ESCANABA - Another illustrious group was enshrined in the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame last week, adding to the tremendous athletic history of this storied region.
Bob (Chase) Wallenstein, a Marquette native who has been broadcasting hockey games of the Fort Wayne Komets for 55 years, told the gathering how honored he was to join such an elite group.
Wallenstein is a proud recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash, presented by Gov. Frank O'Bannon in 2001. Saturday at The Danforth Place, Wallenstein moved that lapel pin beneath his newly acquired UPSHF pin.
The UPSHF induction is one of many major awards attained by the legendary announcer, and he said it is now No. 1 on his list. "It means more than you will ever know," he said. "I've been gone 56 years, but I've never left. This is No. 1. I love you."
While his booming voice has carried the Komets to much of the midwest since 1954, Chase has done a variety of major events, from the Indy 500 to the Fort Wayne Pistons, and has been married to Muriel, a Munising native, for 59 years.
He was also broadcaster of a high school game that served as the plot for the movie "Hoosiers." Tiny Milan High School (120 students) upset vaunted Muncie Central (4,500 students) 30-28 in 1954.
He had chances to broadcast five NHL teams but stayed in Fort Wayne. He turned down a chance to announce for the Detroit Red Wings because it meant Bruce Martyn, a 1998 UPSHF inductee, would have been fired.
"I've met some incredible people in the scope of my work, almost every athlete you know," he said. "I never had the first cross word" with Bob Knight and he said Elvis Presley "was one of the most humble interviews I ever had."
Tom Schwalbach of Escanaba called Tuesday to pass on what a wonderful time he had during his induction. He spent considerable time reading the induction booklet that provides brief bios of the 379 inductees and was amazed at the wide range of accomplishments at very high levels of U.P. luminaries.
"This is a big opportunity to join some of the greatest athletes in the Upper Peninsula," Schwalbach said.
He was nominated by Jim Lamoreaux, a prep referee from St. Ignace who worked many games in this area. While the two were playing golf two years ago, Lamoreaux talked about the Hall and asked if Wayne Schwalbach was a relative.
Told he was a nephew, Lamoreaux mentioned Wayne was a UPSHF inductee and asked when Tom was inducted. When Tom said he had never been nominated, Lamoreaux corrected that oversight.
Brian Gingrass was particularly emotional as he represented his late father, Bob, a former football player at the University of Wisconsin and Iron Mountain High School standout.
"Dad loved to win, but he always lost with dignity," said Brian, whose young son Travis joined him at the podium. "I thank you for bringing his spirit back alive today. Looking back on your dad, it makes it really difficult. We had some great times together."
Alice (Duesing) Nightingale of Sault Ste. Marie said "I am so humbled and honored." She is the all-time basketball scoring leader at Sault Ste. Marie High School and Lake Superior State University.
Dale Phillips of Ishpeming and Marquette led 53 track and cross country teams to U.P. state championships in a 42-year career. Although retired, he is still serving as an assistant in those sports at Marquette High School.
He said coaching allowed him "to do what I love to do, coach young men and women."
Also inducted last week were Dan Flynn and John Berrigan of Escanaba, Mark Olson of Marquette and Escanaba, and Duane Tirschel of Iron Mountain and Escanaba.