Conlin To Be Inducted Into Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame
Author: Dick Jerardi
When the true believers came up with the idea for a Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, there were skeptics. As the sixth class was introduced yesterday morning at the Spectrum, it became even more apparent that the visionaries had it right all along.
The Hall is for individuals who lived in the area, played in the area or both. With 14 new people and one new team to be formally inducted on Nov. 12 at the Hyatt Regency Penn's Landing, bringing the grand total to 93 individuals in 14 different sports, five teams and one venue (the Palestra), what stands out is who and what are not yet in the Hall. This is a tough ticket.
Daily News columnist Bill Conlin will be a Legacy of Excellence inductee, joining DN alum Ray Didinger and DN columnist Stan Hochman in the Hall.
"Awards are nice," Conlin said. "I'm just grateful this is a 'prehumous' award, which are much better than posthumous awards.
"When you get 10 years past normal retirement age and you're not in something like this, you wonder if your sons are going to be up to making the acceptance speech for you."
In a world that is becoming more homogenized, Conlin is unique. Whom else can you turn to for references to the Civil War and literary classics in the first paragraph of a baseball column?
Conlin, 75, covered Penn State football, the Big 5, boxing and, in a style all his own, the Phillies - before becoming a columnist in 1987. Now, writing columns mostly about "the thing that I'm strongest in, baseball," Conlin writes like many people think. Only he writes what most only think.
When Conlin was just getting started, he said he had "one idol that I can hopefully someday emulate." That would be Hochman.
Conlin covered many of the athletes who will be inducted at the Hyatt in November. Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa and Penn State Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti will be there. So will Villanova track legend Charlie Jenkins, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and Eagles receiver Pete Retzlaff.
"John was insistent that somebody represent him here this morning," said Marty Cappelletti, John's brother.
John Cappelletti, a Monsignor Bonner High graduate, lives in Southern California.
Conlin did not cover the A's Eddie Collins or Negro League legend Judy Johnson. But you know he would have wanted to.
Other inductees include middleweight champion Joey Giardello, Warriors center Neil Johnston, lacrosse and field hockey legend Betty Shellenberger, the great middle-distance runner Mel Sheppard, and Emlen Tunnell, the New York Giants defensive back who was the first African-American elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Conlin will be joined by fellow Legacy of Excellence winner Merrill Reese, the radio voice of the Eagles and one of the nicest people in the media business here or anywhere.
The fifth team inducted will be the "Broad Street Bullies," the 1974-75 Stanley Cup champion Flyers.
Short bios of the new members took up four pages of a media kit. It could have been more.
Jenkins is the only Villanova athlete to win two gold medals. He won the 400 meters and was a member of the winning 4 x 400-relay team at the Melbourne Games in 1956. And he succeeded his mentor, Jumbo Elliott, as Villanova coach.
Johnson was a legendary third baseman for the Darby Hilldales in the 1920s and 1930s. In an era with so many stars, he was one of the best.
Shellenberger is a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the USA Field Hockey Hall of Fame. She was a field hockey umpire for 49 years.
Sheppard was the first man to win Olympic gold medals in both the 800 meters and 1,500 meters. He also found time in the 1908 London Olympics to win a third gold in the 1,600-meter relay.
Tunnell retired with a then-NFL-record 79 interceptions and was a nine-time Pro Bowler. That is Tunnell being blocked by Lenny Moore in the famous picture of Alan Ameche scoring the winning touchdown in the Colts' 23-17, sudden-death victory against the Giants in Yankee Stadium in 1958. It was one of the few times in his career anybody blocked him.