in Maryland, such as Babe Ruth and Al Kaline, or those who immigrated to this country and became naturalized citizens, as witness Johnny "Kid" Williams. What the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame has held onto with strong conviction is the rules are applied the same way now as in 1956.

Other cities and states have established halls of fame but, in so doing, have diminished the importance to just another award by permitting athletes playing for pro teams in a hometown area to be included. Maryland hasn't surrendered its birthright. A man or woman must be a native Marylander to be considered. That's a prerequisite. No deviation at all.

The wisdom of the those who created the original charter thought it essential that all coaches, officials, sportswriters, scorekeepers and broadcasters be ineligible for the hall. It wanted to keep the process free from the threat of politics or pressures that might be applied, yet any citizen is eligible to offer his or her nomination.

Maryland's Athletic Hall of Fame is for those born here or naturalized. A Brooks Robinson is in the Arkansas Hall of Fame; John Unitas the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame. Their careers brought them national prominence playing for Baltimore teams, but that doesn't provide them a special entry in Maryland. If such were the case, the chances for home-grown talent ever having a chance to qualify would be appreciably decreased.

Come noon on Monday at Martin's West, the annual induction ceremony will spotlight another illustrious foursome -- international tennis standout Pam Shriver, jousting champion Mary Lou Bartram and two former professional football players, Otts Brandau and Jean Fugett. They'll be introduced by a member of their families, a coach or a friend.

In looking back, it's interesting to contemplate the lineup of the first selection committee: Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin; Rodger Pippen, The News-Post; Paul Menton, The Evening Sun; Jesse Linthicum, The Morning Sun; Bob Layton, Cambridge Banner; Bill Perry, Easton Star Democrat, Suter Kegg, Cumberland Times; Robbie Wallis, Bel Air Aegis; Eddie Fenton, radio; Bailey Goss, television; and Sam Silber, Charles Ellinger and Joe Deckman, ,, representing the University of Maryland.

The idea for a state hall of fame originated at a meeting of the University of Maryland's M Club, but this didn't influence any of ,, the selections. The M Club made it known it wanted to relinquish control and turn it over to an independent board that would be given autonomy in deciding on the annual selections.

No system is without its weaknesses but, suffice to say, this one has worked effectively. Part of the reason for its success is the membership of the committee has rotated so new names are constantly introduced.

Present members include Ed Athey, president; Bob Maisel, vice-president; Bill Tanton, secretary; Leon Horowitz, treasurer; Chester O'Sullivan, executive secretary, and Vince Bagli, Bill Mowbray, Jack Scarbath, Paul Baker, Mary Anne Downey Cooke, Ben Alperstein, Pete Pompey and Bob Scott. O'Sullivan is the only one of the group without the option to cast a vote.

"Every section of the state continues to be represented, which was the intention when this all started out," said Athey. "We have still been able to maintain that across-the-state balance so we have important input. There has never been compensation involved. We are strictly volunteers with a resolve on the part of the committee to locate, discuss and vote on the deserving athletes."

At the present time, there's no dearth of names to be taken up for the future. Twenty-one names are on the candidate list, 17 on the eligible list and 37 included among the nomination category when the evaluation commences for next year.

There have been certain automatics. Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, ** Robert Garrett, Joe Dundee, Jim Lacy, Marvin Webster, Bob Williams, Jack Scarbath, Redmond Finney, Pam Shriver and Elizabeth "Toots" Barger would get attention on any state's hall of fame list.

But then, too, equal billing has been given to power boat racers, jousters, race car drivers, competitive ice dancers and other sports that don't attract major attention.

It makes for a Hall of Fame mix that fits Maryland well.

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