Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Humility, Humor Common Threads At Hall Dinner

If you're tired of the self-aggrandizing ways of today's athlete, the "Ain't nobody can stop me but me" attitude that so many of them have, then you would have enjoyed last night's Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Induction Dinner.

Eight persons were inducted at the dinner, held at Cobo Center's Riverview Ballroom. And the underlying theme for all of them was, "I couldn't have done it without..."

Without teammates. Without parents. Without the right coaches. Without assistants, and administrators, and mentors.

Every one of them strode to the podium after being introduced by emcee Frank Beckmann (WJR radio) and displayed the humility and reluctance to take the credit that is too little and far between for today's boastful bozos.

And there was humor, too.

"I had a marriage that didn't last as long as this program," cracked former broadcaster Dave Diles. And, after recognizing his two children, Diles said, "They're the only two truly creative things I've ever done."

Former MSU star basketball player and current Pistons TV analyst Greg Kelser thanked fellow inductee Jack McCloskey's kind words about him, then said, "But despite how much he liked me, it didn't stop him from trading me -- twice!" (Kelser's first trade was stymied by a failed physical).

Each of the eight inductees' speeches were preceded by a video tribute to their career, which included some rare and priceless footage.

Diles, for example, was the victim of Eddie Brinkman's faux pas during the celebration of the Tigers' 1972 AL East title. I knew of the moment, but didn't know that it was Diles who was interviewing shortstop Brinkman when Eddie blurted, into a live microphone, "I'm just so happy to play with these f***ing guys; we worked so f***ing hard..."

Afterward, I told Diles, "I never knew it was YOU that was Brinkman's victim!"

"That's the first time I've seen that clip since it happened," Diles told me.

I also got a kick out of a clip played during Jimmy Devellano's tribute. Jimmy D., the longtime Red Wings executive, was talking into a camera about his new #1 draft pick -- an 18 year-old named Steve Yzerman.

"I'm a little concerned about his strength, being only 18," Devellano said that summer's day in 1983. "But we think he can play at this level, and that he'll make it."

Ya think?

I tracked down Yzerman after the dinner.

"I liked it when Jimmy said, 'I think he'll make it'," I said.

Yzerman grinned. "Well, nobody was sure back then," he said.

MSHOF Executive Director Jim Stark said the goal for the Hall continues to be a permanent home. Right now, the Hall is still just a long hallway in Cobo, with inanimate plaques on the wall. The dream is for the Hall to be permanently ensconsed somewhere, with interactive displays and other attractions that will make it family and youth-oriented.

Hall Chairman Tony Michaels of Big Boy Restaurants reminded last night's attendees to remember the Hall the next time they enjoy those special sporting moments, with the hope that they'll help support the Hall's mission.

The dinner was the 52nd annual, and also included a special courage award given to former Red Wings defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov, badly injured in a 1997 limousine accident just six days after the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup. Vladdie determinedly made his way to the dais with the help of a walker but with little help from anyone else.

"Thanks...so much," he said to a hushed crowd, who had given him a standing ovation.

The inductees were: Pistons GM McCloskey; Diles; Tigers pitcher Frank Tanana; CMU and NBA player Dan Majerle; longtime high school coach Diane Laffey; Devellano; Kelser; and MSU and NFL star and college coach Sonny Grandelius.

Stark reminded Yzerman that, next year, he'll most likely be an inductee.

"I'm not going anywhere. I'll be around, " Stevie Y said.

For more about the Hall, visit their website.

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