It’s quite a group.
Thus, it was quite a night.
Monday, at Riverwind Casino, far from the slots and blackjack tables, in the swanky setting of the Showplace Theatre, Bob Stoops, Patty Gasso, Will Shields, Kendall Cross, Lou Henson, Mickey Tettleton and Mike Moore were inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
Stoops and Gasso you know. The others you may well know, but here’s a refresher anyway.
• Shields, a Lawton High product, went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015 after not missing a game over 14 NFL seasons, all of them in Kansas City.
• Cross, from Mustang, was a three-time All-American on Oklahoma State’s wrestling mat, a national champion in 1989 and an Olympic gold medalist in 1996.
• Henson, from tiny Okay, coached college basketball from 1962 until 2005, including 21 seasons at Illinois, logging 775 victories and a .649 winning percentage.
Tettleton, a Southeast High School product and Norman resident, whose sons have starred on Norman North’s gridiron and pitch, spent 14 seasons in Oakland, Baltimore, Detroit and Texas and may have possessed the finest home run trot in the history of the game, one he put to use 245 times.
Moore, from even tinier Eakly, pitched 14 seasons in the big leagues after being the first pick in the 1981 draft, the highlight of his career coming for Oakland, when he earned two victories in the famous earthquake-delayed 1989 World Series.
Talk about star power.
Talk about famous faces.
Talk about some of the best to have ever played or coached their games.
Also, talk about the absurd 6-to-1 ratio of men to women, which as impossible as it may seem, still represents a step forward for the hall of fame, seeing as how this is the 34th year it’s put together a class and Gasso is only the 10th female inductee and the first since the incomparable Nadia Comaneci in 2013.
For crying out loud, almost as many media members, seven, have been inducted as women.
Beyond Gasso and Comaneci, the other eight they’ve joined include Crystal Robinson, Michele Smith, Kelli Litsch, Dale McNamara, Shannon Miller, Susie Maxwell Berning, Bertha Teague and the Oklahoma Presbyterian Cardinals.
Comaneci made the perfect 10 a thing at the ’76 Montreal Olympics; Robinson and Kitsch might have been two best female basketball players ever to come out of the state at the time they came out of it; McNamara built a golf powerhouse at Tulsa; Berning won four majors on the golf course, including three U.S. Women’s Opens; Teague won more than 1,100 basketball games at Byng, where she coached for 42 years; the Cardinals won 89 straight games from 1931-34.
Gasso has won four national championships on the softball diamond and knows she should have more female company in the hall.
“I feel like I’ve got to do a good job of representing because there are a lot of phenomenal female athletes and coaches in this state,” she said.
For fun, here’s five:
Heck, that’s just Sooners.
Wait, Marita Hynes, too.
She may have to go first.
Gasso said when she learned she’d be inducted, she was curious how unique she might be, so she had somebody look into it and she remembers being told there were 10.
There were only nine before her, yet the person who checked researched it for her may well have counted Leslie O’Neal, who is not a woman, but a former OSU defensive end who played 13 seasons in the NFL.
Of course, we’re in a football-mad state and women’s football, but for the Oklahoma City Dolls of the 1970s, is not really a thing. On the other hand … 10 … in 34 years?
“I knew Michele Smith was in it,” Gasso said, “but I didn’t know how many actual women.”
It is not just the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, but the Jim Thorpe Museum and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, and for a state that at least likes to think of itself as proud of its native heritage, enough to proudly claim Thorpe as the greatest athlete to come out of it and maybe the greatest athlete of all time, it’s a shame our state’s sports hall of fame hasn't been a little more thoughtful and progressive over the decades.
Like, Paul Hansen, who may have been a prince of a man, was inducted in 1992. Yet, as a college coach, Hansen went 189-168 and went to one NCAA tournament over 13 seasons as a Division I basketball coach.
There has to be 50 more deserving women. Perhaps naming those 50 — or 100, or 150 — would be a difficult thing. But if that’s so, it’s because women’s sports have been under-appreciated and under-covered through the ages and yes, that’s a problem. Yet, if anybody should be charged with solving it, shouldn’t it be the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
It’s a thought.
Anyway, it was a grand old time at Riverwind.
Stoops, with splendid honesty, described his two years away from football as necessary but “awful.”
Tettleton talked about how he was just another athlete from Southeast to enjoy a career in the big leagues, Gerald McCoy being the latest.
Cross spoke of how he very nearly wasn’t on the ’96 Olympic team, Shields about the rivalry between Lawton’s three high schools, Henson about how basketball has been changed by the 3-point shot and Moore came clean with the best player he ever played alongside: Rickey Henderson, in a walk.
It was terrific, unguarded stuff. Still, there was no getting away from how Gasso, the only one in a dress, rather than dark slacks, stood out.
She absolutely deserves the honor, but so do so many of the pioneers who preceded her as well as others those pioneers preceded.
The Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame knows how to throw a great shindig.
It should be far better at opening its doors.