Game On / A homegrown Hall of Fame
Welcome Class of 2017
Tickets for the 27th annual Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame Induction Dinner on November 1 are available at GBSHOF.com
The name Mike Keiser likely isn’t familiar to even the most crazed sports fan. It doesn’t evoke great goals in a Stanley Cup playoff series, home runs hit, or career touchdown passes. But in his specialty, he’s anything but obscure. And come Wednesday, November 1, before about 1,000 people at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, Keiser—along with Olympics gold medalist Charles Daniels, billiards world champion Danny DiLiberto, and others—will take his place in Western New York’s most prestigious sports recognition hall, the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.
Keiser is a world-renowned golf course developer. Four of his masterpieces are ranked among the top fourteen public courses in the US, including Pacific Dunes in Oregon, which is ranked by Golf Digest as the number-two-rated public golf course in the United States (after Pebble Beach Golf Links). Keiser is ranked as one of the top ten most powerful people in golf by Golf, Inc., and is known in golfing circles as “King Midas.”
Choosing inductees from every corner of the sports world is a hallmark of GBSHOF. “From the very beginning, our primary mission was to honor all the icons from the long history of sports in the Buffalo area,” says Chuck Frawley, a past president of the organization and, as he proudly notes, the only member of the group’s forty-member board of directors that has voted in all twenty-seven years. “We wanted to acknowledge all sports, both amateur and professional, not just the celebrated athletes from the major professional teams.”
Which is not to say the Sabres, Bills, and Bisons aren’t recognized. Many have been and will be. But the organization is also a staunch supporter of the so-called “little guys,” the not-so-famous athletes, administrators, coaches, and staff.
“We recognize the members of those professional teams as a large part of our history,” explains Frawley, who recalls that the first class, back in 1991, inducted well-known legends Warren Spahn, Bob Lanier, and Gil Perreault as well as not-so-well-known legends badminton champion Ether Marsha and high school coach Frank Constantino. “But our emphasis is on the people who were born and raised here. In our way of thinking, these hall of famers are all equally deserving and we treat all of them the same.”
For example, at the 1992 honors dinner, former Buffalo Bills’ quarterback and then-current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp sat next to horseshoe pitching champion Ruth Hangen. “Those locally grown inductees are the heart of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame,” affirms Frawley.
The Class of 2017 has its big names, including Sabres’ great Michael Peca as well as St. Joe’s, UCLA and NFL standout Vaughn Parker. It also includes former Buffalo State softball coach Sandy Hollander, track and field great Stacey Schroeder-Watt, high school volleyball coach Charlie O’Brien, and rowing coach Tom Terhaar. Rounding out the class are E. J. McGuire (hockey), Willie “Hutch” Jones (basketball), and Danny Ozark (baseball).
“Seeing what this recognition means to the inductees and to their families makes all of our efforts totally worth it,” says Frawley.
Tom Koller is senior associate athletics director at Buffalo State College.