As astonishingly as they performed on an athletic field, the 2010 induction class of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame eloquently delivered their acceptance speeches Tuesday night at the Millennium Hotel.
Seventeen members were installed in the second class of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame, founded by Greg Marecek, who opened Tuesday's ceremony by calling it "the greatest night in St. Louis sports."
The class included Earl "Butch" Buchholz, Don Carter, Marshall Faulk, Joe Garagiola, Cliff Hagan, Brett Hull, Jim Hart, Hale Irwin, Al MacInnis, Pat McBride, Ted Simmons, George Sisler, Steve Stipanovich, Dick Vermeil, Dizzy Dean, George Sisler and Bob Broeg.
The inductees were introduced to the crowd, estimated at 1,500, through video tributes, which were produced by KMOX radio's Ron Jacober. The class then took the podium individually, each expressing appreciation for the honor and crediting a list of influential people in their careers.
While rattling off the names of his former Big Red teammates such as Dan Dierdorf and Conrad Dobler, Hart said: "They are all part of the walking wounded so I could stand up here and speak relatively well."
Stipanovich, who played basketball at DeSmet High and the University of Missouri, thanked former coaches Rich Grawer and Norm Stewart.
"Coach Grawer at DeSmet got ahold of me and poured his soul into me to make me a great player," Stipanovich said. "Coach Stewart taught us to play tough, hard-nosed basketball and developed me into the best player I could be."
Both Grawer and Stewart were in the crowd of supporters, which was a "Who's Who" itself, featuring former Cardinals coach Jim Hanifan and former football Cardinal Roger Wehrli.
Simmons, a former catcher for the Cardinals, said it was 'staggering" to think that he was back in St. Louis being honored with this year's class of inductees.
MacInnis said what makes the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame unique is that the inductees are fans of one another.
"I was right there with the rest of St. Louis, cheering on Dick Vermeil as he led the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl 10 years ago," MacInnis said. "All of tonight's inductees have something in common. We love St. Louis and we hold dear the memories and friends that we have made here through the gift of sports."
Many of the memories were relived Tuesday. McBride, a former St. Louis University soccer player, recalled what a former coach told him: "'What good are your skills if you're second in the fight for the ball?'" he said. "I remembered that my whole life."
It's been many years since many of the athletes honored Tuesday put on a St. Louis uniform. As Simmons said, "As much as you want to think that it was just yesterday, it wasn't yesterday."
But still today, all are fondly remembered.
"There's an old saying ... 'The longer you are away from the game, the better you are,'" Hart said. "Boy, we were really good."
The night wouldn't have been complete without a few tears from Vermeil, who obliged.
"I've never been really good at accepting individual awards," Vermeil said. "It's not that I don't appreciate them. I just don't believe in them ... never have. I know what the organization, what the Rams brought to my career in three years. It's not what I brought to them; it's what they brought to me.
"It's amazing what you can do when you all do it together, and all care about each other."