Notable professional athletes Gino Marchetti, Duane Putnam and Gene Rounsaville joined well-known Antioch athletes and community leaders Shaun Bogan, Jack Garrow and Worth Shaw in a rousing presentation of the inaugural class of the Antioch Sports Hall of Fame.
The daylong ceremony, which coincided with the opening of the Museum and Sports Hall at Antioch's Historical Society, was a joyous affair culminating an 18-month journey for the five-member Sports Legends Committee, which raised $250,000 to make its dream of opening the hall a reality.
"When I first saw their vision, I thought, 'Wow, if this does happen, it will be extraordinary,'" said Antioch Mayor Donald Freitas in his address prior to the public introduction of the inductees. "This is the first time I have seen the museum and you have set and exceeded all of our expectations. You have set the standard for this city, and quite frankly for the entire Bay Area."
Inside the new $250,000 complex lies striking memorabilia from Antioch athletes past and present. Broken up into sections by sports, the refurbished hall includes everything from signed equipment, field attire and playing cards to quaint objects of Antioch's past that define the city's athletic accomplishments on and off the field.
In the back right corner of the facility sits an original barber chair from Mercado's Barber Shop, a signature hangout of local athletes during the '40s and '50s.
In addition to a 25-seat theater decorated with movie palace artifacts from Antioch's theaters of the early 20th century, the hall also features numerous flat panel televisions that replay historic moments in the city's sports history. On Saturday, Antioch graduate Aaron Miles' first hit as a professional baseball player played a prominent role on one of the screens.
The impact the 14 inductees made on the city of Antioch was indelible and profound, according to museum organizers, and the opening of the complex personified that notion.
"None of the athletes did what they did for the awards," said museum docent Richard Burke. "They got the awards for what they did."
Each of the 14 inductees, prefaced with an assortment of accomplishments and accolades, were introduced to the public on the front lawn of the historical society prior to an official ribbon-cutting ceremony. The inductees were then available for autographs.
"It's very exciting," said inductee Jack Garrow. "What the city is doing is so special and being part of it is just so wonderful."
Some of the notable athletes entering the hall include Marchetti, an NFL Hall of Famer who played at Antioch High School in the early '40s before going on to a 12-year pro career that included 10 Pro Bowl appearances, and Gene "Butch" Rounsaville, who excelled in basketball and baseball at Antioch high before playing 12 years in Major League Baseball, racking up 79 career wins as a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox.
While many of the inductees experienced the glamor of playing professional sports, many of them say nothing matched Saturday's experience. "No matter how high you get, in the major leagues or professional sports," said Rounsaville, "there is nothing better than being honored by your home town."
The Class of 2007 Sports Legends Hall inductees are Gino Marchetti, Duane Putnam, Ron Pritchard, George Ackerman, Shaun Bogan, Michelle Gromacki, Ron Edwards, Rally Rounsaville, Ralph Holding, Gene Rounsaville, Steve Sanchez, Ralph Garrow, Jack Danilovich, Worth Shaw and the entire 1945 Antioch High Football Team.
The museum is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. or by appointment. For more information, call 757-1326.