The Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame has some serious explaining to do
Though its men-to-women ratio is about 18 to 1, our state sports hall has yet again failed to enshrine even one woman despite a long backload of deserved honorees
The announcement came in November.
The Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame would be inducting six new names.
Indeed, it happened Monday.
They ran the gamut.
Chuck Bowman was a terrific football coach at Northeastern A&M before becoming the face of Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Oklahoma for more than 30 years.
Lane Frost rode bulls and won a world championship at the grand old age of 24, one year before his death in the Cheyenne dirt when, though he’d finished his ride, the bull put his horns into his back post dismount, breaking ribs that punctured his heart and lungs.
R.W. McQuarters was a standout defensive back at Oklahoma State and a fine pro, too, earning a Super Bowl ring as a New York Giant.
Wilcy Moore didn’t make it to the big leagues until turning 30, but had an amazing 1927 rookie season with the Yankees — 19-7, 2.28 ERA and 13 saves — and five more in New York and Boston of lesser repute.
Tinker Owens, younger brother of Steve, was a two-time All-American and two-time national champion for Barry Switzer’s Sooners, who played four professional seasons with the Saints.
Lee Roy Smith was the original Smith brother at Oklahoma State, whose career wasn’t quite as big as his brothers’, John and Pat, yet still included three All-American honors, an individual NCAA championship, a World Championships silver medal and three national freestyle crowns.
They ran the gamut with one glaring exception.
Though four remain with us and two have passed, all are men.
Indeed, since 1986, more than 180 men have been inducted, as well as two teams of men, the 1956 Frederich High Bombers, who must have ben great, and the 1958 Cameron baseball team, maybe the raggiest taggiest ball squad ever to win a national championship.
In that same span, the grand sum of 11 women and one women’s team — the Oklahoma Presbyterian Cardinals, who won 89 straight basketball games between 1931 and ’34, claiming two AAU national championships in ’32 and ’33 — have been so enshrined.
Perhaps that’s because, but for marketing communications and event director Olivia James and board of directors member Anita Thorpe, kin to the legendary and immortal Jim Thorpe (for whom the museum attached to the hall of fame is named), every staff member, board officer and board of directors member, 18 in all, are also male.
Of course, the hall does good stuff, like hand out the Jim Thorpe Award to college football’s best defensive back and the Warren Spahn award to Major League Baseball’s best left-handed pitcher.
Still, none of that has kept its blind spot from being anything less than immense.
Three years ago, I was there for the inductions.
It was the night Bob Stoops told everybody his first two years off the Sooner sideline may have been necessary, but were “awful” too.
Will Shields, from Lawton, already enshrined in Canton, was among the honorees that night. As were Mickey Tettleton and Mike Moore, catcher and pitcher, from Southeast High School and tiny Eakly with 28 big league seasons between them.
Lou Henson, from Okay, who won 775 college basketball games as head coach, most at Illinois, was honored. As was Kendall Cross, from Mustang, a 1996 Olympic gold medal grappler.
Those five, and Patty Gasso, too, the Oklahoma softball coach becoming just the ninth woman enshrined, a fact not lost on her.
“I feel like I’ve got to do a good job of representing because there are a lot of phenomenal female athletes and coaches in this state,” she said.
Her words may have had an impact.
The next year, Sherri Coale got the call. Then, last year, Stacey Dales, the point guard who led Coale’s Sooners to the 2002 national championship game, was inducted.
But this year?
It wouldn’t be the same, but if the hall can’t go five or six years of only enshrining women, it could do what Cooperstown has done, creating committees with the sole purpose of enshrining those wrongly left out, be they veterans only now fully appreciated or Negro Leagues pioneers, forced to play in the shadows when the majors remained a whites only club.
Prior to Gasso making it in 2019, the most recent female inductee had been Nadia Comaneci — hero of the 1976 Montreal Games, inventor of the perfect 10, who’d long made her home in Norman with husband Bart Conner, an inductee himself — in 2013.
Before that, here’s the whole list:
Crystal Robinson and Kelli Litsch, phenomenal basketball players both; Bertha Teague, who won a million hoops games at Byng; Dale McNamara, who built a golf powerhouse at Tulsa; three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Susie Maxwell Berning; gymnast extraordinaire Shannon Miller and Michele Smith, Oklahoma State All-American pitcher, Olympian and longtime ESPN lead analyst of the Women’s College World Series.
The Sooners were my beat for almost 25 years as a sports writer, editor and columnist, and here’s who’s missing among only them (at least).
There must be a list of old Cowgirls that needs putting in, too, not to mention several names I can’t come up with, lost to history because organizations like the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame never paid them much mind to begin with.
The ratio, right now, men-to-women, is something like 18 to 1.
Even in a state frequently not kind to women, it’s hard to be that wrong.
Yet, through the years and right now again, they have been.
Maybe next year.
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