Since I started my sportswriting career at age 15, I’ve been fascinated with Fort Wayne’s sports history. I remember my dad telling me stories about the Daisies and the Pistons, and the more I talked with people like Hilliard Gates, Carl Bennett, Bud Gallmeier, Don Graham, Len Davis, Phil Olofson, Bob Chase and Ken Ullyot, the more interesting things I found.
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It’s amazing how many situations happened in this city which affected sports on a national and sometimes international scale, either because they were held here or because someone from Fort Wayne accomplished something.
Because we have lost so many of those great men, and because we were losing so much history with their passings, I always hoped to write a Fort Wayne-area sports history book. The problem was how to do it in less than 1,000 pages which would would be too expensive. Then the idea came to use a calendar of 366 days (leap year included).
Even I was surprised at some of the events and hall of famers I found, including Jim Thorpe, Jesse Owens, Wilt Chamberlain, Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Tony Gwynn, Dominique Wilkins, Isiah Thomas, Dale Earnhardt, Ted Williams, Bjorn Borg, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Bob Feller, Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Joe Louis, Curt Simmons, Dale Jarrett, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Jackie Robinson. They all made trips to Fort Wayne during the prime of their careers.
There are plenty of stories about modern-day athletes and teams, too.
Besides the calendar of events, there are also some interesting lists included in the back of the book such as every time an NBA (post-Fort Wayne Pistons), an NHL or Major League Baseball team played in Fort Wayne, the all-time leading scorers in boys and girls high school basketball, the coaching wins leaders in high school boys and girls basketball and football, a list of all-time team and individual state champions from the Fort Wayne area and a few other surprises.
Most of the dates have more than one event, so I tried to pick out what I thought would be the most important events to the general sports fan.
Maybe someday, if we can find the funding, this book can be used as a blueprint for a Fort Wayne Sports Hall of Fame. As you’ll be able to tell from this book, it’s going to need to be a very large building.