FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- Olympic equestrian Bill Steinkraus became the first athlete from Darien to be inducted as the Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame announced seven new inductees on Wednesday.
Former athletes and coaches from Stamford, Norwalk, New Canaan, Fairfield and Bridgeport were among those who will be included into one of its three wings. The Hall of Fame, which is overseen by the Fairfield County Sports Commission, Inc., will honor the newly elected Hall of Famers with an induction ceremony at the Commission’s 12th annual Sports Night awards dinner, Monday, Oct. 17 at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich at 6 p.m.
The class of 2016 honorees are:
- Jackie Robinson Professional Wing: Golfer J.J. Henry of Fairfield and basketball player Rita Williams of Norwalk.
- James O’Rourke Amateur Wing: Steinkrau, the late Manute Bol of Bridgeport and and the late Maurice (Wilky) Gilmore of New Canaan.
- J. Walter Kennedy Community Service Wing: Mike Walsh of Stamford and Lou Marinelli of New Canaan.
With Steinkraus' induction as the first Darien honoree a total of 16 different towns are now represented in the Hall of Fame.
Henry has three PGA Tour victories since making his professional debut in 1998. He won the Buick Championship in Connecticut in 2006, and was also a member of the Ryder Cup team that year. He has earned more than $15 million in earnings.
Williams played six years in the WNBA from 1998-2003 and rose to All-Star status in 2001 with the Indiana Fever. She was drafted in the first round and 13th overall by the Washington Mystics in 1998. After two seasons with the Mystics, she was traded to the Fever, where she became the first all star in franchise history when she led the team in scoring (11.9 points per game) assists and steals. She later played for the Houston Comets and the Seattle Storm. The Brien McMahon High grad had a stellar career at the University of Connecticut for three years, the last two as a starting point guard.
Bol played for one year at the University of Bridgport, where the 7-foot-6 center averaged 22.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 7.1 blocks per game that year. The Division-II Purple Knights, which previously drew 500-600 spectators, routinely sold out their 1,800 seat gym when Bol was on the court. He was drafted in the second round and 31st overall by the Washington Bullets in 1985 and went on to play for four different NBA teams over the course of a 10-year career. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 47.
Gilmore was a four-sport letterman at New Canaan High, but it was in basketball that he made his name as one the legendary players of his era. He led the Rams to three consecutive state titles (1956-58), scoring a school record 697 points as a senior. While also earning varsity letters in track, golf, and football, Gilmore was heavily recruited for basketball by many college programs after being named all-state for three years. He became a three-year starter at the University of Colorado, leading the Buffaloes to two straight conference titles in 1961 and 1962. Gilmore averaged 14.7 points per game for his career and is in the school's top 30 all-time scoring list. He passed away at age 53 in 1993.
Steinkraus is one of the most decorated equestrians in U.S. history. He is a five-time Olympian and four-time medal winner, including being the first American to win an individual gold medal in equestrian jumping with his horse Snowbound in 1968. He also took home bronze in team jumping at the 1952 games as well as two team jumping silver medals at the 1960 and 1972 Olympics. Steinkraus, who was born in Westport but is a lifetime Darien resident, captained the U.S. Equestrian team for 17 years. Elected to the National Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1987, Steinkraus continued his contributions to the sport as the president of the U.S team for 10 years. He also was a television commentator from 1976-1988, a judge at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and is a noted equestrian author.
Walsh's accomplishments as both a highly-successful high school basketball coach and an equally successful career as a youth baseball coach is a rare combination. His coaching prowess at Trinity Catholic High in Stamford and with Stamford's storied Babe Ruth baseball programs spans more than 40 years. Walsh has turned the Crusaders into one the state's basketball powers in his 37 years there and his 596 wins rank him fifth all time in the state. His first state title came in 1996, starting an annual run to the state championship game, coming away with six state crowns in 12 total appearances, including seven consecutive from 1999-2005. Walsh has also captured six FCIAC titles in 10 appearances, including three straight championships from 2003-05. As a youth baseball coach for 40 years, he led 10 Stamford Babe Ruth All-Star teams to World Series appearances.
Marinelli's career as one of the state's greatest high school football coaches began in 1981 when he came to New Canaan High after three years as a head coach in New York state. Marinelli has continued his amazing success with 34 consecutive non-losing seasons, 11 state titles (1982,1993, 2001, 2002, 2006-09, 2013-15) and five FCIAC championships.
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