As the Washington representative on the selection committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I’m well aware of how difficult it is to choose the best of anything. It can be extremely tough to separate the great from the very good.
I also have great respect for the folks who serve on the committee that elects the members of the D.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
However, a recent visit to Nats Park – where the list of Hall of Famers is ridiculously mostly hidden from view on the far side of the left field foul pole while a massive house ad promoting injured right fielder Jayson Werth dominates that view – prompted me to wonder how so many local immortals have yet to be enshrined.
Adrian Dantley, the area’s top high school basketball player in the early 1970s, was recently elected to the D.C. Hall, but area legends Elgin Baylor (Phelps and Spingarn High Schools), Dave Bing (Spingarn) and Austin Carr (Mackin) haven’t been. Baylor and Bing were named two of the top 50 players in NBA history in 1996, but they don’t rate in their hometown? Please. Fellow basketball Hall of Famer David Robinson (Osbourn Park) is also missing. Carr, one of the most prolific scorers in college hoops history, is enshrined in the College Hall of Fame, but not in ours?
The D.C. Hall isn’t just lacking in basketball. Armstrong High grads Len Ford and Willie Wood have had bronze busts in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton for 36 and 23 years, respectively, but they don’t measure up in Washington? Brian Holloway, a three-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle who played at Churchill High in the mid-1970s, should also be recognized.
How about baseball? Somehow 1960s shortstop Maury Wills (Cardozo), once the record-holder for most steals in a season and the greatest player ever from the District, isn’t in our Hall.
Individual sports are no different. Springbrook’s Harold Solomon was a top 10 tennis player and a French Open finalist in the 1970s. Churchill’s Mike Barrowman was a world-record swimmer and NCAA champion in the breaststroke before winning a gold medal in the 1992 Olympics. Lake Braddock’s Allen Johnson struck gold in the hurdles at the 1996 Olympics.
The D.C. Hall is also lacking when it comes to local pros.
Outfielder Sam Rice (1915-33), who played on all three of Washington’s American League pennant winners, is enshrined in Cooperstown, but not here. Superb Senators second baseman Buddy Myer (1925-27, 1929-41). is also missing.
The Redskins’ contingent is somehow minus Bobby Beathard, the general manager who assembled the franchise’s first two Super Bowl winners, All-Pro tackle Turk Edwards and two-time championship coach Ray Flaherty, who have been immortalized in Canton since 1969 and 1976, respectively.
The Capitals are only represented by former captain Rod Langway and late owner Abe Pollin. Where are Hockey Hall of Famers Mike Gartner and Scott Stevens not to mention GM David Poile and coach Bryan Murray, who turned the longtime losers into consistent winners in the 1980s. Coach Dick Motta of the Bullets’ only NBA champions and sweet-shooting 1980s guard Jeff Malone should also be enshrined.
And how can any list of local sports greats not include former Maryland basketball coaches Lefty Driesell, Chris Weller and Gary Williams as well as late Terps All-American Len Bias (Northwest High), American U. rebounding wizard Kermit Washington (Coolidge) even if college stars who didn’t grow up in the area aren’t really considered? Maryland football coaching standouts Jim Tatum, Jerry Claiborne and Bobby Ross also belong as does Terps track legend Jim Kehoe and John Thompson (Carroll), who turned Georgetown into a basketball powerhouse. And there are plenty of elite high school coaches to consider such as Red Jenkins, Bob Milloy, Amy Wood and Maus Collins.
Our Hall is even deficient in its media wing since radio’s Ken Beatrice and Bob Woolf and television’s George Michael and Warner Wolf are all absent along with a slew of fine sportswriters.
That’s 40 names off the top of my head. Committee members, please elect all of them over the next five years, by which point basketball’s Grant Hill and track’s Alan Webb, (both South Lakes High alums), former Caps Dale Hunter and Olie Kolzig and ex-Redskins Gary Clark, Dexter Manley, Charles Mann and Chris Samuels should all be ready for enshrinement.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin