The Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame turns 50and year as an organization.
There are 175 athletes, teams, programs and supporters who have been inducted based on the impact they have had on sports in the city and around the world.
Over the past 50 years, GRSHOF has become an integral part of the city’s sports scene at all levels.
GRSHOF President Mark Kimball said the organization makes monetary donations to community groups from funds raised at a series of events throughout the year. He said that the GRSHOF partners with the youth sports program Great Sports, Great Kids of the Grand Rapids Public Schools Foundation.
“When you really dig into the fabric of community, it’s a whole bunch of different things that create quality of life,” he said. “I think West Michigan is a fabulous place. I’ve lived here all my life, my kids grew up here, and I think one of the great attributes of our community is the strength of our sporting events. The great youth programs that exist in dozens and dozens of sports and in each of our little communities here. High school sports are fabulous. We have great college sports in our community, and we’re lucky to have professional teams here, so sports really are a big contributor to our community.
It is the GRSHOF’s mission to recognize these contributors, and the list of inductees is as varied as it is luminous.
Marion Ladewig was the first woman to be inducted into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame in 1972. She was considered the “Queen of Bowling” because she topped the nation in high average for a woman four times between 1949 and 1963.
In 1951, she won the WIBC City, State and National All-Events titles, and she is the only woman to ever achieve this feat. The Grand Rapids native was a five-time World Invitational Champion and eight-time All-Star Series titlist. She has been named Women’s National Bowler of the Year nine times and remains the all-time leader of the US Women’s Open championships with eight.
Gerald R. Ford was an All-City football player at the now-defunct South High. He was a center, long snapper and linebacker for the University of Michigan football team, a three-time letter winner and a member of consecutive undefeated teams that won national championships in 1932 and 1933. He was named Wolverines Most Valuable Player in 1934. He also became the 38and The president of the United States.
David Harris was a linebacker at Ottawa Hills High School and he set the school record for tackles with 158. He played for the University of Michigan on teams that won two Big Ten titles and was a drafted into the National Football League, where he played for the New York Jets and New England Patriots.
Tia Brooks-Wannemacher was inducted into the GRSHOF Class of 2021. She competed in the shot put and discus at East Kentwood High School and won the Michigan High School Athletic Association championship in the shot put.
Brooks-Wannemacher went to the Oklahoma University, where she was four-time NCAA shot put champion and school indoor and outdoor record holder. She is an Olympic track and field athlete who competed at the London Olympics in 2012.
But it is not only individuals who make up the members of the room.
Some of the teams that have been inducted into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame include the Caledonia Women’s Cross Country, winners of the 1993-96 Class B state championships; Grand Rapids Chicks Baseball, winners of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League championships in 1947 and 1953; the 2001 Grand Rapids Rampage, winner of Arena Bowl XV in indoor football; and the 1925 Union High School football team, which was undefeated and scoreless.
The GRSHOF also inducted individuals who have supported the growth of the sport in the city. The late Peter Secchia was inducted and received the Warren Reynolds Lifetime Achievement Award. Secchia was a philanthropist and the founder of the West Michigan Sports Commission, a non-profit organization that focuses solely on attracting and hosting sporting events for youth and fans in West Michigan.