Softball coach Enquist, gymnast Miller among Hall of Fame inductees

Updated: June 9, 2008, 10:40 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Former UCLA softball coach Sue Enquist and Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller are the newest members of the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame.

They were inducted along with former Japanese golfer Hisako Higuchi and Algerian track star Hassiba Boulmerka on Monday night at the grand opening of the Billie Jean King Women's Sports Center in the new Sports Museum of America.

"I think it's outstanding that Billie Jean King and her many colleagues put together a vision that will document and celebrate all facets of being a female athlete," Enquist said. "It will be a place that will affect you, not an event that will last an hour."

King and Sheila C. Johnson co-hosted the ceremony. Johnson recently donated $3 million to the Women's Sports Foundation, and part of her gift went to the Hall of Fame wing.

Johnson, the owner of the Washington Mystics, said women need to say "'Look, we're here.' Most importantly, we need to learn to stand behind other women."

The Women's Sports Foundation has inducted 130 athletes, coaches and pioneers into the hall of fame since 1980.

The foundation, based in Eisenhower Park, N.Y., gathered sports memorabilia over the past two decades and the office was overflowing with artifacts. King, planning officer Marjorie Snyder and the late Dorothy Blaney, a former chair of the board, were among those who longed for a home for the memorabilia.

Finally, they have a space to showcase it.

"I'm incredibly moved that the hall of fame has a permanent home at the Sports Museum of America," King said. "[It] celebrated the legendary champions who have paved the way for future generations."

Martina Navratilova, LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens, WNBA president Donna Orender and HBO president Ross Greenburg attended the ceremony along with 30 members of the hall of fame.

Navratilova plans to add her glasses to the museum, "because without them, nothing would be possible," she said with a laugh. "I'm nearsighted."

Enquist was a groundbreaker for the UCLA softball program. She was the Bruins' first scholarship player and All-American in softball. During her time there, the Bruins went from a team with no uniforms her freshman year to hoisting the national championship trophy her senior season in 1978.

She was involved as a player, assistant or coach at the university for 30 years, amassing 11 national titles -- including her AIAW championship as a player. She retired as the winningest active softball coach in 2006 with an overall record of 887-175-1 (.835).

Miller, the most decorated American gymnast with seven Olympic medals, won team and individual golds on the balance beam at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Since retiring, she started the Shannon Miller Foundation to fight obesity and is co-chair of the Florida governor's fitness council. She donated a 1995 gymnastics uniform from the U.S. trials to the Olympics museum, along with affirmations from her mother, Claudia, that she carried in her gym bag for years.

"To grow up not ever questioning whether it would be OK to go out and play soccer or shoot baskets, that's such a blessing," said Miller, whose mother wanted to play sports. "That's what we can give our children."

The King center is the first museum dedicated to women's sports, among 50 halls at the Sports Museum of America in lower Manhattan. The interactive center features a timeline of women's sports, audio and video of Mia Hamm, a tennis dress worn by Serena Williams and a wood driver used by Babe Didrikson Zaharias.

Among the hands-on activities, visitors can try to change a tire as part of a NASCAR pit crew in 15 seconds or less, row all-out for 30 seconds to compare the distance to an Olympian and attempt to keep one's feet balanced like a skier.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press