State's sports 'Hall' is a well-kept secret

February 03, 1994|By Bill Tanton

The best-kept secret around here is the State of Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame.

It shouldn't be that way.

The questions people ask about the Maryland Hall of Fame couldn't be more basic:

What is it? Where is it? Who is it? When is it?

And yet our Hall of Fame is something every sports-minded Marylander should know about and be proud of.

How many states have produced the likes of Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Bobby Williams, Gene Shue, Al Kaline, Raymond Chester, Calvin Hill, Marvin Webster and Pam Shriver?

Maryland has. All the above are among the 156 athletes in our Hall of Fame, which includes the four who will go in at the annual enshrinement luncheon at Martin's West Feb. 21 (Tom Gatewood, Phil Grove, Ralph Bogart and the late Reggie Lewis).

What is our Hall of Fame?

It's a collection, assembled since 1956, of the greatest athletes ever born or naturalized in Maryland. Their sports range from archery to yacht racing. Last year the state sport, jousting, joined the list when Mary Lou Bartram entered.

Most state Halls of Fame honor anyone who played there. They are dominated by pros who starred in the NFL, the NBA or major league baseball.

We do it differently here. It was set up that way by the organization's founding fathers, who included Governor McKeldin, Paul Menton, Jesse Linthicum, Rodger Pippen and Bailey Goss, all of them deceased.

We honor athletes only. No coaches. No promoters or sports reporters. Just those who played the games. And they must be native Marylanders.

John Unitas and Brooks Robinson can never be members. They weren't born in this state.

But a Lefty Stern can be and is, even though he never played college or pro sports, because in the '30s he was as good as any athlete in Baltimore.

Where is our Hall of Fame?

It began at College Park, moved in 1963 to the Baltimore Civic Center (now Arena) and for the past six years has been situated at Martin's West, where most of the big sports banquets are held. Next time you go to one, take a few minutes to check out the plaques and memorabilia.

The "where" part appears to have the Hall of Fame on the verge of a bright new era.

This week executive secretary D. Chester O'Sullivan dispatched Hall of Fame president Ed Athey, the longtime Washington College coach, to Annapolis for a 45-minute meeting with Senate lTC president Mike Miller. Mike Gibbons, director of the Babe Ruth Museum, also attended the meeting.

The grand plan is for Camden Station to be renovated -- at a cost of $8 million -- and the place be a new home for the Ruth Museum, the Babe Ruth League Hall of Fame, a Negro Leagues baseball display -- and the Maryland Hall of Fame.

"It'll be wonderful if we get in the Camden Station," Athey said yesterday. "Mike Gibbons is raising funds for this and we're optimistic that it'll all come off.

"Martin's West has been great to give us a home for these years, but the Camden Yards complex is the place to be. It would give us the best exposure we've ever had.

"With 3 1/2 million people walking by the door to see Oriole baseball every year, thousands would see our Hall of Fame exhibit. With the space, we could add interesting new memorabilia."

The "who" of the Hall of Fame this year is the usual array of star athletes.

Tom Gatewood played football at City College and Notre Dame, where he was All-America in 1970 and 1971. Gatewood still holds Notre Dame records for passes caught in a career (159), in a season (79) and in one game (12 for 192 yards). He was drafted No. 5 by the Giants but injury cut short his pro career.

Coming from New York to present Gatewood will be his former coach at City, George Young, now general manager of the NFL Giants.

"I'm proud that Tom asked me to be his presenter," Young said yesterday. "He was not only a great receiver and runner after making the catch, he was an outstanding blocker and an excellent student. He majored in economics and sociology at Notre Dame and made the dean's list every semester."

Ordinarily, former Dunbar High basketball star Reggie Lewis wouldn't be going in our Hall of Fame for a while. His pro career with the Boston Celtics was in full flower before he collapsed in the playoffs and, months later, died on July 27.

Jockey Phil Grove, from Frederick, has ridden some 3,900 winners in his 27 years on the track. At 47, he's still riding. He rode 120 winners in 1993.

Ralph Bogart dominated amateur golf in this state in the '30s and '40s and was state seniors champion in '76 and '79. Bogart won the state amateur 10 times.

The "when." That's at noon on the 21st at Martin's. Tickets, at $30, are available through the Department of Athletics at Johns Hopkins, or call (410) 516-7490.

Come on out and celebrate the success of these Maryland athletes.

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