Revived Hall of Fame earns warm reviews
by Sam Matthews
May 03, 2014 | 2005 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I went to the Tracy Sports Hall of Fame awards dinner Saturday night at the Tracy Elks Lodge — and came away with a really good feeling.

That feeling was generated by the success of the revival of the Sports Hall of Fame, and from what I heard at the conclusion of the evening and later. I wasn’t alone in that positive response.

When I say revival, I should note that the original run of the Tracy Sports Hall of Fame was started in 1982 and continued nine years through 1990. At that point, the annual event ran out of gas. By that time, most of the original board members, including me, had departed the scene.

The program lay dormant until a year and a half ago, when a group of us got together with the idea of breathing new life into a program that had been so successful until 24 years earlier.

As the name suggests, the Sports Hall of Fame recognizes the achievements of athletes, coaches and sports supporters.

A couple of us, including myself and Bill Swenson, the original president, were retreads from the original board. The ghost of Jake Longmire, the tuxedo-wearing welcomer at the original series of banquets, was in the room, and his widow, Lina, was there to carry on the family tradition.

Bill was elected president again, and he did an amazing job of keeping the reorganization moving forward. I was far less active from the outset, but I did help put the printed program together, along with Rich Giambastini and Bill Kaska.

During our first few reorganizational meetings, we discussed holding the first banquet of the program’s new era in the spring of 2013, but it didn’t take long for us to decide that it would take longer than that to get reorganized, secure nominations, make selections of inductees and plan for the banquet. It takes four or five months to make all this happen. We decided to hold off until this year, and that was indeed a wise decision.

The selection of Steve Thornton to head the selection committee and Greg Welch to be in charge of the banquet were critical to the success of our revival effort.

In the past, seven or eight individuals and either a team or a family were selected each year. This time around, because a lot had happened in the community and sports scene since 1990, the decision was to induct two teams.

The result of honoring the Tracy High Sac-Joaquin Section football championship team of 1982 and the 1998 West High section final basketball team was a good one. Having both Tracy and West teams honored provided community cohesiveness to the program.

Another unifying touch was having Nick Eddy, the Notre Dame All-American and Detroit Lion running back as master of ceremonies. Nick was on top of his game as an emcee. The fact that Rob Swenson, the Cal and Denver Bronco linebacker, was also at the banquet provided some added NFL prominence to the proceedings.

And the proceedings went very well indeed, despite having to shoehorn more than 300 people into the Elks Lodge and having 12 awards presentations.

The whole affair was concluded before 10 o’clock, just in time for the participants to make their last “remember when” contacts with old teammates, family members and friends.

Greg Welch, the awards banquet chairman, made all this — social hour, dinner, awards ceremony —happen on a tight schedule as planned, down to the minute. If you need an event planner, Greg’s your guy.

As former Tracy High football coach Wayne Schneider, a committee member, said in an email following Saturday night’s program:

“After the banquet, many people came up to me and told me how fantastic the Sports Hall of Fame awards banquet was.”

Many of us who were involved in getting the Tracy Sports Hall of Fame back up and running heard many of the same comments as Wayne.

Because the time it takes to put the program together, it has been agreed by the committee that the event will take place every two years. So in 2016, the Tracy Sports Hall of Fame will be back in action again. Count me in.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at

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