Saturday, April 12, 2008

REMINISCING: NB SPORTS HALL OF FAME

As my father turned the corner into his golden years, I noticed more and more how much he enjoyed recounting the exploits of his life.

How he loved cruising through New Haven's city streets and reliving his memories, or taking out a map of France and Germany to trace his route during World War II. With every year he aged, the more he liked to reminisce.

Now that I'm within a Texas League single of 60, I feel the same forces descending on me. The bottom line is, that's what you do when you get older, and there's not a damned thing wrong with it.

That point came home to roost Thursday night when I was an invited guest at the annual New Britain Sports Hall of Fame Dinner. Now that I've been chronicling New Britain sporting events for 14 years, more and more faces are becoming familiar to me. I've become more familiar with the grand history of New Britain High football and Central Connecticut State University men's basketball.

I can't imagine that there is another community in Connecticut more steeped in sports grandeur than the Hardware City.

The NB Sports Hall of Fame Committee makes all the right choices. The first choice that allowed me to settle comfortably into my seat for a relaxing, informative evening was that Bart Fisher served as toastmaster.

Fisher was the sports editor at The Herald for nearly 30 years and still writes captivating columns on sports and general history like nobody else could. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. Everybody knows and respects Bart Fisher. Nobody else could possibly run such an affair.

The 2008 inductees were the center of attention as they should be, but the side show was listening to the patriarchs of New Britain's sports heritage spin their tales, just like Dad used to do about life in New Haven. I wish I could have cloned myself about seven times and dropped in on more of the conversations.

Former New Britain High athletic director Bill Huber defies the passage of time with his youthful exuberance and looks to match. Peter Roby, now the athletic director at Northeastern University, acknowledged Fisher's salute.

There was the legendary Steve Dalkowski, whose fastball shattered everything in its path and sent young hitters looking for other springtime pursuits. Esteemed CCSU hoop coach Howie Dickenman always has a commanding presence when he enters a room. Revered UConn patriarch John Toner. The list goes on and on.

And how about some of the names already enshrined?

Tom Thibodeau couldn't make it. As assistant coach of a Celtics team destined for a deep run in the NBA playoffs, he was just a little busy. The NFL is well-represented by Tommy Myers, Willie Hall and Tebucky Jones. Thomas J. Lynch is in the baseball Hall of Fame after serving as an umpire and president of the National League a century ago.

Local legends still making headlines abound, like NBHS boys hoop coach Stan Glowiak; Berlin girls mentor Sheila King; former St. Thomas Aquinas luminary Bill Cardarelli; Dennis Beatty, the Godfather of PAL and the nationally reknowned Raiders; Joe Lombardo, who put Goodwin Tech on the sports map.

And it humbles me to see the sports writers on the docket. In addition to Fisher, I saw the names of Gerry Crean and John Wentworth, gentlemen of the fourth estate whom I unfortunately never got to meet except through microfilm.

The scene was magnificent. How rewarding in our world haunted by bad news and suffering that so many people can get together and smile. Dad, now I know how you felt.

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