November 28, 2014

Elyria
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History gets a sporting chance

Within the walls of the Lorain Sports Hall of Fame and Museum lies a rich history of teamwork and sportsmanship.

The two men who run the place can personally attest to that.

Tom Driscol, director, and Paul Baumgartner, assistant director, have been friends and teammates for years.

To them, a game is more than just a game – being involved in a sport of any kind is a rewarding experience.

Each year Driscol and Baumgartner, along with the rest of the Lorain Sports Hall of Fame Screening Committee thoroughly research the athletic background information of every hall of fame nominee submitted by the Lorain public.

Nominations are generally made up of eight individuals and one team. A special category exists for people such as managers, sponsors, coaches, and others who`ve made major contributions in their field, but nominees mostly consist of Lorain natives who are at least 35 years old and have attended one of the seven past and present local high schools.

According to Driscol, the committee has inducted several athletes who currently hold or have held professional status.

Two years ago, the group elected NFL running back Raymont Harris, an athlete from Admiral King High School who went on to Ohio State University and ended up playing pro football for Chicago.

Other inductees include Ricky Melendez, a 2006 inductee from Lorain High and member of the Puerto-Rican Olympic Basketball Team, and Steve Bailey, a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians in 1967 and 1968.

The application process itself involves a wealth of information, including detailed historical records in the form of photos, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, special public releases, letters of recommendation, and a minimum 200-word essay that pertains to the athlete`s sports participation and achievements.

The annual enshrinement banquet, where new Hall of Fame members are announced, occurs every May and is open to the public.

It boasts legendary Cleveland sports announcer Joe Tait as its master of ceremony and welcomes a new guest speaker each year.

While the nomination process might sound daunting, Driscol assures that the outcome is worth the effort.

“It`s gratifying to be able to answer the questions of sons, daughters, and grandchildren of athletes who come in here looking for information about their loved ones,” he said. “The museum doesn`t just reflect the personal triumphs of the athletes; it reflects the entire history of sports.”

A broad history it covers, even outside the realm of larger sports like football and baseball.

Nominees have also come from less nationally recognized areas of expertise such as hot air ballooning, bowling and swimming, to name a few.

As it turns out, the museum is more than just a means for honoring Lorain athletes. It also houses hundreds of local and national sports artifacts.

From the football jerseys and numerous trophies of Indiana University tackle and Olympic sailor, Phil Trinter, to the boxing uniform of Muhammad Ali and the 1955 Big Ten championship jacket of Russ Provenza, this time capsule holds a little piece of sports history from just about everywhere.

“Our collection of memorabilia is more extensive than you`d think. We have so many great historical pieces that even we`re often amazed by them,” Baumgartner said.

In the museum`s front room, in a small glass case out of direct sight, there is even a set of faded and well-worn billiard balls along with a matchbook contributed by Driscol.

The items are from Angie`s Pool Room that was on Broadway above the Palace Theater before it burned down in 1951.

Baumgartner is also a contributor to the museum. After a long career as a sportswriter for Northeast Ohio newspapers, a cartoon version of his likeness now hangs on the walls of the museum and holds a permanent place in sports history.

However, the contributions don`t end there.

On a back corner wall of the museum hangs a blue “B & M Grille” basketball jersey and yellow team shorts donated by Driscol and Baumgartner – both members of the team during the 1958-59 season.

As it turns out, the men still think and work together like a team. You see, after all this time, Driscol couldn`t part with the shorts and Baumgartner still had the jersey. It only made sense to put them back together again.

Driscol is a firm believer that the importance of sports history doesn`t just lie in the glory of individual achievements, but in the combination of those achievements for the betterment of society.

“Sports are deeply ingrained in our society,” he said. “Preserving and exhibiting the history of sports is worthwhile for all present and future generations.”

For more information, call Ted Driscol at (440) 984-2802 or visit www.lorainsportshalloffame.com.