By Reese Levin
Washington, D.C. – It was a day to remember for the 10 inductees to the 2019 class of the D.C. Sports Hall of Fame, with the Washington Capitals becoming the first “team of distinction” to be honored at the annual ceremony on June 23 at Nationals Park.
Nine sports were represented in this year’s class, ranging from soccer to lacrosse to horse racing. Among the inductees were University of Maryland men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski and women’s lacrosse coach Cathy Reese – both of whom won national championships this past academic year.
Other individuals honored included former Washington Redskins defensive lineman Charles Mann, retired Washington Post horse racing columnist Andrew Beyer, Olympic swimming gold medalist Tom Dolan, former basketball star and NBA executive Danny Ferry, former D.C. United executive and team founder Kevin Payne, late Washington Redskins coach Ray Flaherty, late D.C. tennis coach and player Allie Ritzenberg and retired football and baseball star Tom Brown.
“This is an incredible source of pride for a college soccer coach to be inducted in such a rich sports history dominated by so many great professional teams and other university sports,” said Cirovski, who won his third NCAA championship in 2018.
To be eligible for the D.C. Sports Hall of Fame, nominees must have gained prominence in the Washington area through their achievements in sports, whether as an athlete, coach, owner, executive or member of the media. A professional, college or high school team that has made a significant and positive impact in the community through outstanding achievement will be eligible to be recognized as a team of distinction.
The inductees were chosen by a 13-member committee, headed by chairman Bobby Goldwater, a Georgetown University Sports Industry Management master’s program faculty member and sports industry consultant.
New inductee Ferry joins his father Bob as the first father-son duo in the Hall. Ferry was an All-American basketball player at DeMatha and Duke before beginning his 14-year NBA playing career. Like his father, the former general manager of the Washington Bullets, Danny Ferry has served as an NBA executive, including stints with New Orleans, Atlanta, Cleveland and San Antonio. Ferry said he is delighted to join his father in the Hall because he knew how proud he was when his father was inducted.
Two individuals were inducted posthumously. Flaherty, the first head coach of the Washington Redskins, led them to their first two NFL championships and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ritzenberg, who died in 2018 at the age of 100, was a star tennis player at the University of Maryland, but he is best known for teaching the game to countless players in the area and retiring as the top 85-year-old tennis player in the world.
Brown, another honoree with a University of Maryland connection, played both football and baseball for the Terrapins and then went on to play both sports professionally with the Washington Senators and Green Bay Packers.
Yet another Terps legend to earn a place in the Hall of Fame, Reese has led the women’s lacrosse to 10 consecutive final four appearances and been a part of 12 national championships as a coach and player.
“It’s a huge honor and to listen to all of the different people around and just find out more about their stories and background is really cool,” Reese said. “I think big picture, it’s great that we’re celebrating women’s sports in our area and celebrating just lacrosse in general. It’s a big deal and it’s nice to be recognized on this platform.”
Payne, who was instrumental in starting D.C United, was the team’s first CEO. He was happy to reflect on the connections he has made over the years in the D.C. community.
“We really created the fan culture in soccer in the United States at D.C. United, and I’m very proud of that,” he said. “We’ve had some success. We won a bunch of championships. I’m equally proud of that. But mostly what I think about when I look back on those years was the relationships that I developed with people.”
Beyer helped create the Beyer Speed Figure, an industry standard system that rates the performances of thoroughbred horses for the Daily Racing Form.
“There’s a lot of other things in racing that are more on a national than on a Washington level,” Beyer said. “To get recognized in my town is terrific.”
Dolan grew up in Arlington and went on to win gold medals in the 400-meter men’s individual medley at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics. He now coaches young swimmers in Virginia.
The Capitals were represented at the induction by owner Ted Leonsis and his son Zach, a vice president of Monumental Sports & Entertainment. Ted Leonsis, who is in the D.C. Sports Hall of Fame as an owner, noted in accepting the honor for the Capitals that the team received incredible support from throughout the area during its Stanley Cup run in 2018.
“I’m here to thank everyone for accepting and falling in love with the Washington Capitals,” he said. “My dream was always to make a team that was as good as the fan base… I hope we can win more championships because there was nothing that brought this community closer together and made us feel like we’re all in it together than that Stanley Cup parade.”