By Lauren Deal
Macon Community News
As we enter into July, the days are gradually growing shorter (and hotter!), and students are entering their final month of summer vacation. Baseball season is in full swing, yet the start of football season is still far away.
Middle Georgia’s student-athletes are already preparing for the upcoming season. Bibb County Athletics teamed up with Middle Georgia Fellowship of Christian Athletes to host FCA: On the Turf, “an elite 7-on-7 matchup” on June 27th at the Ed Defore Sports Complex. Teams from all around Middle Georgia participated in the competition. Football players from Westside High School, Southwest High School, Rutland High School, Northeast High School, Academy for Classical Education, Stratford Academy, Tattnall Square Academy, and First Presbyterian Day School competed, with the Westside Seminoles taking the top honors, followed by the Southwest Patriots and the Rutland Hurricanes.
Macon Bacon fans are enjoying the hometown team’s successful season in the Coastal Plain League. On the same day that Bibb County football players dominated FCA: On the Turf, the Bacon dominated the Forest City Owls in North Carolina. The game marked the Macon Bacon’s second mercy-rule win of the season, with three home runs and a score of 13-0. The game was win number 16 for the Bacon this season. They have a dozen more home games in July and one August home game (against rival Savannah Bananas) at Macon’s historic Luther Williams Field. Fans can look forward to a special Allman Brothers Night on July 20th and a fireworks display after the July 27th game against Lexington County.
The success of our local athletes and teams is exciting. With opportunities to compete in almost any sport you can imagine, from tennis and swimming to football and gymnastics, Macon is a mecca for athletes. We have top-notch athletic facilities, like the John Drew Smith Tennis Center and Ed Defore Sports Complex, and outstanding professional teams like Macon Mayhem, our hockey team.
The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in downtown Macon is an outstanding tribute to the passion, dedication, and sportsmanship of our state’s top-achieving athletes in every field. Young athletes will be motivated to push themselves harder in training and competition, and even non-athletes will find inspiration to be their best in their endeavors.
The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is located at 301 Cherry Street. They are open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and on Saturday from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Admission is $8.00 for adults (age 17 and up); $6.00 for senior citizens, college students, and members of the military (with identification); and $3.50 for children (age 16 and under). There are special prices for adult groups of ten or more visitors and youth/school groups.
Founded in 1956 as the Georgia Prep Sports Hall of Fame, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame expanded its scope in 1963 to include college, professional, amateur, and Olympic sports. It is the nation’s largest sports museum, and it features awards, memorabilia, and interactive exhibits. The building also houses a 205-seat movie theater, a research library, and three premiere event rental spaces: the Georgia Room, the Club Room, and the Conference Room. The rooms are lovely, and rental includes access to the museum exhibits for all of your guests.
The Hall of Fame is one of Macon’s most notable structures, and any tour of the museum should begin with an appreciation of the architecture. It is designed to look like a turn of the century ballpark, with brick archways and a green roof echoing the green lawn surrounding the building. It’s a great spot for group photographs.
Inside, the exhibits are divided between two floors. The movie theater is to the right of the entrance. You should start your visit by watching the 20-minute video, “Dare to be Great.” With appearances by some of Georgia’s most accomplished athletes, coaches, and sports announcers, “Dare to be Great” focuses on what it takes to be successful – in athletics and in life.
“The greatest source of achievement is self-discipline; the greatest source of power is attitude,” says Garland Pinholster in the video. Pinholster is a 1980 Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Inductee and retired North Georgia College and Oglethorpe College coach. As a basketball coach, Pinholster developed the “wheel defense” and later coached the U.S. Men’s Basketball team to win a gold medal at the 1963 Pan American games.
Reliving some of the greatest moments in Georgia sports history, “Dare to be Great” is an inspirational film, one that every single Bibb County student would benefit from seeing, regardless of whether or not they are an athlete. If you have not taken your children to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, go this month – before they begin a new school year – and start by seeing this short film.
Directly across from the movie theater is the Hall of Fame. In 2019, eight men and women were inducted into the Hall of Fame: Macon’s own All-American athlete and Olympian, Fire Prevention Director Brenda Cliette Thomas; Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket and Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Jr.; UGA graduate and sports broadcaster, Ernie Johnson, Jr., who began his career in broadcasting at Macon’s WMAZ; Georgia high school football coach Thomas S. McFerrin; Auburn Tiger and NFL Linebacker Takeo Spikes; President and CEO of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Gary Stokan; Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket and former Atlanta Braves player Mark C. Teixeira; and finally, former Mt. De Sales Cavalier, University of Georgia Bulldog, and Canadian Football League linebacker Ben Zambiasi.
Sports memorabilia and biographies of each new inductee are on display in the Hall of Fame wing. Lining the walls behind them are plaques commemorating each member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Legends like Chipper Jones, Dominique Wilkins, Bill Elliott, and Larry Munson are honored alongside many more of sports greatest heroes.
Upstairs there are many more exhibits, including a fantastic tribute to Georgia’s most passionate of rivalries, the “clean old-fashioned hate” of Georgia versus Georgia Tech. The rivalry dates to November 4th, 1893, when the Yellow Jackets beat the Bulldogs, 28-6, in their first-ever matchup on the football field in Athens.
The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame also includes memorabilia of high school athletics, college athletics, professional sports, Olympic sports, and sports medicine. The Olympic and Paralympic displays and the NASCAR exhibit are noteworthy; as you wander through the Olympic display, look up to see larger pieces.
One of the best aspects of the museum is its interactive exhibits. The museum has one of the award blocks from the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and replica Olympic medals for a fun photo opportunity. Visitors can practice shooting hoops on a basketball court, hula hoop, score a soccer goal, kick a field goal, throw a football through a tire target, and more. There are a multi-player sports trivia game and automated tests of balance, vertical leap, and reflexes.
The best of all of the interactive exhibits is a NASCAR racing simulator where you can test your skills on the “track”—while sitting in a real race car.
Kids and adults alike enjoy recording their own version of sports history’s most memorable events as sports announcers in the exhibit dedicated to sports broadcasting.
The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is an incredible asset to our community, and it is not utilized enough. School groups, scouting groups, church groups, teams, and civic organizations would all benefit from visiting the Hall of Fame. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy, not just sports fans. July is the perfect month to visit the museum with the young people in your life: from the movie “Dare to be Great,” to the biographies of the new inductees, there is so much to motivate and energize Macon’s youth.
The museum also offers free movies to the public. On July 12th, at 10:30 AM and 2:00 PM, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” will be shown in the movie theater. On July 19th, at 10:30 AM and 2:00 PM, they will be showing “Moana.” There are concessions available for purchase during the movie times. For those who are interested in touring the museum before or after the movies, you can purchase admission to the exhibits at the box office. It’s an excellent opportunity to encourage children towards hard work and success.
For more information about the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, or for their schedule, you can visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GeorgiaSportsHallofFame or their website at www.gshf.org.