The seven newest members of the Fairfield County Sports Commission's Hall of Fame were officially inducted during a ceremony on Wednesday at the UConn-Stamford campus, where the Hall of Fame is located.
It was an especially emotional day for the family of the late Andy Robustelli as the former New York Giants Hall of Fame linebacker was enshrined posthumously.
Robustelli intially was inducted with the first Hall of Fame class in 2005, but according to Tom Chiappetta, the Commission's executive director, the Stamford native turned down the honor because he didn't want to bring attention to himself.
However, following Robustelli's death last May, his family agreed that it was time to accept the honor. Robustelli's plaque was added along with the other inductees, which included longtime NBA referee Bennett Salvatore, another Stamford native and Robustelli's son-in-law.
Joining Robustelli and Salvatore were five other area sports legends -- former NBA player John Bagley out of Bridgeport, former Fairfield University basketball star Joe DeSantis, former Harding boys basketball coach Charlie Bentley, former Greenwich track standout Ceci Hopp St. Geme and the late Albie Loeffler, who founded the successful Staples High School soccer program.
With the newest additions, the Sports Commission's Hall of Fame has grown to 45 members, some of whom include Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young (Greenwich) former NHL player and Little League hero Chris Drury (Trumbull) gold medalist Bruce Jenner (Newtown) and current Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine (Stamford).
Robustelli was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 following a 14-year career with the Los Angeles Rams and Giants and the field at Stamford High School is now named in his honor.
Heading into this season, Salvatore had worked more than 1, 650 regular season games, two NBA All-Stat games, international tournaments in Germany, Mexico and China, 228 playoff games and 25 NBA Finals.
Bagley starred at Harding and Boston College, averaging 21.1 points per game during the 1981-82 season when he led the Eagles to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. He then went on to a successful 10-year NBA career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, New Jersey Nets and Boston Celtics.
DeSantis is Fairfield's second all-time leading scorer with 1,916 points and also ranks second on the school's all-time list in assists with 667. He played under the late Fred Barakat during the golden age of Stags' basketball in the late 1970s, leading Fairfield to an NIT appearance in 1978.
Bentley, the second-winningest high school basketball coach in state history, retired following the 2010-2011 season. In 34 seasons at Harding, Bentley won 651 games and nine state championships, coaching future NBA players Bagley, Charles Smith and Wes Matthews.
St Geme has been recognized as one of the nation's top female distance runners for the past three decades. She still holds FCIAC outdoor records in the 1.500, 1,600, 3,000 and 3,200-meter events and won the 1982 NCAA 3,000-meter title as a freshman at Stamford. Her time of 8:57 is still a U.S. record.
Loeffler, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 93, founded the Wreckers' soccer program in 1958. He led Staples to 13 FCIAC championships and seven state titles. Also a referee, Loeffler worked the first NCAA Division I finals.