By Alex Holt
The Washington D.C. Sports Hall of Fame induction, July 9, at Nationals Park, will recognize nine honorees well-known to sports fans, including former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Olympic champion swimmer Katie Ledecky and Pardon-The-Interruption co-host Tony Kornheiser.
Others to be honored are former Maryland basketball stars Juan Dixon and Tom McMillen, Maryland Women’s Basketball Coach Brenda Frese, retired Washington Redskin Mike Nelms and retired broadcasters Glenn Harris and Ron Weber.
For sure, all the honorees this year will remember the moment, as do many of the previous inductees. Those past inductees have come from sports as varied as field hockey and football, disciplines as different as agents and executives, and almost every single branch of media. And each honoree -- with some identity to Washington, D.C. and its suburbs -- is linked not just by their accomplishments but by the recognition of the rarefied company.
Take Bob Molloy, for example. Over the course of 47 years coaching high school football at Good Counsel, Springbrook, Sherwood and Walt Whitman, Milloy’s teams won a Maryland record 405 games and eight state public school championships. Yet the thing that stood out most to Milloy, who retired at the end of the 2017 school year, when he was inducted into the Hall in 2016 was the quality of his fellow inductees.
“It was the thrill of a lifetime for me to have my name associated with the greatest professional athletes, college athletes, coaches and reporters that are in that hall of fame,” Milloy said. “I never expected it, I’m very proud to be in it and it was really a thrill.”
Morgan Wootten’s certainly no stranger to halls of fame, currently standing as one of only three high school coaches ever to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Yet the coach who turned Hyattsville-based DeMatha Catholic High School into a nationally recognized basketball powerhouse seemed equally proud to be honored by his fellow local legends in 2011.
“You name the sport, we got it here in Washington and it’s not only the capital of the country, it’s like the sports capital of the country too,” Wootten said. “So it was certainly a great honor to have my name mentioned along with so many outstanding coaches and players and so on that were inducted.”
Wootten’s sentiment is also echoed by another coaching legend, Lefty Driesell, whose success at the University of Maryland has earned him widespread recognition.
“Every Hall of Fame I’m in means a lot to me. And Washington, D.C.’s the capital of the United States so that makes it even more important,” said Driesell, who helped put Maryland on the map nationally in college basketball during his time at College Park. “It (his induction) was a great honor.”
The Hall honored another University of Maryland mainstay, Terrapins field hockey coach, Missy Meharg, in 2016. In Meharg’s 29 years at Maryland, the Terrapins have made the NCAA tournament 27 times and won over 500 games and seven national titles. But when Meharg entered the Hall, she was awestruck.
“What a complete honor to walk with the D.C. region’s best of the best in sports,” said Meharg. “Looking at the wall of outrageous past honorees while being escorted onto the field at Nationals Park felt like “Field of Dreams” and “Game Day” all at once.
Johnny Holliday has called over 1,200 different University of Maryland football and basketball games since 1979 and served as the Washington Nationals’ studio host since 2008. But when he got the call from the Hall in 2014, he could hardly believe it.
“I was absolutely blown away and somewhat shocked that I would be selected to be put amongst some of the great names in Washington sports,” Holliday said. “It really humbles you to see your name with any of the people on the wall at Nationals Park. I was absolutely thrilled beyond words and caught completely off guard.”
Last year’s induction ceremony honored the late Hymie and Phil Perlo – D.C. sports legends of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Aviva Perlo, Hymie’s niece and Phil’s daughter, remembers the moment in 2016. “The induction of the Perlo brothers marks the awesome legacy, honor and responsibility that it means to be a Perlo.”
One of the reasons so many of the D.C. Sports Hall of Fame’s inductees are so humbled by their induction, according to Hall chairman Bobby Goldwater, is because the D.C. area has such a rich sports history.
“There’s a great sports history and tradition in the nation’s capital,” said Goldwater. “And I think it’s very clear that anyone who has had any kind of connection to sports in this area has been affected by being here.”