George Brett made the Hall of Fame last week.
Not the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., but the El Segundo High School Hall of Fame, a continent away.
Though he didn't join any baseball immortals in returning to his alma mater, Brett joined some select company as one of the most distinguished of the 8,000 graduates from the school since its first graduating class in 1929.
In fact, Brett wasn't even the first El Segundo athlete chosen for the hall, which was initiated in 1982, though he is its most famous. He follows in the footsteps of inductees Pete Beatherd, a former National Football League quarterback, and Keith Erickson, former UCLA and National Basketball Assn. star as well as an Olympic volleyball player.
Brett, a 1971 graduate, was inducted last week with Dr. James Puffer, class of '68, the chief of family medicine at UCLA Medical Center and the selection as U.S. team doctor for the 1988 summer Olympics, and Sharon Traweek, class of '59, a Ph.D. in anthropology and professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Some were surprised that Brett, the youngest of four brothers who starred in sports at El Segundo, wasn't preceded by Ken, who was a CIF player of the year and a bigger star at El Segundo.
But at a student assembly, where the new inductees were honored, it was clear who the favorite was. With his parents and brothers Ken and Bobby on hand, the Kansas City Royals third baseman was introduced to loud applause and earned the biggest cheer of the day when he said, "Walking around these halls today brought back some good memories. It was good to see some of my old teachers, like Jack Crystal, who gave me an F in history."
A bit more seriously, Brett concluded his brief remarks saying, "It's good to be home. I don't get back here very often . . . but with this honor I can truly call it home sweet home."
El Segundo schools Supt. Richard Bertain told the students, "All of us are indeed heirs to a legacy of achievement, perseverance and pride. El Segundo pride--ESP."
It was up to one of the youngsters to keep things in perspective. A fifth-grade class surrounded Brett when he was leaving, some to get autographs, others just to look at the famous athlete or the impressive eagle trophy that was given to the honorees.
The boy approached and cautiously asked, "Do you still play baseball?"
San Pedro has come four steps closer to rivaling Hollywood's Walk of Fame with its 8-year-old Sportswalk.
The Chamber of Commerce unveiled four new plaques on 6th Street on Monday and honored the athletes. Former Laker Jamaal Wilkes, Olympic 100-meter dash record holder Evelyn Ashford, drag racing star Shirley Muldowney and former USC basketball and baseball standout John Werhas accepted permanent spots on the streets of San Pedro.
The four plaques bring to 31 the number of athletes that have been honored by San Pedro--still far short from what organizing officals have planned for the community's streets. Past recipients of plaques in the Sportswalk include Tommy Lasorda, Tracy Austin, Jim Thorpe, John Wooden, Bill Shoemaker and Sugar Ray Robinson.
"We hope, at some point, to have thousands of plaques here," Sportswalk chairman Rick Gaydos told a crowd of about 150 at the ceremony.
Ashford told the crowd that she hopes the award can mean as much to her new daughter, Raina Ashley, as it does to her. "People say I've given them a lot of thrilling moments and I'm proud of that, but the thing I'm most proud of is my daughter," the track star said. "I hope she can come to San Pedro often and see my name on the sidewalk."
At a Sportswalk-sponsored lunch that afternoon, Wilkes said the award was special because it came after his playing days. He retired from basketball in 1985 after three All-Star game appearances and three world championships, two with the Lakers and one in his rookie year with Golden State when he earned rookie-of-the-year honors.
Wilkes said he was honored by his spot on the Sportswalk but told the lunch crowd, "More importantly, you play 12 years in the NBA, you win the trophies and make the money, but how do they feel after you retire? This is touching."