More than 350 people came to Temple on the Hill in Oakland Saturday night to pay tribute to famous, infamous, and sometimes overlooked sports figures who have distinguished themselves. The audience was not disappointed as NFL standouts Jimmy Johnson, Fred "The Hammer" Williamson and Chuck Muncie, Olympic hurdler Cherrie Sherrard, University of San Francisco basketball star Hal Perry, track and field standout, George Carty, and sports sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards were inducted into the African American Ethnic Sports of Fame at the Church of the Latter-Day Saints.
The honorees, which also included several community leaders, received as much gratification from the event as the sports fans who admired them.
"When you are inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame they judge you on the number of yards you ran, how many passes you completed, how many passes you intercepted, but this Hall of Fame inducts you because it understands the struggle," said Williamson, who played nine seasons wwith the Oakland Raiders before beginning a successful acting career. "When I was playing ball it was a struggle, when I became a Black actor it was a struggle, so I appreciate this organization recognizing that."
Perry, who played on USF's 1955 and '56 championship basketball teams, said, "I'm honored to be chosen for induction into the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame because it recognizes the achievements of athletes from the past that many people have never heard aboutor have forgotten.
Some of America's greatest Olympians attended the Hall of Fame's fifth annual Bay Area induction ceremony. Among those introduced were Mel Pender, Bob Beamon, Larry Livers, Leon Coleman, John Carlos, Marilyn King, Irene Obera, and Rosie Bonds (Barry Bonds' aunt).
Those who received community service and other awards included Wil Hardee of PG&E, Cheryl Hills-Chambers of Comcast, Tim Silva of Wells Fargo, Bill Patterson of East Bay Municipal District, Wendell Pierce, and Cassandra Borgon (tennis awards), C. Diane Howell, Ph.D., and Private Industry Council CEO Gay Plair Cobb, who is a member of the Alameda Board of Education.
Emotions were stirred many times during the event. Carlos, whose closed fist tribute to Black America with Tommie Smith remains the enduring image of the 1968 Olympics, recalled how Edwards helped him make the difficult transition from rural Texas to life at San Jose State. Carlos credited much of his success in track and field to Edwards' guidance.
Edwards raised the audience's awareness about the startling lack of black players on Major League Baseball teams. The league estimates that only about 8 percent of its players will be African-Americans this coming season, Edwards said. "The Church was pleased to be the host for the AAESHOF for the second consecutive year as it honors those who have made significant contributions to the community and inducts those athletes who have made extraordinary contributions to their sport with their talent. The highlight of the evening for me was Mark Bailey's touching acceptance of the Wendall Smith Media Award for his brother Chauncey, and Dr. Harry Edwards can still stir the room, "said LDS Member Ronald McClain.
"The highlight of the night for me," said LDS Elder Bob Pederson, "was when Hal Perry was inducted and they took the microphone to him at his seat because he couldn't come to the stage. This made this man's life."