Working a roomful of Hall-of-Famers
Not often does a longtime reporter get to work the room, especially in these pandemic times. But I did a couple of weekends ago get to work a room full of Hall-of-Famers in Springfield, Mass.
We got to talk to several HOFs. They said this:
Lou Hudson’s daughter, Adrienne Hudson, on her late father’s 2022 induction: “He hoped to achieve [this honor] within his lifetime. And now I can say, ‘Daddy, you finally made it.’”
C. Vivian Stringer, Class of 2009, on the four women in this year’s class: “What we’re seeing is [we] want to give women an opportunity to play and be appreciated.”
M.A. Voepel, 2022 Curt Gowdy Print Media Award winner, also honored this year: “It’s wonderful because it’s celebrating women’s basketball, because that’s what my whole career has been on, and I’m just so appreciative being able to cover this game.
“We don’t get the attention for our sport,” Voepel continued, “the sport we both love. I feel like it’s kind of an award for all of the reporters of my generation, of which you are one; Michelle Smith, Cheryl Coward, Sue Favor and so many of those reporters have worked so hard on women’s basketball… [It’s] like a celebration of all of us who have worked so hard for the game.”
Lindsay Whalen, Class of 2022, as she recognized the only Minnesota media member present at her induction, said, “It’s a full moment for me.”
We also talked to several folk who was in the audience:
Kim Bell, a Gopher teammate of 2022 HOF Lindsay Whalen: “The weekend was absolutely amazing. We’ve had a lot of fun. It’s been a blast.”
Former U-M coach Pam Borton, who coached Whalen in her senior year: “I’m so proud of her. And not surprised.”
Cynthia Cash, mother of Swin Cash, Class of 2022: “Everything has come full circle, and all her hard work and everything she put into it on and off the court has paid off.”
The Hall invited members of two Springfield girls’ high school teams to take part in the red carpet activity prior to the Sept. 10 induction ceremony. “I am here for the first time,” said Natalia Dupiton of Springfield’s High School of Commerce. Natalia’s coach, Kailey Boyd, grew up watching Whalen.
Boyd added, “This is my third year as a head coach. I’m from Big Lake (MN) originally, and I went to play basketball at Bethel University. I moved to Springfield in 2018. One hundred percent of my players are students of color.”
Before leaving for home, we took a two-hour solo tour of the Hall of Fame the day after the ceremony. It has been fully renovated and enlarged—it looks like a mall, complete with stores and eateries inside.
Among the new exhibits is one on Black basketball players. “With the help of Claude Johnson of The Black Fives [Foundation] and others, we were able to really put forth a number of individuals” to include in the exhibit, explained HOF President/CEO John Doleva. “There’s a category called Early African American Pioneers, and that’s what it celebrates.”
“Bill Russell was very much a catalyst to that,” noted Doleva of the late HOF who refused to accept his induction until the Hall seriously included pre-integration Black players. Russell, who died earlier this year, finally accepted his HOF jacket and ring a few years ago once he saw things progressing as he wanted. “He was the center of the whole thing,” said Doleva.
We also ran into Marty Eggleston and Faith Singletary, who presented a silver decorated NBA ball to the HOF Museum. On her fancy designed ball cover, Singletary said, “I’m really grateful for the opportunity.”
Eggleston told me that the ball once was used in the late 1970s movie “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh,” which he called “my favorite basketball movie of all time. Spencer [Haywood, Class of 2015] was in that movie.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.