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Traveling Texas with Ann Harder: Texas Sports Hall of Fame

Posted at 5:59 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 10:19:59-04

WACO, TX — What started as an idea from a sports editor from the Beaumont Enterprise in 1949 has now become a staple for sports fans in the Lone Star State.

Inside the walls of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame are stories and memories from years past.

"It doesn't matter where you're from. If you're from East Texas, North Texas, West Texas, you're going to know someone that's in the hall of fame and more than likely they're going to be from your hometown," Vice President of Operations Jay Black said.

The Hall of Fame originally began in Grand Prairie in 1981 and was open for five years before closing.

It reopened in Waco in 1993.

It's an ever-changing living history of sports in the Lone Star State.

"We've got over 385 inductees, approximately,” Black said. “We've got over 15,000 objects that rotate in and out of exhibits."

Those objects range from one of the first Heisman trophies ever awarded, racing silks from Willy Shoemaker, one of Tom Landry's fedoras, and a baseball from the 1920 World Series associated with the inaugural inductee Tris Speaker.

"It's kind of a neat story he was playing centerfield, he was also the manager at that time. The last out was at second base he's running in to celebrate with his teammates. The second baseman flips it to him, he keeps it, presents it to his mother who had traveled from Hubbard to Cleveland to watch the game of the World Series he presents it to her, she brings it home. It stays as a family heirloom; a lot of his collection had burned in a fire but fortunately that piece had been donated to the museum when we first opened in the early 80s."

Along with the museum displays, the 35,000 square foot building houses a sports simulator, the Texas Tennis Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.

Eleven years ago, the museum expanded to pay tribute to the Southwest Conference, a national power conference until it broke up in 1996.

The Southwest Conference exhibit features the grand history of Texas college athletics.

"If you think about it there's no Big Ten museum, certainly not a Big 12 museum, there's not a Pac-10 or 12 museum so we're also kind of proud that we can be the home of that exhibit as well."

Every year the Hall of Fame welcomes in new members.

Criteria is simple, "has this person brought lasting fame and honor to Texas?"

During the first week in June sportswriters and personalities from the state gather to determine the new class, and once inducted, new members attend a banquet to accept the honor.

For one young Wacoan who made it big, the idea of being in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame came at an early age.

"Obviously I enjoyed growing up here in Waco. I remember I used to see the Texas Sports Hall of Fame all the time and I'd never been in there before, never been in that museum, but always wondered what it would be like being there,” former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson said during his induction in 2009. “I set my goals to one day be there and actually it was a goal of mine early on to be a part of this club and I'm happy to finally be here."

Whether you're a lifelong fan, or a new one, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame is the place to see the shining stars of the Lone Star State.

This year’s Texas Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet will be August 28th in Waco. Nine Sports legends from the state will be honored.