SOMETIMES, bigger is better.
Hawaii Sports Hall
of Fame growing nicely
That was never more apparent than at the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame banquet honoring the 22 inductees from the Class of 1999.
They joined the inaugural class of 35 local athletes, sportsmen, world and national champions and Olympic medalists to make up Hawaii's truly official Hall of Fame. More inductees will be added each year.
Previous attempts to start a hall of fame always got bogged down because of finances, petty squabbles and just plain inertia.
Thanks to the state, particularly Gov. Ben Cayetano, and the Bank of Hawaii, the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame has started off with a strong foundation with its first two classes.
The Hall's biographies and memorabilia are exhibited at Bishop Museum. But as the number of inductees grows, it is hoped that one day perhaps the Honolulu International Airport also could be utilized so that visitors get to know Hawaii's storied athletic history as well.
In the meantime, space constraints shouldn't stop us from keeping in mind Hawaii's honored athletes.
That realization made this year's induction especially significant. It wasn't just the increase in attendance from 150 people last year to more than 600 Tuesday night at the Sheraton Waikiki ballroom.
WHAT was striking to me was the opportunity to see a living hall of fame made up of those still with us, as well as those who will be honored in the coming years.
I had a chance to "talk story" with many of the inaugural inductees there that night -- Keo Nakama, Tommy Kaulukukui, Charlie Ane, Bobo Olson and Bill Smith. Sadly, though, I missed Herman Wedemeyer, who died Jan. 25.
Seven of this year's inductees -- Father Kenneth Bray, Henry "Honolulu" Hughes, Norman Tamanaha, Thomas Haine, Chuck Leahey, Ted Makalena and Rell Sunn -- were honored posthumously.
Showing how deeply Bray, Iolani School's father figure, touched so many lives, more than 50 of his former players celebrated his induction. The list of Bray's Red Raiders present, many of whom became coaches, was impressive indeed: Eddie Hamada, Masa Yonamine, Sol Naumu, Paul and Harold Han, Ben Almadova, Merv Lopes and Frank Kahoohanohano, among them.
Makalena, who won the PGA Tour's Hawaiian Open in 1966, is the third golfer to enter the Hall of Fame, joining Francis I'i Brown, "Mr. Golf of Hawaii," and LPGA champion Jackie Liwai Pung. Both were inducted last year.
"Too bad Ted died so early in his career," said Pung, who along with Makalena, a fellow native Hawaiian, were the golf professionals running Mauna Kea Resort's golf course when it first opened in 1964.
TWO Olympic divers were inducted and they provided a charming counterpoint.
Aileen Riggin Soule, a 1920 Olympic gold medalist at the age of 14, inspired the gathering with her grace and verve.
She was later followed at the podium by Keala O'Sullivan Watson, also 14 when she won a bronze medal at the 1968 Mexico City Games. Keala provided the most humorous moment of the evening while recalling her preparation for the Olympics.
"We didn't have a television, so I didn't know what the Olympics was," she said.
All Keala knew was that she trained three times a day, seven days a week.
"It had better be worth it," she told her diving coach and anyone else who listened.
It was worth it, all right.
Her Olympic medal and now her induction into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame proved rewarding indeed for her countless hours of dedication.