Saturday, September 15 in Burt’s Market Place Theater, sprint luminary Jim Bibbs, star half-miler Ron Phillips, and champion boxer Thomas Hearns will be inducted into the Detroit Public Schools Sports Zone Hall of Fame at 6 p.m. Tickets for the affair will raise scholarship money for Detroit students.
I’m particularly thrilled to see my Detroit Track Club world-record-breaking 880-yard relay teammate Jim Bibbs join me, Will Robinson, Spencer Haywood, Jerome Bettis, Jalen Rose, Lou Scott, Deon Hogan, Northwestern’s late great “Gray Ghost” Henry Carr, and other old-time athletes who are already in this historic Hall. After having previously set that world 880-yard relay mark in 1958 at Ann Arbor’s old Yost Fieldhouse, members of that same world-record Detroit TC team then also won silver medals at the National AAU Championships a week later at the old Madison Square Garden- finishing second after dropping the baton while in the lead and miraculously zooming back to miss taking the gold by scant inches. Our relay teammates were world-record hurdler “Bullet Billy” Smith, my WSU teammate on champion teams at the 1956 Ohio and Penn Relays, and another old Tartar–five-time state AAU sprint champion Pete Petross, who later became the principal of Mumford High School. In the inset photo from a 1958 issue of the Michigan Chronicle, that team Is pictured, from the left–Petross, Smith, Bibbs, and Yours Truly. In 1951, wearing the green-and-white of old Michigan Normal College (later EMU), JIm Bibbs was the first man to equal Jesse Owens’ 1935 world sixty-yard record. He later became the head track coach at MSU, where he coached world record-breakers Marshall Dill, Herb Washington, and Bill Wehrwein.
Ron Phillips won city and state half-mile titles for Denby High School in record times and went on to break more records and be named to NCAA All-American teams indoors and outdoors at the University of Illinois. Phillips remains the fastest half-miler ever to come out of the Detroit Public Schools. He later became the principal of Detroit Cody High School and served two terms as vice president of the philanthropic Detroit Track & Field Old-Timers, which has led the fight to get men’s track restored at WSU and a track fieldhouse built on the WSU campus in Detroit, which is the only city its size east of the Mississippi River that doesn’t have such a facility.
Thomas Hearns, an alumnus of old Northeastern High School who won world titles in five weight classes representing Detroit’s old Kronk Gym, will also be inducted. His action-packed fights with fellow champions Pepino Cuevas, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, and Roberto Duran will never be forgotten.
Other 2018 Detroit Sports Zone Hall of Fame inductees include Markita Aldridge, the late Sammy Gee, Gilbert Brown, Johnny Davis, George Perles, David “Smokey” Gaines, and Dr. Robert Sims. Randy Henry, Station WDIV’s morning news director and a 2016 Hall of Fame inductee, will serve as the master of ceremonies.