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Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame inducts five local athletes

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The Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame inducted its first class at a celebration Saturday night at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort. The inaugural event inducted five local athletes: Kevin Johnson, Bill Cartwright, Summer Sanders, Tony Lopez and Dusty Baker.

Hall of Fame founder and Executive Director TC Martin opened the ceremonies by introducing each of the inductees as they stepped onto the stage. Martin said the goal of the organization is to "publicly recognize the great individual talent that we have here in Sacramento." The five inductees were selected from a list of 56 nominees; over 7,300 votes were cast in an online ballot.

Sports Hall of Fame Founder and Executive Director TC Martin gives his opening remarks at the inaugural ceremony Saturday night.

Northern California comedian Dennis Gaxiola drew plenty of laughs as he ribbed each of the inductees with clean humor he described as, "Just inside the line. With every culture, you gotta know where the line is, you have to respect it." Gaxiola said he was married 21 years, joking, "Three wives. I’m good at it."

Comedian Dennis Gaxiola jokes with the inductees at Saturday’s Sports Hall of Fame ceremony.

About the inductees:
Kevin Johnson was born in Oak Park, played basketball at Sacramento High School and UC Berkeley before playing 13 years in the NBA for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns. In his first full season at Phoenix, Johnson averaged 20 points and 12 assists per game, and shot 50%. He was an NBA All Star three times and played on the 1994 U.S. National Team, better known as the Dream Team II. After retiring from professional basketball, Kevin returned to Sacramento to focus his attention on improvements in Oak Park and Sacramento educational programs. In 2008, Johnson was elected Mayor of Sacramento and was re-elected for his second term in 2012.

Mayor Kevin Johnson accepts his award for his 13-year career in professional basketball.
Kevin Johnson told a humorous story about visiting the White House.

Bill Cartwright played on Elk Grove High School’s Thundering Herd basketball team in the 1970’s. He was exceptionally tall as a young man, reaching 7′ in adulthood. Cartwright played college basketball at University of San Francisco before being drafted to the New York Knicks in 1979. Nine years later he was traded to the Chicago Bulls and played a significant role in the team’s three consecutive NBA championships. After playing 16 years in the NBA, Cartwright continues his basketball career today by coaching, most recently accepting a job as head coach of the Osaka Evessa in the Japanese Professional Basketball League. Cartwright was not available to attend the induction ceremony; his sister Jennifer Thomas Cartwright accepted the award in his absence.

Bill Cartwright was not able to attend the ceremony. His sister, Jennifer, accepted the award on his behalf.

Summer Sanders started her swimming career as a youngster at four years of age in Roseville. Sanders credited her brother for getting her started in swimming, saying she always had to be doing whatever he was doing. She nearly qualified for the Olympic team at age 15. She won several medals at international tournaments as a teenager and began her outstanding collegiate swimming career at Stanford University. She won six individual NCAA titles and competed in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, where she won a bronze, silver and two gold medals. Sanders now works in television as a sports commentator.

Summer Sanders (right) looks on as her brother Trevor speaks about her swimming accomplishments.
Summer Sanders stressed the importance of the support of her family as she competed in swimming events at a young age,
Summer Sanders sat with her two young children after receiving her induction award.

Tony "The Tiger" Lopez is a three-time World Boxing Champion who learned to box at Capitol Boxing Gym in Sacramento. The son of a former boxer, Lopez rose in the amateur boxing circuit while attending Luther Burbank High School. He turned pro in 1983 and scored a knock-out in the first minute of Round One of his first fight. He has a career record of 50 wins (34 knock-outs), 8 losses and 1 draw. His fight with Jorge Paez in 1990 drew the largest gate for a California boxing event, breaking the record set by Muhammed Ali. Lopez and his wife now operate a bail bond agency in Sacramento.

Dr. Steven Barad introduces Tony Lopez (left) at the induction ceremony.
Tony “The Tiger” Lopez spoke about learning to fight at a young age in Sacramento.

After his family moved to Carmichael from Southern California, Dusty Baker played four sports (football, baseball, basketball and track) at Del Campo High School. He chose baseball and was drafted to the Atlanta Braves in 1967. Braves teammate Hank Aaron gave Baker encouragement and advice about handling the civil rights tensions in the South. When Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974, Baker saw it all standing on deck. Baker played 19 years in Major League Baseball for Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland. He is a World Series Champion, two-time All Star and had 30 home runs in a single season. After retiring from playing baseball, he began his 20-year coaching career, currently with the Cincinnati Reds. Baker has been named MLB Manager of the Year three times, with over 1500 victories.

Dusty Baker (left) listens as his brother Robby speaks to the audience at Saturday’s ceremony.
Dusty Baker said rather than choosing, he felt he was chosen to do the things he has done.

Each of the inductees spoke of their pride of Sacramento and reflected on the support of their families and the community.

In addition to the sports accomplishments, all inductees were also commended for their strong character, generosity and community service. After the ceremony, the inductees mingled with the audience, signing autographs and posing for photographs.

Dusty Baker’s son looks at his father’s award after the induction ceremony.
Summer Sanders signs an autograph after the ceremony.
The inductees mingled with the audience after the ceremony.

More photos from the event are available here.

Editor’s note: The “News Digest” goes out every Tuesday morning and highlights our best stories, photos and videos from the week prior. Sign me up.

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