Thursday, January 7, 2010

"I Hit It"

TigerBlog once worked as a vendor at Veterans' Stadium in Philadelphia, back in the summer of 1983.

Among the highlights he remembers from that year was the longest home run he's ever seen hit. It came off the bat of Andre Dawson, then with the Montreal Expos.

For those who don't remember, the Expos came into the National League in 1969, named after the World's Fair that had been held there two years earlier. They played their home games originally in Jarry Park, which would basically be like converting Community Park in Princeton into a Major League Baseball stadium. The Expos moved to the Olympic Stadium after the 1976 Summer Games, and they lasted until 2004, when they relocated to become the Washington Nationals.

For those who do remember, the Expos are memorable mostly for the powder blue uniforms they wore and their cool hats, as well as having the misfortune of having their best season wiped out by the 1994 strike.

Anyway, TigerBlog was standing in leftfield with two trays of soda when Dawson launched one about nine miles high that took about 10 minutes to reach its cruising altitude before splashing down in dead center at the Vet. It was a staggering shot, one that stands out now, nearly 27 years later.

It was that home run that TB first thought of when the news came down that Dawson had been elected to the baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. This announcement came about an hour after TigerBlog had this conversation with Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley:

SB: "Is Bert Blyleven a Hall-of-Famer?"
TB: "Sure. He won 287 games."
SB: "Nah. To be a Hall-of-Fame, you need something special that sets you apart, not just numbers."
TB: "He had the best curveball of all time."
SB: "It wasn't that great. I hit it."

One of the great parts about working on the balcony here at HQ is that you never know when a coach is going to stop in and leave you with a great line or a great story. Bradley can usually be counted on for that, as can women's track coach Peter Farrell and water polo coach Luis Nicolao, among others.

But that's not quite today's subject. Instead, we're focused on the Hall of Fame. Actually, let's make that plural.

Princeton is represented across many Halls of Fame, perhaps most notably the College Football Hall of Fame, where 21 players and five coaches are enshrined.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame features two Princetonians, Bill Bradley (player) and Pete Carril (coach). The U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame continues to stock up on Princetonians, with 14 already there (most recently men's player Kevin Lowe and current women's coach Chris Sailer) and certainly a host of other players on the way.

Maybe Princeton's most Hall-of-Famer is Hobey Baker, who is enshrined for both hockey and college football.

TigerBlog figures there are all kinds of Halls of Fame for sports across the board, and with athletic history as loaded as Princeton's, there have to be several Tiger athletes and coaches represented.

One Hall of Fame that does not exist is the Princeton Athletics Hall of Fame. Maybe one day this will happen, and TigerBlog has been in many meetings where this has been placed on a wish list.

When the day comes, Princeton will have make a decision about its first induction class and then beyond.

In TigerBlog's mind, Princeton has four (or possibly five) athletic icons who rise above anyone else who has ever played or coached here: Baker, Bradley, Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier, Carril and possibly former lacrosse coach Bill Tierney.

Were it TB's choice, those four or five would be the first induction class, allowed to enter a year ahead of the rest (much like the first class at the baseball Hall of Fame was limited to Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Cristy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Honus Wager). This would honor that group properly, though it wouldn't include any representative of Princeton's women's athletic history, so it would be difficult to accomplish for reasons of fairness and respect for the contributions that so many women athletes and coaches have made.

But the next problem then becomes this: who is the greatest female athlete in Princeton history? Or, if you open up the first class more widely, then who would be the next 5-10 male athletes/coaches or 10 or so women athletes/coaches (men had a more-than-100-year head start in athletics at Princeton and therefore have a much greater historical record to select from)?

It's not an easy solution to reach. Hopefully, one day Princeton will have an athletic Hall of Fame of its own; certainly the history of the school warrants it.

There are all kinds of hurdles that need to be climbed first, though. Where would it be housed? What format would it take? What costs would be associated with it and how would it be financed?

And then ultimately who would be included?

The last one could be the toughest part, though it would certainly be a fun discussion.

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