Bednarik a fan of new Hall of Fame
Author: Mike Sielski
On a night for him and so many others to look back, Chuck Bednarik couldn't help but look ahead. Before his induction into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, Bednarik, the former center/linebacker with the Eagles and NFL's last full-fledged two-way player, pointed out that Monday night's induction banquet could be a trend-setting event.
"Playing here for 18 years, between four years at Penn and 14 years with the Eagles, for them to come up with something like this, I think it's wonderful," he said. "And rest assured, other big cities are going to see this, and they're going to start their own."
Of the 19 inductees in the hall's inaugural class, five - Bednarik, Steve Van Buren, Joe Frazier, Paul Arizin and Robin Roberts - attended the event, held at the Sheraton in Society Hill. The remaining 14 - Bernie Parent, Bert Bell, Bill Tilden, Billy Cunningham, Bob Clarke, Connie Mack, Jack Kelly, Sr., Jimmie Foxx, Julius Erving, Mike Schmidt, Richie Ashburn, Steve Carlton, Tom Gola and Wilt Chamberlain - were represented by friends and family members.
A few other notes and noteworthy words from the night:
Before receiving the Legacy of Excellence Honor, Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas said he and the team still had not agreed on a new contract, but he added he was confident they would.
"Something will happen soon," Kalas said. "It's been a little tough, but I'm looking forward to the 2004 season. The pitching from top to bottom, from the starting rotation to Billy Wagner, is really strong. I think we've got a postseason in the future."
Sonny Hill received the Lifetime Commitment Award for his founding of the Sonny Hill and Baker basketball leagues and his dedication to Philadelphia-area athletes.
"Remember," Hill said, "you never do anything by yourself."
Master of ceremonies Pat Williams, former general manager of the 76ers and the senior vice president for the Orlando Magic, joked that when Avallon telephoned him to ask him to serve as the event's MC, "I was so excited I almost forgot to accept the charges."
In his opening remarks, Williams said that Philadelphia sports fans were "born with their mouths in the shape of a boo," and that the fans themselves were "more famous than anything that happens athletically in Philadelphia."
The dinner's 260 attendees promptly booed him.
Ed Rendell, the governor of Philadel ... er ... Pennsylvania, said the hall needed a "wonderful, interactive museum" and suggested the museum be built in the midst of the stadium complex in the southern part of the city, among Lincoln Financial Field, the Wachovia Center and Citizens Bank Park.
"It's an idea long overdue," Rendell said.
One wonders if he has said the same thing to the citizens of Pittsburgh.
Mayor John Street set 2008 as the goal for building the museum, then got off a one-liner at the expense of the struggling Sixers.
"Is Julius Erving here?" Street asked facetiously. "Do you think he can put on a uniform?"
The hall's foundation held a silent auction of sports and music memorabilia to raise funds. A pair of sneakers, used and autographed by Allen Iverson, drew a bid of $675. A "Born in the USA" album cover autographed by Bruce Springsteen went for $700. A Flyers jersey autographed by Bob Clarke went for $320. A Flyers jersey autographed by Michal Handzus went for $75.
In accepting her father's award, Connie Mack's daughter, Ruth, read aloud a fan letter Mack received from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Now 89, she told the audience that once she earned her driver's license at age 16, she drove her father to and from the ballpark every day.
"On an occasion like this," she said, "I always feel Dad's presence."