The Sports Corp


  • # 107 - Mike Moran's Commentary


    Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame Introduces The Brown Bombers To A New

    Generation - And The Brown Bomber Of Another Era Is Remembered



    Last week's 15th Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame banquet and induction ceremony on the floor of the comely Broadmoor World Arena will go down as one of the city's seminal events related to sports, though many in the audience of over 500 didn't know it at the time.

    The definitive purpose of such Halls of Fame is to celebrate the legacy, traditions, events and the people, athletes or others, who were part of the city's abundance of memorable sporting events through the years. Individuals, teams, coaches, contributors and athletes who had competed in the city, lived in the city, trained in Colorado Springs, or made a significant contribution to the sports culture of the city.

    To be honest about the issue, Colorado Springs didn't even have a Sports Hall of Fame until 2000 and means hundreds, if not thousands, of big games, great athletes and men and women who carried sports in the city on their backs were forgotten or never known about.

    But that all changed dramatically with the opening of the Broadmoor World Arena in 1998 and the hard work of a small group of individuals who felt the city needed such a product to recognize its sporting past and those to come.

    Gazette-Telegraph sports editor Ralph Routon pounded the issue regularly, and finally, over lunch in downtown Colorado Springs, Routon, Convention and Visitors Bureau chief Terry Sullivan, Sports Corp interim President Jim Lucas, Tom Falgien, Jim Warsinske and soon to be Sports Corp President and CEO Dave Ogrean hashed out the master plan for the Sports Corp to create a series of committees to build a list of nominations, as well as a budget.

    The Broadmoor World Arena was the obvious venue to stage this celebration of the city's sports past, and so, on November 9, 2000, with an audience of over 500, the Inaugural Class of the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame was enshrined.

    That Class alone awakened in the minds of scores of people how big this event could be, and how much sports history needed to be exhumed and otherwise uncovered.

    That first Class included Olympic figure skating champion Peggy Fleming, CU and Los Angeles Rams football star Cullen Bryant, high school coaching legend Gib Funk, Air Force football coaching legend Ben Martin, motor sports star and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb champion Bobby Unser, the 1950 NCAA Ice Hockey Champion Colorado College Tigers, the powerful William Thayer Tutt, Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage and the man who would become, years later, the United States Olympic Committee's President Emeritus, Bill Hybl, who would became the most powerful force in sports in the city as the Chairman and CEO of the El Pomar Foundation.

    I've been the Master of Ceremonies for 14 of the 15 Hall of Fame Ceremonies and on the pair of committees that nominate, then select each Class of inductees, and each year I learn something about a team, a coach or an athlete that I had never heard of. It's like going to school as we review nominations from the public and institutions. And while getting schooled, I have come to realize the value of the Sports Corp's signature event and its loft place in the sports world in the city.

    Ada Gee-deProsse?, Gib Funk?, Jeff Sapp? Andrea Melde Hooks?, Anita Moss?, Sam Hairston?

    I never knew anything about these greats until we began meeting and selecting those for induction to the Hall of Fame. What amazing stories jumped from the pages of the nominations. This is precisely the reason for a Hall of Fame, our own Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame at that.

    Last week's ceremony is living proof that the Hall of Fame unearths magical stories and individuals from the city's past, as well as more recent stars and their stories ripe for induction.

    Like the Colorado Springs Brown Bombers baseball team of the 1940s and 1950s.

    Bill Vogrin and the remaining Brown Bombers at the Hall of Fame

    A majority of the 500 people seated at the Hall of Fame had never heard of the Brown Bombers until the estimable Gazette journalist Bill Vogrin, acting on a tip, penned a column on this amazing all-black baseball team that won city titles in 1948 and 1949, playing with dilapidated equipment, bats nailed together, and patchwork shoes.

    Tom Osborne, the Sports Corp's President and CEO, was taken with the story and nominated the team using Vogrin's first piece.

    They endured racial slurs from the stands, were forced to find substandard accommodations on road trips, treated like second-class citizens, but able to ignore all of that and set a standard in the historical struggle for racial equality in a city that had not yet embraced people or athletes of color. And this was two years after Jackie Robinson broke the major league baseball color barrier.

    The 1949 City Champion Brown Bombers

    "Job-wise, it was not very good in Colorado Springs then," Joe Morgan told Bill Vogrin for his piece.recalled.

    "Opportunities were very limited. You could shine shoes or be a custodian or a waiter or a dishwasher."

    Joe and Justus Morgan told of going to Woolworths after seeing a movie.

    "They wouldn't serve us," Joe Morgan said.

