by Jim Riggs
March 10, 1986
Brown, Johnson, Webeck, Zimmer Inducted Into Sports Hall of Fame
The population of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame reached 29 Monday night with the addition of four new inductees. Bob Brown, Len Johnson, the late Clayton Webeck and Brad Zimmer were honored before approximately 300 persons at the organization’s fifth annual induction dinner at the Jamestown Holiday Inn.
The emcee for the event was Ralph Hubbell and the accomplishments of the inductees were read by Jim Roselle.
Before the speakers and inductees took the podium, Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame President Russ Diethrick presented a plaque to Richard Brodowski, general manager of Chautauqua Mall, for the mall’s support of the Hall of Fame museum.
Later Gene Aversa, general manager of Group W Cable, presented a painting of Baseball Hall of Famer Lou Brock to the Chautauqua Hall of Fame museum.
Brown, who taught and coached at Pine Valley Central School for 31 years, gave credit to his late brother, Lou for his baseball success that led to a minor league career in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. But he recalled the most fun he had playing baseball was with the Jamestown Steel Partition Bombers. Then he recalled a low point in his long coaching career at Pine Valley. ”I had the unfortunate task to coach basketball against Silver Creek when it had George Carter,” he said with a smile.
Carter, a 1984 Sports Hall of Fame inductee went on to star at St. Bonaventure and then played pro basketball in the American Basketball Association.
Brown coached football, baseball, basketball, wrestling, volleyball and track at Pine Valley. His baseball teams won numerous sectional championships and he had two championship football teams. His 1966 football team was undefeated and one of the players was Bill Bergey who went on to play with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It takes a lot of luck to succeed in sports,” said new inductee Len Johnson who made his mark in tennis with numerous titles. He recalled working with friends to build their own clay court on Blackstone Avenue. Constant play there helped him refine his game and he eventually entered numberous area tournaments. He won the Golden Trophy at Chautauqua Institution three straight times which he believes is his top honor because the competition was from all over the nation.
Johnson was the Jamestown City Singles champion 23 times, including 16 in a row. He also won the doubles title 19 times.
He recalled playing in a tournament at Chautauqua Institution once in near darkness and having to replay a point because he swung at a bat and his opponent returned it.
Nancy Champ and Sally Corkery, the daughters of the late Clayt Webeck, accepted their father’s plaque and ring. “Without boasting, I could not think of a more appropriate man to receive this honor,” Corkery said.
Webeck participated in numerous sports like baseball, track, volleyball, table tennis, roller skating, ice skating and horseshoe pitching. But Webeck was better known as a tireless promoter of area sports and non-sports events.
Brad Zimmer was a teenager when he began racking up regional and national titles in roller skating. He won his first national singles title at the age of 14. He also paired with Darlene Edwards of Erie, Pa. to win numerous pairs titles. His last competition was where he finished fourth in the National Senior Pairs Championship and was one of the youngest skaters in the competition.
One of Zimmer’s goals as a child was to someday be a teaching professional which he is now, on part-time basis, at Evan’s Skateland. “Usually when I’m in front of a microphone I can only say, ‘Couples skate, all skate,’” he joked.
Someone throwing out plenty of jokes was former American League Umpire Mary Springstead, who is now the supervisor of the AL umpires. Most of his laughs came from his many stories about run-ins with the Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver. “When I look at Earl Weaver, I wish birth control was retroactive, Springstead joked.
Another baseball speaker was Jamestown Expos General Manager Tom Prohaska.
There was plenty of weight on the podium when Tim Vogler, an offensive guard for the Buffalo Bills, and Mike Baab, an offensive center for the Cleveland Browns spoke.
“I’m not used to playing in front of this big a crowd,” Vogler said referring to the Bills recent 2-14 season. The former Ohio State player said he thought the Bills biggest problem last season were inconsistency.”
Baab said the Brown’s disappointing loss to Miami in the American Football Conference playoffs, after holding a healthy halftime lead, was due to Don Shula’s fine coaching.
He added, “If we had Gary Danielson who was injured early in the season, we’d have gone to the Super bowl. I firmly believe that.”
Father Ivan of St. John’s Church gave the invocation and benediction and Judy Johnson sang the national anthem accompanied on the piano by Lucille Miller.
The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.