Many players who graced our fields here in the New York City area have been enshrined in their sports’ respective Halls of Fame. Here are five, including Joe Klecko, that have gotten left behind.
New York Sports has seen many of its athletes receive the honor of being inducted into their sports’ hall of fame, but there are always a few stragglers that don’t make it, and for no good reason, either.
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Joe Klecko, DL, New York Jets
It is simply a travesty that Klecko is not in Canton. It’s more than an oversight, in my opinion. This man was a tremendous football player and well-respected by teammates, peers, the media and, especially, the fans. I realize any campaign is political in nature. There’s a lot of work to generate a buzz and a groundswell in order to launch it to the next level. You basically have to sell the candidate to the voters. Klecko’s candidacy should not require such arduous impetus. His record and his reputation should speak for itself. He is the first player in NFL history to be elected to the Pro Bowl at three different positions.
Gil Hodges, 1B, Brooklyn Dodgers
Hodges was a staple for the Brooklyn Dodgers during their glory days of the 1940s and 50s making the MLB All-Star team eight times and driving in over 100 runs for seven consecutive seasons (1949-55). He hit over 30 HRs six times and over 40 twice. Hodges also won two Gold Gloves.
His legacy continued as a manager, leading the New York Mets to the most improbable World Series championship in baseball history in 1969. The only reason we can figure why Gil hasn’t been enshrined in Cooperstown is because there are already too many players from that Dodger team in Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider and Pee Wee Reese.
There’s room for one more. At least.
Phil Simms, QB, New York Giants
Anyone who watched Simms play in his heyday will tell you he threw the football as well as any QB of his era. He threw for over 33,000 yards in his career and the closest thing he had to an NFL Pro-Bowl receiver was TE Mark Bavaro, who he only played a few seasons with.
Simms’ career had a rocky start in 1979. Playing for a team with no weapons to speak of, including a porous offensive line, he was injured often and his career didn’t really take off until 1984. He also was at a disadvantage because he played for a head coach, Bill Parcells had a run-first, smash-mouth mentality and took the air out of the football instead of letting Simms strut his stuff. This is why Simms only had a few occasions where Simms was turned loose. One of those games was Super Bowl XXI in which he went 22-for-25 (a SB record) for 268 yards and 3 TD for a QBR of 150.9.
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Tommy John, P, New York Yankees
John had a stellar career. Actually, he had two of them. One before his surgery and the other afterward. His 288 wins are 26th all-time. He led the AL in shutouts three times and his 46 shutouts are 26th best in baseball history. He had winning records in both leagues, pitched in three World Series and only 19 other pitchers in the history of the game have pitched more innings.
What is remarkable about TJ is the fact that his name is mentioned today more than any other non-active player because of the experimental surgery he had on his arm in 1974 and the success he was able to endure afterward. Had he not agreed to be the test subject of Dr. Frank Jobe’s experiment, we may not be where we are in sports medicine these days. For that alone, John should be in Cooperstown.
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George Young, GM, New York Giants
George Young was the man who was handpicked by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle in 1979 to put the Giants back on the map. The once proud franchise was suffering through a 15-year postseason drought spurred on by its bickering owners, Wellington Mara and his nephew, Tim.
Young went right to work, drafting such players as QB Phil Simms, LB Lawrence Taylor, CB Mark Haynes, TE Mark Bavaro, RB Joe Morris and promoting Bill Parcells as the head coach. Young was named NFL Executive of the Year five times and won two Super Bowl championships. He was a fine a GM as there ever has been in this game and is well-deserving of enshrinement in Canton.