Basic Biittner : First Inductees

Friday, May 14, 2010

The NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, will open for business this month, and - in addition to all the up-to-date, interactive, high definition technology that will be on display and various and sundry artifacts of NACAR history - the Hall's first class of Hall of Fame inductees will be enshrined. The men selected were all pivotal to the development and growing popularity of NASCAR - NASCAR founder Bill France and his son Bill France jr., who ran the show at NASCAR for many years, along with drivers Richard Petty, Dale Earnhart Sr. and Junior Johnson. A stellar and appropriate group, I think, to serve as the Inaugural class of Hall of Famers.

That got me to thinking about the initial classes at other Halls of Fame. How do their first classes stack up with NASCAR's?

Let's see. The Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York, like NASCAR, had five members in its initial class, elected in 1936, and they were indeed an admirable and noteworthy class - the "gold standard" that Other Halls have used as a blueprint in opening their halls. Baseball's initial Hall of Fame class included pitchers Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, winners of a combined 789 games, and batting stars Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner, who combined for 18 league batting championships, 13 home run titles and multiple stolen bases.

How about some of the other Hall inaugural classes?

Hockey started its Hall, located in Toronto, in 1945. Now I don't know a lot about hockey, but I do know that three of the awards given today for various achievements are named after three of the members of the first Hockey Hall of Fame class (Hobey Baker, Art Ross, and George Vezina), so it must be an okay inaugural class. The Pro Football Hall of Fame,in Canton, Ohio, opened its doors in 1963 and had a large first-year class which included, among others, Sammy Baugh, George Halas, Red Grange, Don Hutson, Curly Lambeau, Bronco Nagurski and Jim Thorpe . Not bad.

The Basketball Hall of Fame opened n Springfield, Massachusetts in 1959, and is unique in that it represents not only professional basketball but also college, high school, women's and international hoops. Among the members of its first class were James Naismith, the inventor of the game, former Kansas University coaching legend Phog Allen, and George Mikan, the first star "big man" in pro basketball.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland elected its first class in 1986, though the Hall didn't actually open until several years later. The Rock Hall, to, selected a large number of inductees that first year, and among them were performers Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Ray Charles and the Everly Brothers. Again, a solid first year class.

As with the Baseball Hall, a number of years passed between the announcement of the first class of inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the actual opening of the Hall and Museum, and each year until the opening, more members were selected for induction, so by the time the actual Hall opened, there were plenty of members of the Hall,

NASCAR is going to open their Hall and induct their first class at the same time, so for a few years the number of individual recognition spots will be a little sparse, but it looks like there will be plenty of other interesting things to do at NASCAR's Hall of Fame to enable the visitor to "experience the NASCAR experience," such as the ultimate interactive simulated driving set-up.

Above all, the opening of the NASCAR Hall will signify that it has indeed joined the ranks of baseball, football, basketball, hockey and golf as a major league sport.