Bethesda | Sports

With ‘honor and pride,’ county adds notable figures to Sports Hall of Fame

Olympian Dominique Dawes, a previous inductee, speaks about success

The Montgomery County Sports Hall of Fame held its second annual induction ceremony on Sunday, adding six local residents who bring “honor and pride” to the county, board Chair Trish Heffelfinger said.

The virtual ceremony featured acceptance speeches from the six new inductees, as well as an address by local sports legend Dominique Dawes, a gold-medal-winning Olympic gymnast. Dawes was part of the inaugural class of inductees last year.

The 2020 inductees are baseball player Curtis Pride, field hockey coach Amy Wood, football coach Roy Lester, tennis player Jeri Ingram, baseball and football player Tom Brown, and broadcaster Johnny Holliday.

This year’s ceremony was free to attend, with proceeds from the organization’s auction and donations funding the Hall of Fame’s mission. Along with highlighting local sports achievements, the organization hopes to increase access to sports, Heffelfinger said.

Particularly, the organization hopes to fund scholarships to help children play sports, create programs for people with disabilities, and educate the community on existing sports opportunities. To do so, the Hall of Fame might partner with the county’s recreation department to host a sports fair, Heffelfinger said.

The board will make the final decision in November on how to allocate funds.

“Sports is a great connector,” Heffelfinger said. “When there’s adversity in the world, sports has a way of transcending that and allowing people to enjoy something and focus on something that brings them together.”

On Sunday, the Montgomery County Sports Hall of Fame held a virtual ceremony for this year’s six inductees. Dave Johnson, left, the event MC, and Johnny Holliday, a broadcaster and one of the 2020 inductees, discuss what makes Montgomery County special.

The Hall of Fame’s auction ran concurrently during the virtual event. Auction items ranged from a tribute to Kobe Bryant to tickets for a 16-seat suite at a Washington Spirit game.

Notable autographed items included a bat signed by inductee Curtis Pride, a media pass autographed by Muhammad Ali, a jersey signed by the entire Washington Capitals roster, and a Baltimore Ravens jersey autographed by Lamar Jackson.

Dawes did a front flip before delivering her speech.

Dawes was initially scheduled to speak on the topic of the Black Lives Matter movement. But Dawes — the first Black gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal — instead spoke on her definition of success.

To her, success is not gold medals or the coveted spot at the top of the podium, but helping young people and speaking up for the voiceless, said Dawes, who has a gymnastics academy in Clarksburg.

During her speech, Dawes highlighted her connection to the newest class of honorees. Holliday and Ingram were fellow Terps, and Holliday broadcast one of her Olympic competitions.

Dawes and Pride served as co-chairs of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition under the Obama administration. 

Board member Jim Neustadt said the ceremony highlighted the sports community within the county. Several inductees have personal connections to each other.

Pride grew up in Silver Spring and attended John F. Kennedy High School, where he was a star soccer, basketball, and baseball player. Pride went on to play for major and minor league teams from 1993 to 2008, including the Washington Expos and the New York Yankees. He is now the head coach of the Gallaudet University baseball team.

He credited his three high school coaches, calling them invaluable to his success.

Pride, who has a severe hearing impairment, said during his speech, “No one, I mean no one, could tell me that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted because of my deafness.”

Wood became Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School’s field hockey coach in 1993 and went on to win nine straight state championships.

She said she was “utterly surprised and truly humbled” by the honor, and added that she always wanted to make a difference in players’ lives. “Our team motto was ‘I believe in me, I believe in you, I believe in us,’” Wood said.

Heffelfinger said honoring figures like Wood, who is well known in field hockey but not necessarily in the broader sports world, is one of the organization’s missions. 

The organization also honored Lester, who died in May due to complications from the coronavirus.

Lester was a former head football coach at the University of Maryland, after leading the program at Richard Montgomery High School. In 1971, he left college football and went back to coaching younger players at Paint Branch and Magruder high schools.

Lester’s son Tom accepted the award on his behalf, calling his father a “stellar gentleman” and a “molder of men.”

Ingram played eight years on the professional tennis circuit. She particularly praised her time playing in the county as one of the best parts of her life.

She thanked her coaches from Springbrook High School, where she was undefeated, and the University of Maryland, where she continued her undefeated streak throughout her freshman year.

Ingram went to school with the son of Brown, the next inductee. Brown’s son Brad accepted the award on his father’s behalf.

Tom Brown played baseball and football — first for Montgomery Blair High School and later professionally for the Washington Senators and Green Bay Packers. According to Brad Brown, his dad told his children more about playing sports in the county than about his time in the professional leagues.

The final honoree to speak, Holliday has lived in Montgomery County for 51 years.

He has spent the last 41 years as the broadcaster for the Maryland Terrapins. Additionally, he co-hosted the last Beatles concert ever.

In his speech, Holliday said the county is the greatest in Maryland because of the people — including the student athletes and coaches.

County Council members and County Executive Marc Elrich also spoke at the ceremony. Elrich talked about the challenge of young people not being able to practice sports due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ceremony highlighted how sports in Montgomery County has gone virtual. The county’s winter season will include virtual skill development and conditioning for basketball, karate, cheer, poms, and soccer, according to Carmen Berrios Martinez, a spokesperson for the recreation department.

The season will run from January to March for students ranging from 2 to 18 years old.

One advantage to having a virtual ceremony is the ability to reach a wider audience, Neustadt said. The organization posted the Hall of Fame ceremony on its website.