Berkeley High School unveiled its Athletic Hall of Fame last week to recognize former student athletes who have excelled in sports over the last century.
“The Berkeley High Athletic Hall of Fame is an idea whose time has come,” said Berkeley High athletic director Kristin Glenchur.
The Berkeley Athletic Fund, a volunteer organization, began the drive for the hall of fame for athletes who have attended Berkeley High. This sports hall of fame is distinct from the already existing Berkeley High Hall of Fame, which recognizes alumni who have excelled in all fields.
Seventeen of the 46 sports inductees recognized on Saturday are also members of the school hall of fame. The inductees’ names, graduation year, and varsity sports played, will be printed on banners that will be displayed in the Berkeley High Donahue Gym.
Many of this years inductees—such as Billy Martin (baseball), Glenn Burke (baseball, football and basketball), Steve Odom (football), Hannibal Navies (football and track and field) and John Lambert (basketball)—have gone on to lead distinguished professional careers.
District superintendent Michele Lawrence lauded the school’s efforts.
“It’s wonderful that we are recognizing these men and women of fame,” she said. “The history of Berkeley athletics is simply incredible and this is a wonderful way of lettng people know about our prestigious sports program.”
Achievements such as winning the Basketball Tournament of Champions in the ‘70s and the ‘80s and the phenomenal success of the girls’ basketball team under coaches Spike Hensley and Gene Nakamura have been highlighted time and again by the media.
“A lot of people hear Berkeley and they associate it with sports,” Glenchur said. “We have always had lots of homegrown talent, but we have never had a hall of fame. The reason we are doing it now is because we are riding the tide of Gene’s incredible year as a coach. When people came out to recognize him, all the puzzle pieces came together and made it possible to capture the energy.”
The youngest inductee—Anthony Lee Franklin—is a 2001 Berkeley High graduate who played baseball, football and basketball in high school. He went on to lead the baseball team in his senior year and was Scholar Athlete of the Year (baseball) in 2001 with a 4.0 GPA.
Diagnosed with leukemia at 13, Franklin’s story made headlines when San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds visited him at the Children’s Hospital in Oakland.
Together, Bonds and Franklin campaigned to raise awareness about bone marrow donation. Franklin died last year.
Hannibal Nevies, a 1995 Berkeley High graduate, who currently plays for the San Francisco 49ers, told the Planet that he was proud to return to his high school as an inductee.
“This is where it all started,” he said, sitting at one of the inductee tables with his family. “Berkeley High, with its diverse student population, helped prepare me for college. I have great memories of this place, especially of senior year in which we won a lot of tournaments. My advice to students would be to take it slow and enjoy high school while they can.”
Former Girls Basketball coach Gene Nakamura said he was delighted with the idea of an athletic hall of fame.
“All these years, we’ve had so many great athletes and nothing to remember them by,” he said. “I remember being disappointed as I walked into the Donahue Gym and looked at its bare walls. I am glad that’s going to change now.”
John Lambert, a 1971 BHS alumnus and former professional basketball player for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, described Berkeley High as the place where he had “learned to compete.”
“We were such a classy team,” reminisced Doug Kagawa, a 1968 graduate who helped the school win the Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League and the Tournament of Champions in the late ‘60s.
“When we walked into the basketball court, we already had a lead over the other teams,” he said. “There was none of that on-court bickering or bragging. Our game did all the talking for us.”
Rubert and John Rickson, twins from the class of 1949 who made it to the California Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999, said they were pleased with the improvements in the athletics program at BHS.
“We used to play in the old tennis courts across the street from Berkeley High which is a parking lot now.” John said smiling. “Back then tennis was considered a sissy sport. But we also played basketball, so I guess it was okay.”