Logjam already forming in front of 49ers Hall of Fame

It’s a nice idea. But as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.

The 49ers and the York family announced Tuesday the creation of the Edward DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame. In a press release distributed by the 49ers, it stated the Hall of Fame was dedicated to the patriarch of one of the most storied franchises in all of professional sports.

 

The 49ers Hall of Fame has been established to recognize players, coaches and executives who have made exceptional contributions to the organization.

 

“As someone who was raised alongside 49ers legends,” team president Jed York said in a statement, “I am honored to be announcing the creation of the Edward DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame. This exclusive group will be comprised of those who have made our franchise what it is today.”

 

According to the guidelines established, candidates for induction must have displayed one or more of the following qualifications: “outstanding production and performance on the field, key contributions to the team’s success, and/or the embodiment of the spirit and essence of the San Francisco 49ers.”

 

The first class of enshrinees consists of those individuals who already have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame or whose jersey numbers have been retired by the 49ers:

 

John Brodie

Dwight Clark

Fred Dean

Jimmy Johnson

John Henry Johnson

Charlie Krueger

Ronnie Lott

Hugh McElhenny

Joe Montana

Leo Nomellini

Joe Perry

Bob St. Clair

Y.A. Tittle

Bill Walsh

Dave Wilcox

Steve Young

 

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Following the announcement of the Hall of Fame’s inaugural 2009 inductee, the 49ers will enshrine at least two members yearly. The final voting will be conducted by fans on the team website.

 

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Again, this is a great idea. But why were there so many people who questioned the process? Here some of the issues:

 

–Tony Morabito did not get his number retired. It should not matter that he is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He should be the first person inducted into the 49ers Hall of Fame.

 

After all, the 49ers would not be the 49ers without this man, a product of St. Ignatius High.

 

Longtime fans of the 49ers remind me all the time that the 49ers organization did not begin in 1981 with the first Super Bowl season – or 1979 when Bill Walsh was hired and Joe Montana was drafted.

 

The 49ers’ media guide states, “Tony Morabito dedicated his life to bringing an idea to fruition that others thought preposterous – the membership of the West Coast, in general, and San Francisco, in particular, in a nation-wide professional football league.”

 

Before the Giants and Dodgers moved West and before the Rams moved to L.A. from Cleveland, Morabito was working tirelessly to establish a San Francisco football franchise. The NFL shunned Morabito’s efforts, but he was instrumental in forming the All-American Football Conference in 1946. After four seasons, the 49ers were one of three AAFC franchises (Cleveland and Baltimore were the others) that merged into the NFL.

 

Morabito died in 1957 from a heart attack while watching a 49ers game at Kezar Stadium. After learning of the death of their beloved team owner, the 49ers rallied in the second half to defeat the Chicago Bears that day.

 

–What about Edward DeBartolo Jr.? He was the man at the helm when the 49ers went from laughingstocks to perennial NFL powers. He hired Bill Walsh against the wishes of many people close to him. However, he also was undone by his own misdeeds. He has never been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, probably because of the way he left the NFL (suspended for a felony). How long before he gets into this Hall?

 

–Jerry Rice is the greatest receiver of all time. He is generally regarded as one of the best players (period) in the history of the NFL. He has not played for the 49ers since the 2000 season. Although he’ll soon be going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, doesn’t he deserve to be in that first class of enshrinees?

 

–John Henry Johnson was a great player, no question. But while he is deserving of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he probably should not be in the 49ers Hall of Fame. He played just three seasons with the 49ers, and was named to one Pro Bowl with the club. Sure, he was part of the famed “Million Dollar Backfield,” but he rushed for 1,051 yards total with the 49ers.

 

–There will be a logjam of worthy inductees. If the fans cast the final votes, the worthy players from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s and might have to wait even longer. Billy Wilson, Len Eshmont, Abe Woodson, Gene Washington, Bruce Bosley, Cedrick Hardman are among the many who deserve recognition.

 

–And, of course, there is an endless list from the ’80s and ’90s: Randy Cross, John Taylor, Roger Craig, Brent Jones, Charles Haley, Keena Turner, Guy McIntyre, Harris Barton, Michael Carter, Dwight Hicks, Merton Hanks, Tim McDonald, Jesse Sapolu . . . we could go on and on. Coaches George Seifert and Bobb McKittrick need to be in there. And what about John McVay and Carmen Policy?

 

There are plenty of others who are worthy of nominations. But that list should suffice for the next decade of inductions. (Oh, yeah, did I mention Bryant Young?)

 

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