The Fairfield County Sports Commission this morning announced its Hall of Fame Class for 2011 …
Here’s the release from executive director Tom Chiappetta:
The Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame announced its new class of inductees, naming six prominent sports figures into its three wings. The Hall of Fame, which is overseen by the Fairfield County Sports Commission, Inc., will honor the newly elected Hall of Famers with an induction ceremony at the Commission’s 7th Annual Sports Night awards dinner, Monday, Oct. 17 at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich. With the six new inductees, the Hall of Fame has now recognized 45 county sports legends.
Two Hall of Famers were selected in each of the three HOF Wings: Jackie Robinson Professional, James O’Rourke Amateur and J. Walter Kennedy Community Service. In the professional category, the new inductees are JOHN BAGLEY (Bridgeport)) and BENNETT SALVATORE (Stamford). The amateur wing selections are JOE DESANTIS (Fairfield) and CECI HOPP ST. GEME (Greenwich). Community service winners are CHARLIE BENTLEY (Bridgeport) and the late ALBIE LOEFFLER (Westport).
With four of the honorees being recognized in the sport of basketball, it is the first time in the Hall of Fame’s history that there has been that number of recipients for the same sport in one class of inductees.
Bagley played 11 seasons in the NBA, the first five with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who made him their first draft pick and the 12th overall in 1982. When the 6-foot point guard was traded to the New Jersey Nets in 1987, he left as the Cavs’ all-time and single season assist leader, as well as averaging a team record 9.4 assists in 1985-86. The Harding High great played two seasons with the Nets, averaging a career-high 12.0 points per game in his first year, and then spent three years with the Boston Celtics before ending his career in Atlanta in 1993. He sat out the entire ’90-91 season due to injury, and averaged 8.7 points and 6 assists for his NBA career. A member of the Boston College Hall of Fame, Bagley played three years for the Eagles, twice averaging more than 20 points per game. As a sophomore in 1981, he led BC to the Big East regular season title and the NCAA Sweet 16, earning Big East Player of the Year honors. Bagley, inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004, helped the Eagles reach the NCAA Elite Eight in his junior campaign.
Heading into his 30th year as an NBA referee, Salvatore is one of the premier officials in pro basketball. He has worked 25 NBA Finals games, 228 playoff games and over 1,650 regular season games. The Stamford Catholic graduate began his NBA officiating career in 1981, after spending two years working in the CBA and 10 years of high school basketball. Salvatore has two All-Star game credits (1993 & 2002) on his resume, and worked international tournaments for the NBA in Germany (’93), Mexico (’97) and China (’04). A three-sport scholastic athlete, Salvatore was an all-state quarterback in 1967. He is the son-in-law of the late NFL Hall of Famer Andy Robustelli, also a Stamford native.
DeSantis was one of Fairfield University’s all-time great basketball players. A four-year letterman from 1975–79, he completed his collegiate career with 1,916 points, then the school’s all-time leading scorer and now currently second. He averaged 18.4 points per game for his career and his 667 assists are also second on the Stags’ career list. DeSantis tops the Stags’ record book for career free-throw percentage at .849. In the 1977-78 season, DeSantis led the Stags to one of their best seasons ever with a 22-5 record and an NIT appearance. He was drafted by the Washington Bullets in the second round of the 1979 NBA Draft before playing in Venice, Italy, for one season. The Bronx, N.Y. native completed his professional playing career in the Continental Basketball Association. In 2004, DeSantis was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. The Tolentine High graduate also had an accomplished coaching career with 26 years of Division I experience. He played a crucial role in elevating the Quinnipiac program from the Division II level to a respected Division I mid-major during his 11-year stint as head coach. The Trumbull resident kept close ties with his alma mater, gaining his first coaching experience as an assistant at Fairfield from 1981–88 and is now the radio color commentator for Stags basketball games.
One of the best female distance runners in U.S. history, Hopp St. Geme has been a top level competitor for more than 30 years. She made her name as a scholastic star at Greenwich High, winning the National Cross Country championship in 1980 and following up with a National title in the 3,000 meter run as a senior. She still owns four FCIAC outdoor records and two state milestones. Hopp St. Geme continued her success as a collegian at Stanford, by winning the NCAA 3,000 run as a freshman in 1982 with a time of 8:57, still an American Junior record. In 1992 & 1996 she qualified for the Olympic Trials in three events, while winning the USA Track & Field national championship in the 5,000 meters event in 1994. Hopp St. Geme, who graced the cover of Runner’s World magazine seven times, remains one of the top female Masters runners and is active in 5K runs. She has been the assistant cross country and track coach for the past nine years at Corona del Mar High in Newport Beach, CA.
