Hall of Fame celebrates depth of state’s talent
by Jennifer Cohron
Jul 08, 2012 | 1735 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
More than 300 athletes have been inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, including Vincent “Bo” Jackson. The Bessemer native and Auburn alum was a rare star of two professional sports, football and baseball.  Photo special to the Eagle
More than 300 athletes have been inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, including Vincent “Bo” Jackson. The Bessemer native and Auburn alum was a rare star of two professional sports, football and baseball. Photo special to the Eagle
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BIRMINGHAM — If you can’t afford to fly to London this summer for the Olympic Games, consider a trip to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame to learn about the many gold medal winners who have ties to the state.

In the 1948 London Olympics, Alice Coachman Davis became the first black woman to win a gold medal. Davis, a Georgia native who was discovered by Tuskegee Institute track coach Cleve Abbott, earned the medal with a record high jump of 5 feet, 6 inches.

In 1984, Birmingham native Carl Lewis became the second athlete in history to win four gold medals in a single Olympics. The first was Jesse Owens, a fellow track star and Alabama native.

That same year, Ambrose “Rowdy” Gaines won three gold medals and set two world records in swimming. Gaines, NBC’s color commentator for its coverage of swimming at the upcoming London Olympics, was an All-American nearly two dozen times while attending Auburn University.

More recent gold medalists who hail from Alabama include soccer player Mia Hamm and bobsledder Vonetta Flowers.

Flowers, the first black athlete to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics, recently donated several items to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, including the helmet she wore while competing in Salt Lake City in 2002.

The museum, which was created by the Legislature in 1967, has more than 5,000 artifacts on display.

Among the collection are the Heisman Trophies awarded to Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson and the last Hickok Belt ever presented, which was donated by UA alum and professional football great Ken Stabler.

The museum also has the World Series trophies won in 1972, 1973 and 1974 by the Oakland Athletics. At that time, the team was owned by Ensley native Charles Finley, who is in the Hall of Fame as a distinguished sportsman.

More than 300 athletes representing sports from archery to wrestling have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“We’re known for being a football state, but our baseball heritage is just as rich,” said facility manager Bill Miller. “The city of Mobile has produced more Baseball Hall of Famers than any other city in the country, and Alabama has two of the top home run hitters of all time in Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.”

Also, five of the top 15 athletes of the 20th century as determined by ESPN are in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame — Jesse Owens, Hank Aaron, Joe Louis, Willie Mays and Carl Lewis.

The Alabama Sports Hall of Fame is located on Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard in Birmingham near the BJCC. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and $3 for students.

Other options for sports fan this summer:

Tuscaloosa-Auburn

The Alabama Tourism Department has developed a BCS Championship Tour as part of its “100 Alabama Road Trips” campaign.

The first stop is the Paul Bryant Museum in Tuscaloosa. The legendary coach’s teams won six of the school’s 14 national championships.

Four blocks over is legendary Bryant-Denny Stadium, the fifth largest in the Southeastern Conference and the seventh largest on-campus stadium in the nation.

Across the state is Auburn, where coaches Ralph “Shug” Jordan, Terry Bowden, Tommy Tuberville and Gene Chizik led the Tigers to undefeated seasons and Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton won Heisman Trophies.

The coveted crystal trophy from the 2010 national championship is located in The Auburn Arena, which also houses the Lovelace Museum.

A trip to Auburn isn’t complete without stopping by Toomer’s Drugs, which has been at the intersection of College and Magnolia streets for more than 130 years.

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

According to the state tourism website, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail — a collection of 468 holes at 11 sites that stretches from Muscle Shoals to Mobile — is one of the reasons that Golf Digest named Alabama one of the top 50 golf destianations in the world.

Every course on the trail has received renovations within the past five years. Most green fees are between $45 and $64.

Two popular facilities in the greater Birmingham area are Oxmoore Valley, which stands on former mining land and features an 18th hole nicknamed “The Assasin,” and Ross Bridge, the fourth longest golf course in the world.

In keeping with the Scottish theme of Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa, a traditional bagpiper wanders the grounds every evening calling golfers back to the clubhouse.