Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith
NEW YORK — Last week there was plenty of marquee headliners from college football with the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and the crowning of the new Heisman Trophy winner. There was star power all over Manhattan.
More than a few accomplished football players are waiting in the wings — some troubled, some not — for election to the College Football Hall of Fame. As they wait, they are fully aware that there are many, with lesser credentials, who either politicked, or had a drumbeater who got it done, taking bows when the roll call is sounded at the annual dinner. There are the many who are on the bubble and may never get the nudge that brings about admission.
A classic example exists with the University of Georgia. In the roaring 1920s, the Bulldogs had two classic ends playing at the same time: Vernon “Catfish” Smith and Herb Maffett. Catfish, who was more flamboyant with a catchy nickname, is in; Herb is not. Those who saw the two men compete say that Maffett was Catfish’s equal, but simply was less of a colorful headline maker. Herb badly wanted to be elected. Georgia sympathizers tried in vain to move Herb through the nomination process to election.
Spurgeon Chandler, a teammate of Smith and Maffett, enjoyed a spectacular career with the New York Yankees — MVP of the American League in 1943 and he was described by catcher Bill Dickey as the best pitcher he ever caught. Chandler was sorely disappointed that he never made it into baseball’s Hall of Fame. In his final years, I once suggested that there was time for him to get the call, his voice quivered and he broke down as his said, “Well they better hurry.”
After years of promoting Georgia’s best athletes for various halls of fame and seeing some very capable athletes come close but never get admitted, I am convinced that halls of fame are often distinguished as much for those they keep out as they are for those they admit.
Take Bull Munday, the former Georgia pitcher and pioneer broadcaster, for example. He was the first sports director of NBC. Munday was also the play-by-play announcer for the first network radio broadcast of a game that was aired coast to coast. He was considered one of the Big Three pioneer broadcasters along with Ted Husing and Graham McNamee. The Honors Court of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame continues to ignore his nomination. The voters don’t know him and haven’t given the exceptional facts about Munday’s career proper due diligence. Another problem with Munday is that he is deceased, and there is a tendency to give priority to those still living. I am often persuaded along those lines when I vote, but nobody is more deserving for Hall of Fame status in Georgia than Bill Munday.
While there are many who might challenge the judgment of the work of various honors courts, there was no question about the credentials of Georgia’s Jake Scott, who was, in fact, inducted last weekend. The only issue with Jake was whether or not he would show up for the dinner, a requirement by the National Football Foundation. Even though he preferred to be back home in Hawaii fishing, Jake seemed to enjoy himself in the Big Apple, becoming the 16th former Georgia player and coach to be elected to the Hall.
It was a high moment for Bulldog aficionados who watched as Scott was recognized at the Waldorf Astoria. Joining him at the head table was Drew Butler, who became the 12th Georgia football player to be honored by the National Football Foundation as a scholar athlete — a red letter evening for the Georgia Bulldogs.