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Brandeis enshrines ’06 Hall of Fame class

By David Ostrowsky

Section: Sports

March 31, 2006

It was Brandeis version of that midsummer Cooperstown extravaganza. Thats what happened this past Sunday morning at the Westin Hotel in Waltham.

In this gorgeous hotel perched atop less glamorous Route 128, six former Brandeis athletes and one team were crowned members of the prestigious Hall of Fame before hundreds of family, friends, alumni and athletic department staff.

The first hour and a half consisted mainly of an eloquent luncheon, courtesy of the nice folks from the Westin. Copious amounts of breakfast foods were everywhere to be found. The fancy dessert selection table looked like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Once the ceremonies began, shortly past high noon, all eyes were on the six deserving candidates, followed by the 1977 baseball team.

The caricatures of Melissa Jones, Ed McCarthy, Carmen Bumgarner, Frank Raio, Dick Bergel and Martin Zelnik will forevermore be in the presence of those who enter the Gosman Athletic complex upstairs. And deservedly so.

Each humble inductee talked for five, ten, even fifteen minutes about his or her athletic career on South Street. No one was keeping count, but it was always the case that the uses of the word “teammates” outnumbered uses of the word “I.”

Bergel joked about how his ability to run with a football was his ticket to a Brandeis education. Among his other accomplishments on the Brandeis gridiron, Bergel found the endzones in key wins over Bates College in 1954, 1955 and 1957.

Keep in your mind this was your grandfather's Brandeis football program, as it used to compete against the likes of Boston College and Boston University on a regular basis. Oh, and the coach: NFL hall of famer Bennie Friedman.

Asked about how it was to play under Friedman, Bergel said, “It was a terrific experience because we didn't have more than 700 students and he ran the program as if it were a big-time program.”

“Football was really the parent of all the other sports,” Bergel added.

Bumgarner described herself as an “agnostic middle class girl from Oklahoma” who sometimes felt lost in the culture shock of a prestigious New Englad liberal arts college. Being a member of Brandeis soccer gave her a firm sense of identity and comraderie that helped her make the difficult adjustment.

Melissa Jones was the Albert Pujols of Brandeis softball, leading the team in nearly every offensive category possible during her four year tenure. Yet during her succinct speech, Jones credited her coaches, teammates, trainers and parents, with hardly any recognition of her own accomplishments. Jones would be the last person to tell you herself, but she was the recipient of the Morrie Stein Award of Valor as a senior.

Unfortunately space does not permit this writer to detail the careers of the five-sport star Martin Zelnik, soccer defense wiz Frank Raio or All-American long distance runner Ed McCarthy. The 1977 baseball squad went 24-5 before losing to Cal State-Stanislaus in the championship game.

“I think we found a way to bond together… We had great leadership from the coaches. It's better than going in individually,” Van Hillyer (member of 1977 baseball team) explained.

“It's obviously a great honor. It's a great day because I have all of my friends and teammates here. It's really a special day,” Raio said.

In the not-so-distant future there will be more Brandeisians (current and former) to be in the Hall. Safe bet that the likes of Caitlin Malcolm and Bryan Lambert will one day find their way there.

So it is a miniature version of one of your traditional hall of fame ceremonies. It will never be mentioned in the same breath as Cooperstown or Canton. But we can pretty sure that none of the aforementioned athletes received any other form of aid if you know what I mean.

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