- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2019

The D.C. Sports Hall of Fame’s newly-inducted Class of 2019 was a collection of athletes, executives, coaches and writers that spanned nine sports, from horse racing to football to swimming.

For the first time, it also included an entire team.

The 2017-18 Washington Capitals, the first team to bring a Stanley Cup to the city, were honored as the Hall of Fame’s first “team of distinction.”

Hall of Fame chairman Bobby Goldwater said the “team of distinction” designation will be awarded “irregularly, whenever the committee feels this is appropriate.”

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was on hand to represent the team.

“I’m here to thank everyone for accepting and falling in love with the Washington Capitals,” Leonsis said. “My dream was always to make a team that was as good as the fan base … I hope our teams can win more championships because there was nothing that brought this community closer together and made us feel like we’re all in it together than that parade.”

The Capitals headlined a class that also included a former Redskins star, an Olympic gold medallist and the founder of D.C. United. The group was honored in a ceremony at Nationals Park before Washington’s game against the Atlanta Braves Sunday afternoon.

Longtime Redskins defensive end Charles Mann, a four-time Pro Bowler who played on all three of Washington’s Super Bowl-winning teams, described his fondness for the D.C. region. Though he hails from Sacramento, California, Mann felt that he “grew up here.”

“I came here at 22 years old, and I’m 58 now, so I’ve been here most of my natural life,” Mann said.

Other retired athletes in the class had deep local ties. NBA executive Danny Ferry was named the prep player of the year while playing basketball at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. Before Tom Brown played baseball for the Washington Senators and football for the Packers and Redskins, he was a three-sport athlete at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Arlington, Virginia native Tom Dolan won back-to-back gold medals in the 400-meter men’s individual medley at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and Sydney, respectively.

“I also won the very first gold medal for the entire U.S. contingent at (the Atlanta) Games, which — again, that’s not why you get in freezing cold at 4:30 in the morning, but it’s sure nice when it works out that way,” Dolan said.

Two University of Maryland coaches with national titles on their resumes were inducted: women’s lacrosse coach Cathy Reese, head of a Terrapins dynasty in the sport with 12 championships, and men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski, who led his program to titles in 2005, 2008 and 2018.

Cirovski had some nice words for fellow inductee Kevin Payne, calling him “one of the architects of the great soccer rise in this country.” Payne was one of the founding investors of Major League Soccer, helped put an MLS team in Washington and served as the first president and general manager of D.C. United.

“We really created the fan culture in soccer in the United States at D.C. United, and I’m very proud of that,” Payne said. “We’ve had some success. We won a bunch of championships. I’m equally proud of that. But mostly what I think about when I look back on those years was the relationships that I developed with people.”

Two new members were inducted posthumously. Ray Flaherty, the first head coach of the Redskins who won NFL championships for Washington in 1937 and 1942, passed away in 1994. Allie Ritzenberg, a tennis player and coach who grew up in the District and taught George H.W. Bush and Jacqueline Kennedy, died last year at 100 years old.

Rounding out the list was Washington Post horse racing writer Andrew Beyer.

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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