Izzo, Fedorov & Jeter: Michigan Sports Hall of Fame

By: Amber Ogden | February 10, 2015
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The Motor City is known for many things, but one of the most outstanding features is the loyalty of its sports fans. You won’t find many bandwagon baseball, football, basketball or hockey fans in the D, because everyone faithfully cheers for their home team.

With Metro Detroit’s rich history of sports greats, it’s only appropriate that the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame host its induction ceremony here. In case you’re not familiar with the 501(c)3 nonprofit, it was established in 1954 and has been honoring deserving and influential athletes ever since.

This year, the 59th induction ceremony will take place at MotorCity Casino Hotel’s Sound Board, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit, on Thursday, Feb. 12. Your Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers are honored to be the presenting sponsor of the event, which includes a private VIP reception, “Heroes of the Hall” reception and induction ceremony.

The 2015 class of inductees includes Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo, recently retired New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, former Red Wing Sergei Fedorov, professional bowler Aleta Sill, Olympic gold-medal swimmer Sheila Taormina, retired Cincinnati Reds shortstop and University of Michigan graduate Barry Larkin, and former Lions defensive tackle Doug English.

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Jim Stark, executive director of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, said that this year is one of the greatest classes of inductees ever, in terms of achievement and public awareness.

“Every measure you want to make, this is one of our best classes ever,” Stark said. “These induction events are one of the few chances that sports fans can buy a ticket, come to an event and be up close and personal to the inductees, sports personalities and media members.”

Choosing inductees each year is an elaborate process that involves many people, and it starts with a nominating committee. There are also several requirements of each nominee: that they be born, raised, or spent some significant time in Michigan, and that they have been active for 20 years or retired for three.

Since the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame is looking for the best of the best, there is somewhat of a prescreening process, and several committees meet to narrow the initial list down. Each year, a super committee, ballot and public vote all make up the voting process to determine who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“We’re looking for the best of the best. Not just in terms of success in statistics, but also in leadership, character, they make their teams better, their programs better, their schools better, they give back to the community,” Stark said. “It’s got to be a well rounded individual who adds to not just sports society, but society in general.”

This year’s seven inductees certainly meet (and exceed) all of those requirements, just as past inductees like Mateen Cleaves (class of 2013), Joe Dumars (class of 2003) and Ernie Harwell (class of 1989) did.

“My favorite moments from any induction event are when inductees speak and tell stories about their youths or their early memories of playing sports and competing,” Stark said, whether it’s a story of someone they met, or how they came to attend a certain school.

Another standout moment for Stark took place when Bill Davidson, late owner of the Detroit Pistons, talked about playing basketball on the streets of Detroit growing up. Hearing athletes talk about their high school season in Michigan who have gone on to achieve greatness, and how much it means to be recognized by the people of the state of Michigan, is truly something special.

Besides the induction ceremony, the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame remains active throughout the entire year, through events including a golf outing in the summer, and several other awards, including The Gerald R. Ford award, which is given to those who contribute to the sports community in a way other than playing. The organization also aims to support youth sports through mentoring programs and through helping to fund different sporting programs.

To be a part of the nomination process for next year, make your submission via the official Michigan Sports Hall of Fame website here. While tickets for this year’s VIP reception at the induction ceremony are already sold out, adult individual admission ($125), junior admission ($75) and general admission ceremony only ($20) tickets are still available. You can purchase tickets online, but be sure to get them before they’re gone!

“This is a chance for any person who likes sports to be in the middle of everything. It’s rare when you get that, when the ropes are down,” Stark said. “This is an atmosphere that we create where that happens. It’s a chance for you to walk on the red carpet.”

For more on the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and the 2015 induction event, visit http://www.michigansportshof.org.