Maryland's ultimate elite team grows by four with hall induction

May 03, 1998|By JOHN STEADMAN

It's one of the oldest state athletic halls of fame, rigidly designed and devoted without bias or politics to saluting those men and women who have brought favorable attention to themselves and to their native Maryland. Induction time is approaching and, come May 12 at Martin's West, they'll step into the spotlight and hear the applause once more.

The Hall of Fame had its genesis in 1956, an idea put forth by the M Club of the University of Maryland, but since delegated to a rotating group of unpaid selectors that now includes Jack Scarbath, president; Dennis Gring, executive director; Leon Horowitz, treasurer; and members Ben Alperstein, Ed Athey, Vince Bagli, Ed Brown, Stan Goldberg, Bill McCaffrey, Keith Mills, Bob Scott, Augie Waibel, Bernie Walter, Roger Wrenn and Dick Working.

Picking the first class in 1956 was almost automatic. Begin with Babe Ruth and include two other Baseball Hall of Famers, Jimmie Foxx and Frank "Home Run" Baker. Oddly enough, it was Baker, then managing Easton in the Eastern Shore League, who recognized Foxx's talents and took him to the Philadelphia A's as a 16-year-old catcher. The other charter inductee was Robert Garrett, instrumental in the revival of the modern Olympic Games, in which he was a medal winner in track and field.

Following that start-up year has come an abundant and unending mix of Maryland-born athletes. Such as Lefty Grove; the brother pair of world boxing champions, Joe and Vince Dundee; Bill Nicholson; Fred Stieber; Jack Turnbull; Elizabeth "Toots" Barger; Gardner Mallonee; Gene Shue; Don Heinicke; Joe Gans; Jimmy McAllister; Mary Anne Downey Cooke, who died three weeks ago; Pat Dengis; Jim Lacy; Warren Weaver; Steve Barber; Irv Pankey; Nick Kropfelder; Marvin Webster; Jean Fugett; Jim Spencer; Pat Smithwick; Lloyd Keaser; Larry Surock; Charley Bassler; Bob Williams; Tommy Mont; Jake Slagle; Calvin Hill; and Wayne Mulligan -- plus more than 100 others whose significant accomplishments made them familiar names on the sports pages in days gone by.

The Maryland Hall of Fame group, now numbering 172, played a wide variety of sports: baseball, football, basketball, lacrosse, boxing, golf, tennis, soccer, swimming -- all the majors -- but let us not forget skeet shooting, powerboat racing, competitive walking, pistol shooting, jousting and badminton. To this point, no horseshoe pitcher or weightlifter has been elevated to the hall, but if one brings national attention to Maryland, which is the first prerequisite, he or she will receive formal consideration.

Any fan is free to make a recommendation. Merely submit biographies and achievements and the committee will weigh the merits of the applications. In the main, sports editors and broadcasters across the state have given their time and interest to a project that has been in existence for 43 years.

Count in Suter Kegg, Herb Armstrong, Bob Maisel, Bill Tanton, Jim West, Sam Lacy, Sam Silber, John Donohue, John Lambros and Al Heagy for valuable direction rendered, without compensation or commendation. That first selection committee, so important to the Hall of Fame's success, comprised Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin, honorary chairman; sports editors Rodger Pippen, Paul Menton, Jesse Linthicum and Bob Layton; sportscasters Eddie Fenton and Bailey Goss; and M Club representatives Charley Ellinger and Joe Deckman.

They, the founding fathers, were responsible for creating the criteria for election. Candidates had to be born in Maryland or have come from a foreign country. Coaches, athletic directors, trainers, team executives, sports writers and broadcasters are not eligible. This puts the focus entirely on athletics, which is as it should be.

A prospective enshrinee also must be retired from a sport five years before being considered. The regulation was waived on two occasions, which in retrospect was a mistake, for tennis standout Pam Shriver and the late Reggie Lewis of the Boston Celtics. Even though precedent was established, it may never happen again for what the present committee believes are substantial reasons to hold to the original guidelines.

Last year's class included Elmer Wingate, Charlie Pittman, Ron Swoboda and the late Ray Moore. For the first time, a lifetime achievement award was established and presented to Jim Phelan, the record-setting basketball coach at Mount St. Mary's College. A similar honor this time around will go to Morgan Wootten, the eminently successful coach at DeMatha High School.

The class of 1998:

Bill Currier, graduate of Glen Burnie High and the University of South Carolina, where he was a football defensive captain. Played in the NFL as a safety with the Houston Oilers, New England Patriots and New York Giants for nine years. Participated in 115 regular-season games and four playoffs.

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