State hall inductees slight in stature, but tall in talent

Athletes typically are big people, but there wasn't a large one among the four inducted yesterday in the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame. The tallest was 5 feet 9.

When ex-Orioles pitcher Tom Phoebus stood up to be enshrined, people in the audience at Martin's West were almost shocked at his stature.


Phoebus is 5-8. He weighed 185 when he played for the O's. But that was big enough to win 43 games in the '67, '68 and '69 seasons and to pitch a no-hitter in '68.

Lefty Stern is a legendary amateur athlete from the '20s and '30s who could play any sport well, as emcee Vince Bagli put it "almost a Jim Thorpe of Maryland athletics."


I grew up hearing about this former City College athlete who was a star in football, basketball, baseball, boxing, wrestling and a few other sports. Only yesterday in the introduction by Dr. Phil Block did I realize that Lefty Stern was 5-7, 160.

Tammy Davis Thompson came out of Frederick in the '60s and became a world-class hurdler. She held every indoor and outdoor American record for the hurdles in '64. Hurdlers are usually tall, long-legged people.

"I'm 5-2," Tammy said as she signed autographs. "I weighed 102 when I ran track."

The "giant" of this induction class was 5-9 George Cusick, a power boat racer from Cambridge. He weighed 130 when he retired in 1970 after setting six world speed records and winning five national championships.

Five people actually received Hall of Fame plaques, but Mount St. Joe's John Plevyak was given a duplicate of Phoebus'. Phoebus wanted his old high school baseball coach to have one.

This, amazingly, is the 50th year at St. Joe for Plevyak as coach or athletic director. He'll be honored at a testimonial dinner in June. For details call St. Joe AD Gene Neiberlein.

* It's one thing for a coach to bring back the program at a school that has a great tradition in a sport (as Lou Holtz has done at Notre Dame and as Tom Schneider is trying to do with Loyola College basketball and Tony Seaman will be out to do this spring with Johns Hopkins lacrosse). It's something else to do it at a school that never has had much success in your sport.

Bill Nelson, in his fifth season as basketball coach at Hopkins, is 16-9 and has given the Blue Jays three consecutive winning seasons for the first time in the school's history.


Before Nelson's arrival, Hopkins had had only one coach with a career winning record. That was Jim Valvano, who was 10-9 in his only season. Nelson's record at Hopkins is 70-57, but he has won 60 of his last 90 games.

Nelson's Jays play Thursday at Franklin & Marshall in the first round of the Middle Atlantic tournament. Hopkins will need two wins there to get into the NCAA tournament.

While Nelson is blazing a new trail at Hopkins, Schneider is trying to get Loyola back on an old one. Loyola was a basketball school long before soccer and lacrosse emerged as the Greyhounds' best sports.

Schneider's 12-13 team, despite its 31-point loss Saturday at Canisius, still has a chance for a winning season. That would be quite an improvement over last year's 4-24 record.