A Hall of Fame night to celebrate, and remember
- Kerry Eggers
- Portland Tribune - Sports
What I like most about the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame are the people.
And not just the members. I'm talking about the people who care.
People like Bill Schonely, the master of ceremonies who, coincidentally, is an inductee.
And those on the nomination committee, including Portland Tribune sports editor Steve Brandon, who put in many hours poring over candidates' resumes.
And executive director Mike Rose, who puts in many hours beyond his financial remuneration in pursuit of a permanent home for the hall.
That's right. All of the exhibits representing 32 years of the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame are currently tucked away in a warehouse in southeast Portland. The lease on the building that housed all the artifacts ran out a couple of years ago.
'Someone has the ability to get the hall of fame out of a cardboard box,' KXL program director Brian Jennings said Wednesday night as he addressed an overflow crowd at the annual induction ceremony at Multnomah Athletic Club.
Let's hope sponsors appear to provide a facility to display a historical perspective of our state's greats such as Steve Prefontaine, Terry Baker, Clyde Drexler, Danny Ainge, Dale Murphy, Rick Sanders and Clive Charles.
For now, we can be glad there remains a proverbial hall to honor greats such as the 2011 inductees - Rick Brooks, Bucky Buckwalter, Kelly Blair-LaBounty, Clive Davies, Les Gutches, Tom Trebelhorn and the Linfield football teams of 1982, '84, '86 and 2004.
How well-regarded is the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame? The universities of Oregon and Kentucky each bought a full-page advertisement in Tuesday night's program, congratulating Brooks, who coached at both schools.
Induction ceremonies are always full of smiles, old photos and game films, stories and more stories.
Buckwalter, one of the architects of the Trail Blazers' successes during his 18-year run with the club from 1976-93, told of his early years growing up in La Grande.
'When I was 8 years old, my father gave me a basketball,' Buckwalter said. 'We didn't have a TV, so we played a lot of hoops.'
Simpler times, for sure.
Blair-LaBounty grew up a small-town kid in Prosser, Wash., with basketball her primary sport. Little did she know she would blossom into the nation's top heptathlete at Oregon, becoming the first to defeat Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 12 years at the 1996 Olympic trials.
When Schonely asked for her favorite athletic moment, Blair-LaBounty first mentioned her state high school basketball championship, because it was shared with so many people.
'But beating Jackie at the Olympic trials - that was pretty good stuff, too,' she said.
Gutches grew up in southern Oregon, the son of a mill worker who turned him on to wrestling as a young boy after looking at his father's medals in the sport. After winning state titles at South Medford High, 'I was convinced I needed to go to Oklahoma State to realize my dreams,' he said.
He gave a signed letter-of-intent to his mother for safekeeping.
'That night, I woke up in a sweat,' he said. 'I ripped it up and by morning had decided to go to Oregon State.'
There, he was a two-time national champion and came within a whisker of a berth in the Olympic Games.
'Having a support system of family around was great for me,' he said. 'It was great to stay in Oregon and show kids that by staying here, they can take it to the highest level.'
Brooks flew in from Lexington, Ky., to accept his award, with eight of his players from his time at Oregon State and several from his years at Oregon on hand to celebrate with him.
'They honor me with their presence,' Brooks said. 'I liked college coaching over the pros because of the young men involved. You get to see them develop into quality people.'
After his 18-year run as Oregon's head coach, the playing field at Autzen Stadium was named after Brooks.
'They might have gotten caught up in the moment,' Brooks joked. 'Earlier that year, they had 'Ditch Rich' T-shirts in the parking lot.'
Cleveland High grad Tom Trebelhorn, recognized for his 40-plus years in baseball - including managerial stints with the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers - threw plenty of levity into his sit-down discussion with Schonely.
As a player for the Indians and at Portland State, 'I couldn't hit, I couldn't throw, I couldn't run,' said Trebelhorn, National League manager of the year during his time with the Brewers. 'Other than that, I was really good.'
Trebelhorn managed such as Ryne Sandberg, Paul Molitor and Rickey Henderson during his time in the big leagues.
"With that kind of talent, you wonder how I got nuked so many times,' Trebelhorn cracked.
Good people, all of them, in this year's class of inductees.
Good people, on hand to honor them.
It's a tradition worth continuing. A place to call home would make it even better.