    They returned with friends the next day and demanded to be served.

    "They served us but they poured salt in our milkshakes and on our sandwiches," he said. "We refused to pay and they called the police."

    Cops tasted the food and said they wouldn't pay for it either, and the diners were free to go.

    Justus Morgan recalled being turned away from the YMCA.

    "We just wanted to participate in sports and be like any other boys," he said.

    Blacks were not welcome on little league teams and certainly not on varsity high school football or basketball teams. Typically, only one or two black athletes, if any, made those teams. Instead they were shunted off to track and field. If they wanted to play contact sports, they played on neighborhood teams, Vaughan said.

    "We didn't have uniforms or anything," he said. "If a ball went in the creek, we fished it out. We took broken bats home and nailed them together."

    We had inducted Joe Morgan of the Bombers in 2004 into the Hall of Fame and awarded Sam Dunlap the F. Don Miller Award in 2011.

    But what about this team as a whole of remarkable athletes as well as a Colorado Springs residents who not only won championships against all-white teams with a boatload of advantages.

    As a kid, living in Omaha, I heard of another Brown Bomber who may have been the role model for the baseball team from Colorado Springs. Everybody in the world knew who this Brown Bomber was, and he was a hero to millions.

    Joe Louis burst onto the professional boxing scene in 1934 with style and skill such as the boxing world has seldom seen. Known to many as the "Brown Bomber," Louis emerged victorious from his first 27 fights, all but four of which he won in knockouts. In the early days of his career, he destroyed such great heavyweight fighters as Stanley Poreda, Natie Brown, and Rosco Toles. It was here that Louis delivered to the entire world a premonition of the reign of domination that he was to begin.

    Joe Louis, The "Brown Bomber"

    Beginning in 1937, he began a 12-year reign as boxing's heavyweight champion of the world. During this stretch, Louis had victories over Lou Nova, Tony Galento, Gus Dorazio, Buddy Baer, and Johnny Paycheck. Louis' epic battle with Billy Conn at the Polo Grounds also occurred during this time. In 1942, Joe Louis began a period of service in the Army and worked as a physical education teacher. It would be four years before Louis again returned to the ring. Between 1946 and 1949, Louis flawlessly defended his title four times, including two victorious fights against 'Jersey' Joe Walcott.

    During this period, on the day of June 22, 1938, Louis once again took on the only opponent who had ever beaten him, Max Schmeling. This time around, Louis knocked Schmeling out and captured the admiration of countless Americans. Louis gained a moral victory for himself and for his country, and simultaneously struck a damaging blow to Hitler and his pretentious beliefs.

    Louis retired in 1949, the year that the Colorado Springs Brown Bombers won the fabled city title, still the undefeated heavyweight champ. Succumbing to financial pressures and government debts, Louis was forced back into the ring. In 1950, he attempted to recapture his title in a bout against Ezzard Charles. However, in a points decision, Louis was handed a loss. Not ready to accept defeat, he again tried his hand in 1951 against Rocky Marciano. During this unsuccessful return to the ring, Marciano knocked Louis through the ropes in the 8th round. This was Joe Louis' final time in the ring. He had earned $5 million in his illustrious boxing career. But at 37, Joe Louis had not a single cent to show for it. To support himself, Louis decided to make a living as a Las Vegas casino host.

    Our Brown Bombers retired and became, among vocations and accomplishment, the first black baseball coach in District 11, the first black umpire to work a state championship, a pastor at a large church, chaplain for the Colorado Springs Police Department, and another who worked for 26 years at the Fine Arts Center and served as a youth mentor.

    Five members of the Brown Bombers are with us today; Joe Morgan (88), Justus Morgan (86), Sam Dunlap (81), Rev. Jesse Vaughan (91) and Sylvester Smith (85). They received a five-minute standing ovation at our event honoring them last week.

    Joe Louis died in 1981 from a heart attack in Las Vegas, working as a "Greeter" at Caesars Palace.

    The Brown Bomber and the Brown Bombers, stories that resound now in the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame.

    Just as it should be, even 65 years later, for the kids from Colorado Springs.


    Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee from 1978-2003 and Games from Lake Placid to Salt Lake City. He served as the Sports Information Director at Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado, and has lived in Colorado Springs for 34 years and is the Senior Media Consultant for the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation and keynote speaker and emcee for numerous sports   





    Mike Moran

    Senior Media Consultant

    Colorado Springs Sports Corporation

    1631 Mesa Ave., Suite E

    Colorado Springs, CO 80906

    (719) 634-7333, ext.1011   






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  • 105 - Mike Moran's Commentary








        Mike Moran's Sports Commentary


    Stand aside, Indianapolis, move over San Antonio, Charlotte, St. Louis, Omaha, Florida and the Research Triangle in North Carolina.

