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Answer Man Goes to Bat for Curious Reader

By John Kelly
Sunday, June 14, 2009

At Nationals Park, carried over from RFK, is an enormous banner beyond right-center field listing names of D.C. sports all-stars. Although there are some women on it, there are very few, and some of the missing names are pretty notable: Mia Hamm, Dominique Dawes and any of the area's whitewater Olympians. Who came up with this list, who maintains it and what's the criteria for inclusion? Inquiring minds want to know.

-- Cinnamon Melchor, Arlington

As with so much involving sports in Washington, all roads lead to Charlie Brotman.

Charlie is Mr. D.C. Sports. He started out in 1956 as the Senators' announcer at Griffith Stadium and in 1969 started a public relations company. In 1980, he helped found the Washington Hall of Stars. The Hall has become rather moribund of late, falling through the cracks as first the Redskins and then the Nationals left RFK Stadium.

"We've been lazy about it," Charlie confessed to Answer Man.

The names of Washington sporting greats once went around the inner perimeter at RFK. They were selected by a committee headed by Charlie and Andy Ockershausen, the local radio executive now with Comcast SportsNet. The committee -- assorted athletes and media types -- was sponsored by the D.C. Armory Board, the office that oversaw the Armory and RFK. Honorees had to have local ties, either through their birth or their careers.

Among those who made the cut were baseball pioneer Walter Johnson, Skins QB Sonny Jurgensen, Bullets great Wes Unseld and golfer Lee Elder, along with folks like Donald Dell, a Bethesda-born tennis player, and such team owners as Abe Pollin and Jack Kent Cooke. (There's another name up there: Charlie Brotman. "Being the voice of Washington sports the last 50 years, they included me as well," he said. "It's a big thrill.")

There are two women: Olympic gold medal swimmer Melissa Belote and 1946 Wimbledon champ Pauline Betz Addie. (Despite their first names, boxer Holly Mims and sportswriter Shirley Povich -- also on the wall -- were both men.)

Honorees received commemorative rings upon their induction. All this takes a budget, and once RFK ceased being the main venue for professional sporting events in Washington, the steam kind of went out of the effort. When the Redskins moved to FedEx Field, the team made the decision to honor only its players there, in what's known as the Ring of Fame.

When Nationals Park opened, the Hall of Stars names were transferred to a banner. But it has been years since any names were added to the list. Charlie said the last honorees were the "Heroes of September 11th."

Meanwhile, there's another athletic hall of fame in town: the Greater Washington Sports Hall of Champions, which got its start in 2004. It's sponsored by the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, a group of local business and sports leaders. It inducts three individuals annually -- based on achievement and community service -- and plans to create a monument at Verizon Center. Its honorees include two women: Dawes, the gymnast (inducted in 2005), and University of Maryland Athletic Director Deborah A. Yow (2007).

Prompted by Cinnamon Melchor's question, Charlie is determined to jump-start the Washington Hall of Stars. He spoke recently with Mark Lerner of the Nationals, who agreed that the time was right to revive the tradition.

"At this point, we have inducted 80 athletes in the Washington Hall of Stars, and next year, we will start Part Two, if you will," Charlie said. "We're off and running again."

The plan is to invite the public to recommend who should be added to the list of local sports greats. Stay tuned.

Send a Kid to Camp

Want to be a different kind of all-star? Help support Camp Moss Hollow, the summer camp for at-risk kids from the Washington area. Our goal is to raise $500,000 by July 24. So far, we've raised $73,856.09. It costs about $700 to send one child to Moss Hollow for one week.

To make a tax-deductible gift, send a check or money order, payable to "Send a Kid to Camp," to P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237. Or contribute online by going to http://www.washingtonpost.com/camp and clicking on the donation link. To use MasterCard or Visa by phone, call 202-334-5100 and follow the instructions on our taped message.

Send your questions to answerman@washpost.com.

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