For 33 years, Bentley has been the head coach of one of the country’s top high school basketball programs at Harding High, where he coached 2011 FCSC Hall of Famer John Bagley. During his tenure the Presidents have made 14 state title game appearances, winning nine championships, including five straight from 1983-87. He also has won 16 conference crowns, 11 in the MBIAC and 5 FCIAC. His total of 645 victories is second all-time in the state. Bentley’s accomplishments have been recognized numerous times in his illustrious career, including being named to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame (2003), awarded a Gold Key by the state sports writers’ alliance (2007) and election to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association HOF (2009). He also was the longtime cross country coach at Harding.
Loeffler was the legendary soccer coach at Staples High, but his impact on soccer there and across the country was more than just as a mere coach. Loeffler came to Staples in 1952 and originally coached basketball (12 years), baseball (11 years) and track because the Westport school did not have a soccer team. He founded the program in 1958 and shaped it over his 20 years as head coach into one of the nation’s finest. When he retired in 1978, he had amassed a then national high school record 314 wins and was twice named National Soccer Coach of the Year. Staples won 13 FCIAC titles, including five in a row, and seven state championships with five of those coming consecutively from 1969-73. The respect he commanded in the Staples soccer community, which knew him as Mr. Loeffler, not Albie, was also felt nationally as Loeffler was one of the pioneers of soccer officiating at both the scholastic and collegiate levels for 13 years. He worked five NCAA Division I finals, including the first one, and was part of the referee duo of the first two-man system in college soccer. Loeffler, who passed away at the age of 93 in September 2009, also was involved in writing the national soccer officials handbook. He is a member of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame as a referee and was one of the inaugural 13 members of the Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame in 1999.
With the addition of Bagley and Bentley, Bridgeport now has the most inductees with nine. A total of 15 different towns are represented in the Hall of Fame.
The list of previously enshrined FCSHOF inductees follows:
JACKIE ROBINSON PROFESSIONAL WING
- 2005-Julius Boros (Fairfield), Kristine Lilly (Wilton), Calvin Murphy (Norwalk), Steve Young (Greenwich)
- 2006-Bobby Valentine (Stamford), Mo Vaughn (Norwalk)
- 2007-Mike Gminski (Monroe), Charles Nagy (Fairfield)
- 2008-Chris Drury (Trumbull), Tim Teufel (Greenwich)
- 2009-Jennifer Rizzotti (New Fairfield), Charles Smith (Bridgeport)
- 2010-Garry Cobb (Stamford), John Hirschbeck (Stratford)
JAMES O’ROURKE AMATEUR WING
- 2005-Dorothy Hamill (Riverside), Bruce Jenner (Newtown), Bill Toomey (New Canaan)
- 2006-Joan Joyce (Stratford), Walter Luckett (Bridgeport)
- 2007-Jerry Courville, Sr. (Norwalk), Donna Lopiano (Stamford)
- 2008-Gary Liberatore (New Canaan), Lou Saccone (Bridgeport)
- 2009-Pete Demmerle (New Canaan), Dick Siderowf (Westport)
- 2010-Alvin Clinkscales (Bridgeport), Amanda Pape (Stamford)
J. WALTER KENNEDY COMMUNITY SERVICE
- 2005-Dave Bike (Bridgeport), Jerry McDougall (Trumbull)
- 2006- Ray Barry (Norwalk), Frank Vieira (Bridgeport)
- 2007-Nick Koules (Stamford), Bruce Webster (Bridgeport)
- 2008-Ralph King (Norwalk), Tom Penders (Stratford)
- 2009-Joe Benanto (Shelton), Terry Lowe (Greenwich)
- 2010-Mickey Lione, Jr. (Stamford), Vito Montelli (Trumbull)
The Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame is housed at the University of Connecticut Stamford Campus in downtown Stamford. The Hall of Fame is open 6 days a week from 9 am-5 pm.
The Fairfield County Sports Commission, Inc. is a 501c (3) non-profit organization that promotes fitness, an active healthy lifestyle and personal development through sports. The Commission, other than the executive director position, is an all-volunteer group dedicated to creating and supporting programs for fitness awareness education, primarily centered on the 110,000 school age children in the 15 communities it serves. It’s newly created Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy is the countywide umbrella for all of its programs. For more information, go to www.fairfieldcountysports.com.