Founding of the Hall
The Milwaukee Arena was brand new back in 1951, a state-of-the-art facility for sports and other entertainment.
It needed a permanent resident, and got one when the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame was inaugurated. For more on the founding of the Hall, go to the features link at the bottom of this page.
The First Class
The first induction ceremony of the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame was a gala affair. Dignitaries joined sports fans from around the state at the spanking new Milwaukee Arena for a banquet and the unveiling of the bronze plaques honoring “the first class” to go into the Hall.
Joe Krueger, city treasurer of Milwaukee and the founder of the Hall, always had a flair for the dramatic. One-by-one, he introduced the men yes the first class included all men and read the inscriptions on the plaques, which would hang in the foyer of the Arena.
That first class included the first batter in World Series history, Ginger Beaumont; baseball greats Addie Joss, Al Simmons, Charles “Kid” Nichols and Al Simmons; bowler Chuck Daw, football legends Bob Zuppke, David Schreiner, Pat O’Dea and Ernie Nevers; wrestler Ed “Strangler” Lewis; boxer Richie Mitchell and Olympian Ralph Metcalfe, who along with Jesse Owens had put down Hitler and Nazism with great performances in the 1936 Games.
For more on that first class, go to the features link at the bottom of this page.
The Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame is dormant as this is being written, but the stories of the more than 100 members of the Hall are very much alive.
Plus, a group calling itself the Wisconsin Sports Legacy Group, has started a Revive The Hall movement to restore the Hall. You can access a Facebook page about that effort by clicking here. If you can help in anyway, leave a message on that FB page or on the message board for this site at the botton of this page.
Immortalized in Bronze started as a book idea about the Hall of Fame members. It has never been published in book form, but is being established here as a way of conveying some of those Hall of Famers stories. Perhaps the effort also will lead to a revival of the Hall and the book idea.
The Milwaukee Arena was brand new back in 1951, a state-of-the-art facility for sports and other entertainment. It needed a permanent resident, and got one when the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame was inaugurated. Large bronze plaques of the inductees hung in the entrance-way and stayed there for most of five decades, until they moved to the Walk of Fame, a large outdoor promenade outside the Arena, now called the U.S. Cellular Arena.
The Hall has been through several administrative groups over the 50-plus years since its founding. Financial restraints and other difficulties have led to its dormancy, but the stories of the Hall of Famers live on.
See some of those stories by checking out the links to the stories in the left hand column of this site and below.
Featured HOFers Of Month
Robert Zuppke (center)
Robert Zuppke made his reputation as football coach of the University of Illinois, but he had solid ties to Wisconsin.
Born in Berlin, Germany, in 1879, Zuppke moved at the age of two with his family to Milwaukee. He was raised there and attended the University of Wisconsin, graduating in 1905.
Zuppke moved south to Illinois to coach at River Forest High School in Oak Park. He led that team to two state titles in 1911-12 and coached future football Hall of Famer George Trafton. The University of Illinois hired Zuppke in 1913, and he didn’t leave there until 1941.
Under Zuppke, the Illini won national titles in 1914, 1919, 1923 and 1927. Zuppke’s teams won seven Big Ten Conference championships. His teams had a cumulative record of 131 wins, 81 losses and 13 ties. One of Zuppke’s most famous players was Red Grange, perhaps the most celebrated player of the era. For more of this story, go to the features link below.
Also Archived on the link are stories about: Ginger Beaumont, Addie Joss, Strangler Lewis, Richie Mitchell, Kid Nichols, Chuck Daw, Ralph Metcalfe, Don Hutson, Johnny "Blood" McNally, Billy Sullivan, Pat O'Dea, Ernie Nevers, Ed Konetchy, George McBride, Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Alan Ameche, Clarke Hinkle, Oscar Robertson, Wisconsin Olympians, Chris Steinmeta and Al Simmons stories are archived in features below.