A call for a Hall: Creating a showplace for Philly sports

Author: Frank Fitzpatrick

Philadelphians, their focus locked so often on losing teams, loudmouth fans and lousy stadiums, tend to overlook the positives in this city's sports history.

But sift through all the Putsy Caballeros, Leo Rautinses and Kevin Allens and you'll uncover an Eddie Plank, a Guy Rodgers, or a Davey O'Brien. Look beyond the 1964 Phillies, the Baker Bowl, and the 700 Level and you'll find the 1929 Athletics, the Palestra, and the joyful throngs who lined Broad Street for the Phillies' 1980 victory parade.

Now, in an effort that seems nearly antithetical to this city's reputation for dwelling on the negative, a group of local businesspeople/fans is making plans to honor Philadelphia's rich sports tradition.

For more than a year, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame Foundation has been working quietly to lay the groundwork for its dream - gathering support, developing bylaws, and organizing a traveling exhibit that it hopes will hype interest in the project.

Soon, members hope to begin soliciting corporate funding with an eye toward establishing a scholarship program, sports camps and, perhaps within five years, a permanent facility - ideally one near the South Philadelphia sports complex.

"Buffalo has a sports hall of fame," said Ken Avallon, a 41-year-old technology executive from Wyncote who is the foundation's president. "Syracuse. Pittsburgh. New England. Why not Philadelphia?"

There's a Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. A Delaware Afro-American Hall of Fame. A Rowan-Glassboro State Hall of Fame. A Hall of Fame and a Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame that is filled with long-forgotten gym teachers and semipro baseball players.

Yet Philadelphia has had no single place where Connie Mack and Wilt Chamberlain, Shibe Park and Franklin Field, Bobby Jones' Grand Slam and Bobby Jones' NBA title are all celebrated.

"This city deserves it," Avallon said.

The idea was born on May 17, 2001, when Avallon read a column in The Inquirer's sports section that asked why a city with such a long and varied sports legacy had no place to commemorate that history.

"I read that and shook my head. I couldn't believe it was true," Avallon said. "So I spent a few days researching. And sure enough, there had never been one. There had been a lot of subsets, like a Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, but nothing on the scale that we're looking at."

Avallon, a La Salle University graduate, mentioned this to some friends.

"All of them had the same reaction: 'Wow. That's really surprising,' " he said. "So I asked them what we ought to do about it. And most of them said, 'Let's give this thing a shot.' "

Avallon and eight others, all rabid sports fans and all but one a Philadelphia native, began working on a proposal.

It could, of course, all go up in smoke should the economy continue to falter or should other unforeseen obstacles arise. That's why the foundation is committed to proceeding slowly. Members spent the last year drafting a constitution and bylaws, acquiring nonprofit status and earning membership in the city's Chamber of Commerce.

"I tend to be impatient, but we felt it best to take the slow, deliberate approach before going public," Avallon said. "Now that we've taken those initial steps, our foundation is strong enough, and we're ready to go forward with this thing."

They have plans for scholarships, essay contests, sports-related internships and sports camps. They are already collecting memorabilia and photographs for the museum.

As for financial support, there is a two-pronged strategy: raising money through memberships, newsletters and other grassroots activities, and selling corporate sponsorships.

"Maybe we'd have, for example, a baseball wing sponsored by Comcast," Avallon said.

A foundation kiosk filled with Philly sports memorabilia will be on hand when Veterans Stadium closes and when Lincoln Financial Field opens, Avallon said. An inaugural class of Hall inductees is expected to be named sometime this year.

"Even if we don't have a facility by then, we can post their names on our Web site," Avallon said.

Here are some of the nominees for that first Hall class, a list composed by foundation members and visitors to its Web site,

Paul Arizin, Richie Ashburn, Chuck Bednarik, Bert Bell, Steve Carlton, Wilt Chamberlain, Bobby Clarke, Billy Cunningham, Ray Didinger, Julius Erving, Jimmie Foxx, Joe Frazier, Joe Fulks, Tom Gola, Eddie Gottlieb, Lefty Grove, Billy Hamilton, Sonny Hill, Harry Kalas, Jack Kelly, Chuck Klein, Connie Mack, Willie Mosconi, Bernie Parent, Robin Roberts, Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Bill Tilden and Steve Van Buren.

Eligibility for Induction

To be considered for nomination to the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, a prospective candidate must meet the following criteria:


* Have gained prominence in either professional or amateur sports as a player, coach, manager, official, owner, writer, broadcaster, or any special category as established by the board of directors.

* Be a person who was a member of a team from the Philadelphia area at the time of his or her prominence, or be a person native to the Philadelphia area who has made a noteworthy contribution to sports or who otherwise has been closely identified with sports in the Philadelphia area.

* In the case of a player, the individual must have been out of the particular sport as a competitor for a period of five years. However, in the event of death, an individual is immediately eligible.


* All members of an entire team for a single season (or a group of consecutive seasons) are eligible. The entry will be the entire team identified by year(s), not individual players. However, individual players and coaches will be identified in the entry.

* The team must be from the Philadelphia area.

* The team must have won its league or conference championship the season for which it was nominated (or at least one league or conference championship if nominated for consecutive seasons).


* Arenas, stadiums, fields, ballparks and other sporting venues are eligible.

* The venue must be in the Philadelphia area.

* The venue must have substantial notoriety, preferably with a national presence.


* Defining moments in sport and specific events of singular importance are eligible.

* The event must take place in the Philadelphia area or involve a team or individual from the Philadelphia area.

* In most cases the event involves a single individual. If the event is a team championship, the team will be entered as a team entry instead of an individual event.


* Organizations that have been closely identified with sports in the Philadelphia area are eligible. These include but are not limited to clubs, business entities, institutions, associations and the like.

* The organization must reside in the Philadelphia area.

* The organization must have substantial notoriety in the Philadelphia area for contributions to professional or amateur sports and/or have a long-standing reputation as a vehicle to enhance the sporting experience for fans.

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