Sports organization celebrates milestone

The Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame marks 50 years in the community.
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Marion Ladewig. Courtesy Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame

The Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame is celebrating its 50th year as an organization. 

There are 175 athletes, teams, programs and supporting individuals that have been inducted based on the impact they’ve had on sports in the city and 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 during a series of events throughout the year. He said GRSHOF partners with the Great Sports, Great Kids youth sports program of the Grand Rapids Public Schools Foundation.

“When you really dig into the fabric of the community, it’s a whole bunch of different things that create a quality of life,” he said. “I think West Michigan is a fabulous place to be. I’ve lived my whole life here, my children 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 are in just dozens and dozens of sports and every one of our little communities around here. High school sports is fabulous. We have terrific collegiate sports in our community, and we’re blessed to have professional teams here, so sports is really a great contributor our community.”

It is GRSHOF’s mission to recognize those 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” as 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 that feat. The Grand Rapids native was a five-time World Invitational champion and an eight-time titlist in the All-Star series. She was named the National Female Bowler of the Year nine times and remains the all-time leader in U.S. 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’s football team, a three-time letter winner and a member of consecutive undefeated teams that won national championships in 1932 and ’33. He was named the Wolverines’ most valuable player in 1934. He also went on to become the 38th president of the United States.

David Harris was a linebacker at Ottawa Hills High School, and he set the school’s record for tackles with 158. He played at the University of Michigan on teams that won two Big Ten titles and was drafted into the National Football League, where he played for the New York Jets and New England Patriots. 

Tia Brooks-Wannamacher. Courtesy Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame

Tia Brooks-Wannemacher was an inductee in 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 on to the University of Oklahoma, where she was a four-time NCAA shot put champion and the school’s indoor and outdoor record holder. She is an Olympic track and field athlete who competed in the 2012 London Olympics.

But it’s not just individuals who make up the hall’s members.

Some of the teams that were inducted into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame include Caledonia girls cross country, winners of Class B state championships 1993-96; Grand Rapids Chicks baseball, winners of All-American Girls Professional Baseball League championships in 1947 and 1953; the 2001 Grand Rapids Rampage, winners of the indoor football Arena Bowl XV; and Union High School’s 1925 football squad, which was undefeated and unscored upon.

GRSHOF also has inducted people who have supported the growth of sports 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 nonprofit that’s solely focused on attracting and hosting youth and amateur sporting events in West Michigan.

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