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by O. J. Cunningham

In May of 1990, Denny Hayes became the first President of the Bay County Sports Hall of Fame ... according to the Articles of Incorporation filed that year with the State of Michigan.

Hayes, a Minnesota native and a former English teacher at Bay City Central during the early 1970’s, was captivated by the sports enthusiasm and sports tradition he found in Bay County. In 1973, he bought the Green Hut tavern on Columbus Avenue on Bay City’s East side and set into motion a series of events that would eventually evolve into the Bay County Sports Hall of Fame.

The earliest concept of the Bay County Sports Hall of Fame presented itself in 1979 on the walls of the Green Hut when Hayes commissioned painter/artist, Dave Goss to produce almost life-sized murals for the walls inside the Green Hut. These murals depicted the sports accomplishments of Olympic Gold Medalist Terry McDermott, NFL legend Bill Hewitt and baseball’s most-celebrated pinch-hitter Jerry Lynch. Hayes, in effect, had started the Hall of Fame.

In those early years, according to Hayes, it was Dave Rogers, a Bay City Times editorial writer, who first proposed that the concept of the Hall of Fame be taken to a county-wide level to encourage a greater participation within the community.

Years passed with little activity. But in the Fall of 1989, the concept of the Bay County Hall of Fame was born again during a spontaneous meeting of Hayes, Rogers and Jerry Spencer. Weekly meetings followed as Tom Fallon, Frank Walsh, Herman Wolf, Barney Glowicki, Lee DeLorge and others became active members of the Hall of Fame Board of Directors.

Momentum continued and the group moved their meetings to the Bay County Community Center. In March of 1990, the original set of by-laws were written and adopted. In May of 1990, Articles of Incorporation were filed with the State of Michigan and in August, through the efforts of Jerry Spencer, the Hall of Fame received formal 501 c (3) status as a non-profit organization operating in the State of Michigan. Hayes later stepped aside and Frank Walsh was elected by the original board of directors to serve as the first President.

Within two months, police officer Pete Kaczmarek, County Recreation Director Don Felske, Community Foundation Executive Glenda Kraft, former coach and school administrator Art Nixon, former Sports Page Publisher O.J. Cunningham, businessman Harold Rupp and others became board members.

On the third Saturday of October in 1991, the Bay County Sports Hall of Fame held their first induction banquet at the Broadway House in Bay City. Honored were: Bill Hewitt, Johnny Tews, Nancy Kiesel, Terry McDermott, Jerry Lynch, Art Bakeraitis, Al Baker and Elmer Engel. Each inductee received a plaque commemorating their Hall of Fame induction and a duplicate plaque was placed in the Hall of Fame display case in the Bay County Community Center on John F. Kennedy Drive in Bay City. The original one-panel display case was designed and constructed by Eberhard & Father Signworks in 1991. In 1993, two additional panels were added as the number of inductees increased.

In 1992, the Hall of Fame commissioned local Bay County Historian Les Arndt to produce a 100 Year History of Sports in Bay County. In 1993, a second, revised edition was published and distributed in the community. The book was used as a fund-raiser by the Sports Hall of Fame.

Lee DeLorge succeeded Frank Walsh as President of the Hall of Fame Board of Directors in 1992. Art Nixon served the next two terms as President (1993, 1994) and current President O. J. Cunningham was elected in 1995 and is currently serving his twelveth full term as President of the organization.

In 1994, the Hall of Fame Board of Directors initiated a scholarship program to benefit scholar/athletes in the Bay County School system. Each year, the Hall of Fame Scholarship Committee reviews applications from scholar/athletes and presents a $500 award to one student/athlete from each Bay County school. Schools include: Bay City Central, Bay City Western, Pinconning High School, Bangor John Glenn, Essexville Garber and Bay City All Saints. The program is now in its 17th year. Twenty-one thousand ($42,000) dollars has already been distributed to deserving scholar/athletes.

In 1996, the Hall of Fame recognized Bay City All Saints basketball teams (1974-75) for their back-to-back State Championship seasons. In 1997, the football Wolves of Bay City Central High School were enshrined for their Saginaw Valley and State Championships of 1958.

The team concept continues to be a part of the induction ceremony. The 1961 Bay City Handy High School Saginaw Valley and Class ‘A’ State Champions football team was honored in 1998.

In 1999, the '68 John Glenn High School Class B Boys' State Track Champions were honored along with the 1981 Bay County Colt League baseball team from 1981 that attended the Colt World Series in Hawaii.

In 2000, as the Bay County Sports Hall of Fame celebrates its 10th anniversary, the Pinconning Girls' 1989 State Softball Champion team will be honored.

A plaque commemorating their induction will be presented to the school and individual awards will be presented to each member of the team.

---------- Last Updated September 21, 2000