AL HAMNIK: Gary has short memory regarding its many legends

2013-02-02T17:15:00Z 2013-02-03T22:16:03Z AL HAMNIK: Gary has short memory regarding its many legendsAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
February 02, 2013 5:15 pm  • 

Hank Stram didn't deserve the slap in the face he got from his hometown of Gary, which still hasn't honored the Hall of Fame football coach since his 2003 induction.

Not a billboard greeting visitors at the city limits.

Not a congratulatory sign strung across Broadway.

Not a park named in his honor, not even a park bench.

It's as if Henry Louis "Hank" Stram never existed.

As I plop on the couch for today's Super Bowl XLVII between the 49ers and Ravens, truly wonderful memories of Hank Stram immediately come to mind.

Stram coached the Kansas City Chiefs from 1960 to 1974, winning three American Football League titles, losing to Green Bay in Super Bowl I and beating Minnesota in Super Bowl IV.

He coached the New Orleans Saints in 1976-77, finishing with a career record of 136-100-10.

The Lew Wallace grad was a daring innovator and an excellent teacher who helped develop Hall of Famers Len Dawson, Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan, Willie Lanier, Jan Stenerud and others like Johnny Robinson, Otis Taylor and Ed Budde.

Shame on the Pro Football Hall of Fame and voting media, too, for waiting so long to select him.

Stram didn't get the call until the brittle age of 80 and was then suffering from severe hearing and vision problems. He had to be pushed around in a wheelchair by his six children that hectic weekend in Canton.

He was so weak, his induction speech was prerecorded, a Hall of Fame first.

Hank Stram died on July 4, 2005, at age 82.

"Yeah, he should've been in a long time ago and he didn't get that opportunity," Hank's son, Dale, said, "but there's guys who never get in, so it's a very sacred honor.

"The bottom line is, he's in. He realized he got in and it fulfilled all his dreams."

Shame on Gary's inept leaders who have forgotten the city's most famous sons and daughters, past and present, with their noteworthy backgrounds in athletics, education and entertainment.

It's one reason Gary has little to showcase, little to inspire youth searching for role models.

Hank Stram was a perfect role model, blue collar head to toe, son of a salesman, proud of his Polish heritage, his city, always finding time to come back and visit during his coaching career and afterward.

Few people know he was largely responsible for the introduction of Gatorade to the NFL during its development and infancy.

The man was a pioneer but Gary doesn't care.

Hammond and East Chicago, with considerably fewer legends, each have a Hall of Fame. Not Gary, where political footballs are usually spiked.

Thankfully, NFL Films serves as a primer for young fans with a need to know about the game's history.

"They've done such a great job documenting the game throughout the years and all its great players," Dale Stram said. "They never die, in a sense."

For now, that's all the region has.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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