    For the next two weekends, Colorado Springs, America's Olympic City, will be proud to be called "The Amateur Sports Capital of the United States." And, we not at all shy about trumpeting that title and showing our pride.

    For the next two weekends, our city will play host to an event that embodies the mission, purpose, spirit and the heart and soul of amateur sports.

    It's the 13th Rocky Mountain State Games, the state of Colorado's largest and most inclusive sports festival. 

    Over the last dozen summers, 72,633 athletes have enjoyed the thrill of competition for medals, career bests and for just plain fun in Colorado Springs.

    The annual Rocky Mountain State Games is the magnet that has lured these thousands of athletes of all ages and skill levels to America's Olympic City to test their skills in scores of sports.

    The Rocky Mountain State Games is a multi-sport festival for athletes of all ages and athletic abilities including those with physical disabilities or visual impairment. The Games are recognized by the National Congress of State Games, a member of the United States Olympic Committee. 

    Many of the athletes bring along friends and families, which, of course, is a boost to the Colorado Springs tourism economy. Over the last six years, athletes from as many as 120 cities and towns in Colorado have made their way to Colorado Springs to take part in this unique sports gathering.

    Kids from four years old to swimmers, runners and triathletes in their 80s have won Rocky Mountain State Games medals, or just competed for the single reason that they can. That spirit is contagious and it spreads across all 41 sports offered in this year's Games. 

    10-year old triathlete Mandy Fleetwood of Parker was the national IronKids Champion in Des Moines. 76-year old Erol Linda Agnos of Colorado Springs is a pickleball doubles athlete who competed in softball, volleyball, track and field and was a four-time state badminton champion.

    20-year-old Ryan Cook was a basketball and track star at Rampart High In Colorado Springs, winning state Class 5A  high jump titles in 2010 and 2011. He enrolled at Drake and won the high jump at the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Championships.

    The Colorado Springs Sports Corporation, which had managed these 13 Rocky Mountain State Games, dreams of seeing a record 10,000 athletes in town over the next two weekends, after a record 9,312 took part last year.

    Many will go on to notable high school and college sports achievement, while the seniors go home satisfied and pleased with their still-formidable athletics abilities.

    Though the Games officially open this Friday with 23 sports and some 3,800 athletes competing over the weekend, there's something special on tap for Friday, June 25 that impacts not only the Rocky Mountain State Games, but the city's coveted position as the home of the most powerful National Olympic Committee in the world, the United States Olympic Committee, and two dozen of the USOC National Governing Bodies of Olympic, Pan Am and Paralympic sport.

    Thousands will travel to Downtown Colorado Springs for another Olympic Downtown Celebration and the Opening Ceremony of the Rocky Mountain State Games. It's a salute unmatched by any other city to amateur sports.

    2014 Olympic figure skating bronze medalist Jason Brown will light the State Games cauldron to open the Games. He follows Olympians like Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan, Apollo Ohno, Derek Parra, Rulon Gardner and Steve Holcomb in performing this task.

    There will be music, food, sport demonstrations, a 5K Run, appearances by Denver Bronco players alumni and mascot Miles himself.

    After Tejon Street has been cleared, people gone home to bed and the music stops, several thousand amateur athletes will sleep and many will dream of what could be that began in Colorado Springs for them. Some will appear in future Olympics, Paralympics or other major international competitions.

    Most will recall past glories and rivalries and discover the benefit of sportsmanship, fair play and good, clean competition. But for all of them, the Olympic Creed fits perfectly.

    "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well."

    And once again, Colorado Springs has shown its spirit, passion and commitment to amateur sports, and why it is the right place for the hometown of America's Olympic family.



    Mike Moran

    Senior Media Consultant

    Colorado Springs Sports Corporation

    1631 Mesa Ave., Suite E

    Colorado Springs, CO 80906

    (719) 634-7333, ext.1011   





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    2014 Sports Corp Calendar of Events

    (Click links below for additional details and ticket information.)  

    Rocky Mountain State Games - July 18-20 & 25-27

    Olympic Downtown Celebration/RMSG Opening Ceremonies - July 25

    USA Pro Challenge - Stage 4 - August 21

    The Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb - August 24

    Pikes Peak Downhill Skateboard Invitational - September 6-7

    Hockey Face-off Luncheon - September 30

    Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony - October 28