Ninth Hall of Fame class impressive, but ceremony on hold

A former major league baseball player and a tireless youth sports advocate are among the athletes, coaches and contributors who will be honored at the annual Rockford Public Schools Champions Ball and Athletic Hall of Fame.

When the ceremony takes place, though, still is yet to be determined.

Rockford Public Schools announced on Dec. 8 that its ninth annual RPS 205 Champions Ball & Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony, which typically takes place in February, is on hold because of current mitigation strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the ceremony takes place, it will again feature an impressive group of individuals.

East graduate Rodney Myers is one three individual athletes chosen. Myers played football and basketball for the E-Rabs, but he’s going in for a baseball career that lasted until he was 36 years old. Myers was the first Rockford high school player to make the major leagues since 1930 when made the Chicago Cubs in 1997. He ended up winning 82 games professionally, including a stint in Japan, over 16 seasons.

Jametta Bland was one of Auburn’s greatest athletes of the 1980s. She was a three-time All-NIC-10 basketball player, including MVP in 1987-1988, and a second team all-conference shortstop in softball. She graduated with a school-record 1,624 points, which remains No. 2 all-time for Auburn, before playing Division 1 NCAA basketball with Austin Peay in Tennessee. Bland is a Command Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army Military Police in the state of Washington.

Ralph “Moon” Baker was a football, basketball star from the 1910s and 1920s who is the only area athlete in the College Football Hall of Fame. Tuesday was a big day for Baker, who went to Northwestern and died in 1977, on Tuesday the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association also announced Baker was going to be part of its 2021 hall of fame class.

The Guilford soccer dynasty of the early 2000s is going in as a collective team. In 2002, 2003, 2004, the Vikings went 70-11-4, advancing to the IHSA Class AA state tournament twice, finishing second in 2003 and third in 2004. Future MLS players Brad Ring and Peri Marosevic anchored those squads, which were coached by Gordon Poluyanskis. They will be the first boys soccer players inducted into the RPS hall. 

Longtime RPS football coach Tom Schwalbach will be going in as a coach. Schwalbach was head coach of West from 1966 until the school closed at the end of the 1989 school year. He coached the Warriors to the playoffs in 1980, 1986 and 1988. His final team won a school-record 10 games. Schwalbach then coached Guilford from 1989 to 1993, leading the Vikings to the playoffs in 1992 and 1993.

The final inductee will be Dan Miller, who helped build the Rockford Elementary Basketball Association (REBA) over 26 years into a group that helps develop between 900 and 1,000 basketball players a year. Every great Rockford basketball player of the past quarter century played in REBA. Miller died this past summer at the age of 64.

Posted on 12.08.20