County HOF is needed

David Elwell
Sports Editor Decatur Daily
June 5, 1988

Milton Berle is supposed to be famous for stealing jokes from other comedians.

Berle probably has stolen a joke or two along the way, but we bet there isn't a comedian alive who has not swiped a joke from someone.

It's the same in the newspaper business, particular sports. If one paper gets a good idea you can bet that at least a few other newspapers will copy that idea.

A perfect example is the expanded major league baseball standings that breakdown a team's record into various categories. It used to be that the only place you could get expanded major league standings was weekly in The Sporting News.

But then came USA Today with five days each week of expanded baseball standings. After USA Today started it some other papers were soon to follow. Finally, the Associated Press started moving expanded baseball standings each day. Now, just about every newspaper in the country can carry expanded baseball standings. The Decatur Daily has two seasons. We were one of the first in the state. Now most papers in the state carry expanded standings.

A lot of people think that using some one's idea is stealing. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. It may depend on how you look at it. I worked for a man one time who told me that using somebody's idea was not stealing as long as you as you improved on the idea.

It made sense then.

What this is all leading to is an idea that the people of Morgan County need to borrow. Heck, you can call it stealing, but it's still a great idea.

The idea is one that the City of Mobile just recently saw became reality. On May 13 the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame inducted its first two members

The City of Mobile, like Decatur and Morgan County, is an area were sports is important. Football, basketball, baseball, whatever, it's all important to the people of Mobile. Their schools win more state championships than any other part of the state. It's always been that way.

As a result Mobile has turned out some pretty good athletes through the years. The two that were inducted on May 13 were baseball's Hank Aaron and former Alabama quarterback Riley Smith.

Future members of the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame will come from groups that include the likes of baseball's Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige, Eddie Stanky, Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee and Billy Williams; football's Vince Dooley, Ed Dyas, Paul Crane, Scott Hunter, Ken Stabler, Joe Childress and Frank Howard.

We wonder why Morgan County couldn't do something like what Mobile is doing? Why couldn't the great athletes from Morgan County be honored with a hall of fame?

We admit that Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame will be hard pressed to match Mobile's as far as greats go. No all-time home run kings or other baseball hall of famers or former NFL quarterbacks call Morgan County home. That's OK. We aren't concerned with comparing hall of fames.

What we want to do is honor the greats. Why? So their exploits and contributions to the community won't be forgotten.

One day I was talking football with a 5-year-old. I got the privilege of telling him who Bear Bryant was and what the man did. My son was born about six weeks after Bryant died. Before our talk he didn't know Bear Bryant from a character on Sesame Street.

Shug Jordan, Johnny Musso, Pat Sullivan and Terry Beasley, Lee Roy Jordan, Jimmy Sidle and Stabler are people my son will have to be told about or read about.

But what happens to some of the other greats that people will forget about over the years.

Will young people 20 years from now know anything about Randy Campbell? Will they be told about his struggles at Auburn from the bottom to leading the Tigers tot the Southeastern Conference Championship and the Sugar Bowl victory?

What about Benny Perrin? Will he be remembered 20 years from now for his all-around athletic greatness, his success at Alabama and his later success in the NFL?

What about Don Whitmire? He's one of the few people in the country to be an All-American football player at two schools.

What about Bobby Freeman? He was great at Auburn and enjoyed an equally great career in the NFL.

What about Marv Breeding? He was a local legend and made it to the major leagues.

What about Tim Baker? He was captain of Auburn's 1947 national championship team.

What about basketball's Vickie Orr? What about coaching greats like "Shorty" Ogle, Joe Jones, Earl Morris, Earl Webb, J.P. Cain, Tom Calvin, Steve Rivers and Don Woods. Will their achievements go forgotten in future generations?

These are just a handful of the people from Morgan County who have achieved a level of greatness in athletics. There are many more.

What needs to happen is for some organization to form a group to spearhead the idea of a Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame.

A committee would select inductees for each year. A banquet could be held to honor the inductees for each year. Proceeds from the banquet could go to secure the hall of fame financially and maybe some leftover could go to charity.

If the banquet becomes the major event that it should, it would be possible to bring in some big-name speakers, who could sell tickets and boost growth.

The inductees could be honored with plaques that could hang in the courthouse or maybe in the proposed civic center that some people would like to see Decatur build.

If someone picks up on this idea, be advised that success won't come quickly. It took mobile five or six years to turn the idea into reality.

But the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame is alive and we bet it will do quite well. The same could be true for the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame. Maybe.