The “best of the best” in Western New York sports is how John Maddock described the latest class of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.
That class, which is made up of 12 inductees, was announced Wednesday during a news conference at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. Maddock, the Hall’s vice president, started the proceedings before turning things over to President Therese Forton-Barnes, who introduced the eight living inductees and four posthumous honorees.
As an “all-sports” hall of fame, there is a great deal of diversity in the endeavors of those selected. That was reflected in Wednesday’s class, as those chosen excelled in sailing, cycling, speedskating and skiing, in addition to both of Buffalo’s professional teams.
With its 12 new members the Hall of Fame now has a total membership of 279, dating back to its inception in 1991. The 2014 class will be officially inducted this fall during a dinner at the convention center. An exact date is expected to be announced next month, after the release of the Buffalo Sabres’ schedule.
The 12 newest members are:
• E.J. “Skip” Doyle: Doyle’s sailing career dates back to the 1930s with his father on both of Western New York’s Great Lakes. In 1981, he won the Richardson Cup, the de facto championship of the Great Lakes in match racing. The Canisius High School graduate won his alma mater’s John F. Barnes Award in 1981, given to a member of the school who has continued to distinguish himself in athletics.
• Ed Kilgore: The former sportscaster at WGRZ-TV worked for 40 years covering local professional, college and high school sports for Channel 2. Kilgore was inducted to the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2010, and is also a published author. His book, “As I’ve Seen It: Wide Right, No Goal and Other Buffalo Sports Sagas,” chronicles his time covering the Western New York sports scene.
• Vicki Mitchell: Mitchell was a 10-time All-American at Cortland State, leading the Red Dragons to an NCAA Division III national championship in cross country. She made appearances on five U.S. national teams, and then seamlessly transitioned into a coaching career that started at Holy Angels. She’s coached the University at Buffalo cross country and track and field teams for 15 years.
• Jim Ritcher: The 16th overall draft pick by the Buffalo Bills in 1980, Ritcher didn’t miss a start from 1983 to 1993, during the team’s glory years. He was a three-time All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowl selection, and joined the Bills’ Wall of Fame in 2004. Ritcher currently works as a commercial pilot for American Airlines.
• Eric Schlopy: Schlopy competed in three Olympics during his skiing career, which started at Kissing Bridge. His best finish came in the giant slalom at the 2006 Turin Games, when he placed 13th. Schlopy won seven national championships, was the world Super-G champion in 1998 and won a bronze medal in the giant slalom at the world championships in 2003.
He’s married to former Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders and resides in Salt Lake City. Schlopy wasn’t able to attend Wednesday’s announcement after his flight was canceled, but he made sure to participate as much as he could – an audience member “FaceTimed” with him over a phone during the news conference.
• Robert “Rip” Simonick: The Buffalo native is the last original employee of the Buffalo Sabres. The team’s equipment manager is well known to be much more than that inside the organization, most often referred to as a “father figure” to players and the team’s “unsung hero.”
• Dale Tepas: The St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute star is widely recognized as one of the best high school athletes in Western New York history. Tepas played varsity baseball for the Marauders for four years and varsity basketball for three. He left the school having been named an All-Catholic five times, and an All-Western New York selection in basketball twice. He continued his basketball career at St. Bonaventure, participating on the Bonnies’ Final Four team.
• Larry Veronica: Veronica competed in track and field, cross country and wrestling at UB, becoming one of the school’s final three-sport athletes. He started his coaching career in 1971 at Bennett and won 303 games over 25 years, including eight Section VI titles and two state titles.
He coached the boys track team to a 150-4 record – going undefeated over an 18-year span – and also helped the girls team to a record of 30-1-1 over four years.
In addition, the following four athletes will be inducted posthumously as part of the Pride of Western New York.
• Howard Ehmke: A native of Silver Creek, Ehmke started in the majors in 1915 at the age of 20 with the Buffalo Blues of the Federal League. He went on to pitch 15 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Athletics. He won 166 games, threw a no-hitter for the Red Sox and won Game One of the 1929 World Series for the A’s against the Cubs.
• Edith Johnson Miller: Johnson won five national women’s bicycle championships, the first of which came in 1960 at the age of 15. During the winter, she competed in speedskating and won three national championships.
She died in 2004 at the age of 59.
• Clint Small: A 1934 graduate of Tonawanda High School, Small played football, basketball and baseball. As coach of the Warriors from 1949 to 1973, he went 108-69-15, and won five league championships. Upon his retirement, the school’s stadium was named in his honor.
During 31 seasons as baseball coach, Small went 330-150. The Warriors never had a losing season under his direction. He died in 1999 at the age of 85.
• Ernie Warlick: Warlick signed with the Bills as a free agent in 1962 after playing four years in the CFL and serving a four-year stint in the military. During four seasons in Buffalo, he caught 90 passes for more than 1,500 yards and was a key member of the Bills’ 1964 and ’65 AFL championship teams. He died in 2012 at the age of 80.