Philly sports hall announces newest class

Maxie Baughan (left), a star for the Eagles in 1960s, and announcer Dan Baker are two of the members of the newest class of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Maxie Baughan (left), a star for the Eagles in 1960s, and announcer Dan Baker are two of the members of the newest class of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Posted: July 20, 2012

IT REALLY HAS BEEN 52 years since the Eagles won the NFL championship. If they never win another one, and Maxie Baughan wants to keep talking about that day or anything else on his mind, nobody who heard him Thursday morning would object.

If Dan Baker is announcing it, you can count on the words being clear and precise with a minimum of fanfare and a maximum of getting it right.

Baughan and Baker will be among the 12 newest members of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame when Class IX is enshrined on Nov. 8 at the Sheraton Society Hill. Baker and Baughan were the only two able to make Thursday morning's announcement of the class at the Sheraton. Other inductees had relatives, friends and stand-ins speak on their behalf.

Baughan was a rookie linebacker in 1960. He told stories of his dad, the Alabama-sharecropper-turned-telephone-pole-climber, how when he went away to Georgia Tech to play football, his father gave him $20 and said, "That's it.''

“And,"' Baughan said, "that was it.''

A story about getting drafted by the Eagles somehow morphed into a Georgia Tech trip to Notre Dame in the freezing cold.

“There were a lot of them there and they were all mad at us,'' Baughan remembered. Tech won anyway.

He recalled playing in the College All-Star Game against the champion Baltimore Colts one night in Chicago and covering kicks in an Eagles exhibition game the next. In the second, third and fourth exhibitions, he was a starting linebacker.

A quick study, it eventually dawned on Baughan that “I might be the starting linebacker.''

He was. Playing next to Chuck Bednarik, he started every game as a rookie and eventually made five Pro Bowls in his six seasons with the Eagles.

He noticed that the 1960 Eagles (Class III) were already in the Philly Hall, so he figured, “I'm going to be two times in this Hall of Fame.''

So he will.

He saved some material for November.

“I will be back," he promised.

Baker is, without any question, the nicest person in Philadelphia sports. He also happens to be very good at what he has done for the Phillies since 1972 and the Eagles since 1985.

There is very little Baker has not done in this town. He was once the radio voice of the Big 5 and, more recently, the radio voice of Drexel basketball. He was the Big 5's executive director from 1981 to 1996 and kept it together through tumultuous times. He is a most deserving winner of the Legacy of Excellence Award, won by such Philly legends as Bill Campbell, Phil Jasner and Al Meltzer.

“I'm really proud they're acknowledging this category,'' Baker said. “Philadelphia has been the home of many great PA announcers — Dave Zinkoff, Matt Goukas Sr., my predecessor at the Eagles, Buddy Wagner?…?''

Wagner, Baker said, was a great ring announcer in the 1950s, '60s and '70s and the first ring announcer for the World Wresting Federation. Baker cited many of the great announcers, including Big 5 treasure, the late John McAdams.

“Steve Carlton, Kiteman and I all came in 1972,'' Baker said of his beginnings with the Phillies.

Baker, who never ages, is the longest-tenured PA announcer in baseball. He wants to make a half century with the Phillies. Baker thinks only two men have done it for 50 years or more with one team, Bob Sheppard, the Voice of God for the Yankees (1951-2007) and Pat Pieper with the Cubs (1916-1974). Pieper, in fact, was there for Babe Ruth's called shot in the 1932 World Series.

“I'm just a big Philadelphia sports fan, high school, college, pro — always have, always will,'' Baker said.

Baker gets a vote. He voted for Zinkoff.

To get in the Hall, a candidate must have either played in the area or be from here.

Joining Baker and Baughan in Class IX will be Debbie Black (renowned for her basketball, but a three sport star at Saint Joseph's), Doug Collins (17.9-point scorer in eight seasons with the Sixers and now their coach), Eddie Plank (Philadelphia A's pitcher who won 326 games and had a ridiculous 410 complete games), Eric Lindros (659 points and Hart Trophy winner in eight seasons for the Flyers), Gertrude Dunn (shortstop for the All American Girls and also a Hall of Fame field hockey player), Harold Johnson (the light heavyweight champion from Manayunk who is 84 and lives in West Philly), Horace Ashenfelter (1952 Olympic gold medal in 3,000-meter steeplechase), Joe Klecko (Temple and four-time NFL Pro Bowler), Johnny Callison (10 years with the Phillies and that legendary home run to win the 1964 All-Star Game), Johnny McDermott (who, at age 19 in 1911, was the youngest winner and first U.S.-born player to win the U.S. Open Golf Championship), Mike Piazza (.308 career average, 427 home runs), Tommy Thompson (Eagles quarterback for the 1948 and '49 NFL champions), Wali Jones (Villanova great, fourth member of 1967 champion Sixers in the Hall), and the Legacy Youth Tennis Association (celebrating its 60th anniversary).

Bill Black spoke for his daughter, Debbie, and remembered her telling him after college how much she wanted to keep playing. So she went to Australia, advertised as 6-2 guard, only a foot off. She was an instant star anyway, helping with her team win two championships with a style that can be charitably called frenzied and might best be described as maniacal. She once had a quadruple double (10 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists, 10 steals). Her father said she never missed a game.

Harold Johnson's son, John, told great stories about the “Manayunk Muscleman'' and his relationship with Archie Moore. They fought five times and always remained great friends, calling each other “champ'' when they talked on the phone. Johnson was a renowned boxing tactician who taught his son “how to hit and not be hit.''

The Hall now has 135 individuals, five teams, two organizations, one venue and one event. Fourteen different sports are represented. Still no horses, jockeys or trainers, but, as the Hall heads for its 10th class, it is still early.

Contact Dick Jerardi at jerardd@phillynews.com.

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