By Bill Campbell
It may be mere personal opinion but I have always thought the sports halls of fame belong to the players, their personal domain. This is the season for Hall of Fame inductions and it’s possible the halls have been getting a bit crowded.
During the past week the football 2011 class became the second consecutive class to induct as many as seven people into its Hall of Fame. It swelled the total membership to 267. Of the seven inductees this year, six were former players. The seventh inductee was Ed Sabol, the founding genius of NFL Films, whose organization had much to do with the phenomenal success of the National Football League. Sabol, indeed, is worthy of special mention. Whether it should be in the same category as a former player, at least in my judgment, is open to question. But I felt the same way earlier this summer when Pat Gillick, the accomplished general manager of several successful baseball teams, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame — and more recently when Ed Snider was added to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
There are now 19 members of the football Hall of Fame who never played or coached. No one should assume that any of the aforementioned people are not worthy of some sort of special consideration. But perhaps they should be honored in a distinguished grouping all of their own. Putting them in the Hall of Fame could possibly prevent other former players or coaches from getting enough votes for Hall of Fame admission. And more and more players and coaches are on the ballot with each passing season. The Hall of Fame, at least in my thinking, was created for those players and coaches who competed in the arena. That the games have benefited enormously from the contributions of Sabol, Gillick, Snider and others goes without saying. But football has inducted thirty-eight people to the Hall of Fame in the last six years. Fourteen names have been added in the last two years. Special awards have been conferred on writers and broadcasters in connection with Hall of Fame ceremonies on the day set aside for awards. But those people were not inducted into the Hall of Fame. Baseball honored Harry Kalas and Bill Conlin recently as broadcaster and writer, respectively, who performed their tasks with excellence. Basketball did the same for me several years ago. But we were not inducted into the Hall of Fame. And in my judgment we should not have been. The players and coaches so honored competed in the arena. Harry and Bill and I talked about them and wrote about them – but never competed. The true Hall of Famers did so.
It surprises me that the departure of David Akers from the Eagles’ scene has produced so little comment. It might be well to emphasize the names of the people who appear to be intimately involved in the Eagles’ kicking game at the advent of a new season. The similarities in their names will require close attention, if nothing else. Akers’ replacement appears to be Alex Henery, a product of the April draft from Nebraska who has kicked for four years in a cold stadium for a big time program in a major conference. Henery holds the NCAA record for accuracy with 68 field goals in 76 tries, including a 57-yarder that beat arch-rival Colorado when Henery was a mere sophomore. His holder, at least at this writing, appears to another rookie: Charles Henry, an un-drafted free agent who won the coveted Ray Guy Award as college football’s top punter last year. He figures to be the Eagles’ punter this year providing the interesting play on words: Henry for punts, Henery for field goals – but with Henry holding. Bobby April, the Eagles’ special teams coordinator, appears to be more than satisfied with both and thinks the Eagles’ kicking game is in good hands. As he put it, “They have both kicked in high pressure situations in the past, which is the impressive thing about their backgrounds.” Through his stint at Lehigh, Henery has crushed the ball and has had success from the 50 yard marker. And Henry has enthralled the crowds at Lehigh as well with his booming punts.
While the Phillies have a sizeable lead over the Atlanta Braves in the National League East, it’s amazing how much ground the Braves have lost in the last three weeks. To put it in a more positive vein, it’s even more amazing how well the Phillies have played both home and away. On the 19th of July, the Braves were only 2 ½ games back and things were getting slightly uncomfortable in Phillies Nation. By beating the Giants three out of four last weekend, the Phillies took complete command – even though the Giants had two players in their line-up riding hot hitting streaks: Freddy Freeman had hit safely in twenty consecutive games and Dan Uggla, whose season had a terrible start, has run his hitting streak through twenty-nine straight games. Uggla extended his streak in dramatic fashion, getting a single in his last time at bat in the eighth inning of the third game of the series and coming through in the fourth and final game. There was close to a near-brawl in one of the games but good sportsmanship managed to prevail. Near the end of the series, Chase Utley hit a smash off the knee of Giants’ pitcher Tim Lincecum and then hustled to the mound to apologize to the pitcher and return the bat. Utley murmured, “Sorry, man” and Lincicum replied, “Bad hop, bad luck” as both men issued tight smiles. Managing to get a base hit, including 11 home runs and 23 RBI’s in 29 consecutive games is no small achievement. But it’s worth noting that Uggla is roughly only half-way to Joe DiMaggio’s 56 consecutive game streak, which is the record. The Giants were happy just to get a victory, for their spot in the play-offs is not yet secure.
Thinking about DiMaggio: he will the first subject of a U.S. Postal Series of stamps honoring major league baseball stand-outs who “left an indelible impression on the game.” Wilt Chamberlain’s name also has been rumored for a long time as a possible stamp honoree. And, as far as I know, no one else has scored 100 points in a game. I remember it well. I broadcast that game.