On Thursday evening, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame inducted the Class of 2011. The Hall of Fame’s 8th class includes: Bill Bergey, Biz Mackey, Curt Simmons, Dawn Staley, Ed and Steve Sabol, Jimmy Dykes, Joe McCarthy, Moses Malone, Mark Howe, Ora Washington, Ted Meredith, Wilbert Montgomery, Speedy Morris, Al Meltzer and the Penn Relays (Special Enshrinement). These chosen athletes have had exceptional careers in their particular sport, either with a Philadelphia team or having grown up in the Philadelphia area and gone on to an outstand sports career elsewhere.
For the Phillies, the highlight of the evening was seeing Curt Simmons be inducted. Simmons was a left-handed pitcher for the Phillies from 1947-1960 during a 20-year career. He and Robin Roberts were the aces of the 1950 “Whiz Kids” National League championship team. Simmons, 82, is the youngest surviving player of that team.
A former Eagles favorite and 3-time team MVP, Bill Bergey was also an inductee this year. He received an impromptu introduction from his former coach, Dick Vermeil, who was actually in attendance to accept Wilbert Montgomery’s award. As usual, Vermeil got emotional and struggled through sobs to express his feelings about Bergey. The two men shared a hug afterwards and Bergey went on to dazzle the crowd with his enthusiasm and humor.
After the ceremony, I spoke with Vermeil about his speech. He told me, “I just get so emotional over these guys I coached. I can’t help myself.” It is refreshing to see a former coach who honestly cares about his players and clearly still holds Philadelphia close to his heart. Vermeil maintains his permanent residence in Chester County and is a regular attendee at these events.
One of the best moments of the evening was watching Mark Howe accept this honor in front of his father, Gordie Howe, who is regarded as the best hockey player in history. Both men are now members of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto; Mark is part of their 2011 class. Mark Howe played for the Flyers from 1982-1992 during which he was a finalist for the Norris Trophy 3 times.
Father and son spent most of the night signing autographs and posing for photos. But during all the flash bulbs popping, Gordie Howe paused for a moment to hand me some flowers that he accidentally pilfered from a table arrangement. And that was my personal highlight of the evening. Flowers from Mr. Hockey…wow.
The evening featured many other great moments, including a video presentation by Bill Cosby on behalf of the Penn Relays. Representative for the Penn Relays were excited about the honor and posed together for a photo after receiving their award.
There were a few notable absences from the event. Ed and Steve Sabol were unable to attend so Greg Cosell, an NFL Films producer for 31 years, accepted on their behalf. Moses Malone, former 76ers great, NBA Hall of Famer and 3-time MVP, was also absent.
In addition to the inductees, there were many sportswriters, former players, coaches and other friends of Philadelphia sports there to support the newest members of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. You can see some of those people plus the inductees here in my Photo Album from the event and order prints, if you wish.
In all, the 2011 induction was a great success. Congratulations to all of the inductees!
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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography