The Selection Committee of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame voted six individuals — including Lindsey Vonn, Bob Gebhard and Alonzo Babers — to be inducted at the 56th annual banquet, set for April 23 at the Hilton Denver City Center (1701 California St.).
Joining four-time overall World Cup skiing champion Vonn, former Colorado Rockies general manager Gebhard and two-time Olympic gold medalist Babers as April inductees were former University of Denver hockey coach George Gwozdecky, 1977 Heisman Trophy voting runner-up Terry Miller, and impending U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Famer Erin Popovich when the Class of 2020 was selected today. The Selection Committee will pick the 2019 Athletes of the Year at a January 2020 meeting as the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame recognizes collegiate, high school and Olympic/Pro athletes at the Hilton Denver City Center banquet.
Lindsey Vonn of Vail is the winningest women’s World Cup skier of all time, having claimed 82 titles, just four shy of Ingemar Stenmark’s record regardless of gender. Vonn retired in February due to the cumulative effect of injuries after earning a bronze medal in the downhill at the World Championships. In 2012, she earned her fourth World Cup overall title, joining Annemarie Moser-Proell as the only women to accomplish that feat. Vonn was also a season-long champion in the World Cup downhill a record eight times to go along with five in the super-G and three in the combined. Her 20 World Cup globes are the most by any skier, woman or man.
Vonn is one of just six women to have won World Cup races in all five disciplines of alpine skiing — downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and super combined.
Vonn won an Olympic gold medal on the downhill in the 2010 Winter Games, becoming the first American woman to land that title. That year, she was named the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year. In all, Vonn competed in four Olympics (2002, ’06, ’10 and ’18), winning three medals. At world championships, she claimed eight medals, including two golds in 2009 — one each in downhill and super-G. Vonn, who will turn 35 years old on Friday, was the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame’s 2009 Athlete of the Year.
Bob Gebhard was the first GM of the Rockies as he was hired in 1992, the year before the franchise started Major League play. He continued in that role until his resignation in 1999. Under Gebhard’s watch, the Rockies went to the playoffs in their third season, earning a spot in 1995 as a National League wild-card team. At the time, that made them the first MLB expansion team to reach the postseason prior to its eighth season of competition. That year began a three-year run of the Rockies finishing with winning records.
Gebhard led the way in building the team’s farm system, hiring Don Baylor as the franchise’s first manager, and overseeing the expansion draft.
The Rockies were also very successful at the gate, setting a Major League attendance record by drawing 4,483,350 fans to Mile High Stadium in 1993. Every year during the Gebhard years, the Rockies attracted at least 3.2 million fans, with the team having moved into Coors Field in 1995.
Gebhard pitched in the Major Leagues with Minnesota and Montreal from 1971-74, finishing with 41 innings on the mound and a 1-3 record in the Bigs. He began his front-office career in 1976 with the Expos as field director of minor league operations.
Alonzo Babers, who ran track and played one season of football at the Air Force Academy, made a splash at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles by winning gold medals in both the 400-meter run and the 4X400-meter relay. Babers made a quick rise to the highest level of track. In 1984, a year after graduating from the Academy with a degree in aerospace engineering, he ran a personal-best 44.86 in the 400 to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team.
In the 400 final at the Olympics, Babers posted a time of 44.27 to earn the gold medal. And in the relay final, Babers ran the third leg as the American team claimed gold easily with a clocking of 2:57.91.
Babers was a Lieutenant in the Air Force while training for and competing in the Olympics. He started his flight training just a month after the Olympics, and he was active duty in the Air Force from 1983 to ’91. He went on to become a pilot for United Airlines.
George Gwozdecky coached the DU hockey team for 19 seasons (1994-2013), guiding the Pioneers to NCAA titles in 2004 and ’05. In his final dozen years at the DU helm, the team never failed to win at least 20 games. Overall, Gwozdecky accumulated a 443-267-64 record as coach of the Pioneers. Under Gwozdecky, DU won three regular-season titles in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and four WCHA playoff crowns.
Gwozdecky won NCAA titles as a player (at Wisconsin in 1977), an assistant coach (at Michigan State in 1986) and a head coach (at DU in 2004 and ’05), becoming the first person to accomplish that feat. Twice he was named NCAA national coach of the year, in 1993 and 2005. He came to DU from Miami (Ohio), where he was head coach for five years. Gwozdecky was previously a head coach at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where the team won an NAIA national title in 1983.
After working as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, Gwozdecky became head coach at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch in 2015.
Terry Miller is considered one of the top running backs Colorado high school football has produced. As a senior at Mitchell in Colorado Springs, he rushed for 2,785 yards as the Marauders finished runner-up in the 1973 AAA state playoffs. He was subsequently named the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame’s High School Athlete of the Year for ’73. Miller also played point guard on a Mitchell basketball team that won the state title in ’73, and he ran high school track.
Miller went on to star in football at Oklahoma State, where he finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1977 to Texas’ Earl Campbell, and fourth in 1976. He led the Big Eight Conference in rushing in both 1976 and ’77 and was named Big Eight Player of the Year both years. From 1974 to ’77, Miller rushed for 4,754 yards and 49 touchdowns at Oklahoma State, where he went into the athletics Hall of Honor in 2006.
Miller was the fifth pick overall in the 1978 NFL draft, going to the Buffalo Bills, where he rushed for 1,060 yards as a rookie. In 48 NFL games from 1978 through ’81, Miller rushed for 1,583 yards and eight TDs and caught 35 passes for 382 yards.
Erin Popovich, a 2007 graduate of Colorado State University, is believed to be the first Paralympian voted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. She won 14 gold medals — and 19 medals overall — in swimming over the course of three Paralympic Games. That includes an extraordinary performance in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, where she claimed seven titles in seven events.
Twice for her achievements, Popovich has been named winner of the ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete with a Disability.
On Nov. 1, Popovich will be inducted into the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame, joining such Colorado Sports Hall of Famers as Babe Zaharias, Peggy Fleming, Bill Toomey, Connie Carpenter-Phinney and fellow former CSU swimmer Amy Van Dyken.
Popovich retired from competitive swimming in 2008 and accepted a job at the Colorado Springs-based U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, where she’s Associate Director of Paralympic Swimming.
Tickets for the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Banquet are $200 each and Sponsor tables start at $2,500. For additional ticket and table information, please phone the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame (www.coloradosports.org, 720-258-3535). The Colorado Sports Hall of Fame & Museum is located at Gate 1 on the west side of Empower Field at Mile High at 1701 Bryant Street in Denver.
Since its inception in 1965, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame has inducted 264 individuals prior to Tuesday’s selection meeting. The first class of inductees featured Earl “Dutch” Clark, Jack Dempsey and former Supreme Court Justice Byron “Whizzer” White. Missy Franklin, Daniel Graham, Todd Lodwick, Tom Southall, Bob Smith and Marv Kay were inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame this past April.