Thursday, June 25, 2020

Ralph Hay Pioneer Award—The Hall of Fame Should Present It More Often

By John Turney
Over the years we've nominated several people to win the Hall of Fame's "Pioneer Award". It used to be known as the Dan Reeves Pioneer Award and is now known as the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Ralph Hay Pioneer Award.

According to the Hall, it is "Presented periodically to an individual who has made significant and innovative contributions to professional football."

Here is a list of the previous winners—
Fred Gehrke, 1972 
Arch Ward, 1975 
John Facenda, 1986 
David Boss, 1992  
George Toma, 2001  
City of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, 2004
Steve Sabol, 2007
Art McNally, 2012
Joe Browne, 2016

 Gehrke won it for creating the NFL's first helmet logo, Ward for creating the College All-Star game among other things. Facenda for his work voicing NFL Films features, Boss for being the creative force behind NFL Properties, Toma for being a genius in terms of groundskeeping, the City of Pottsville (who rejected the award) as recognition for the lost NFL title in 1925 (a discussion for another day), Steve Sabol for being the creative leader for NFL films, Art McNally for NFL officiating leadership and Joe Browne for being the NFL's publicity man for many years.

We've always felt Seymour Siwoff (Elias Sports Bureau) and Merv Corning (artist) deserved the award and as we said among others, though now with the Hall of Fame's contributor category Siwoff deserves induction to the Hall of Fame itself as a contributor.
Credit: Merv Corning
Some of those others worthy of the Ralph Hay Hay Pioneer Award would be Amy Trask, the NFL's first female Chief Executive. Another would be William “Pudge” Hefflefinger footballs first professional player. Charles Follis, the first black professional football player should also be included.
Amy Trask
Corning's artistry was incredible and so prolific he is deserving of some sort of recognition and the Pioneer Award seems fitting. 
Hefflefinger  Credit: Pro Football Hall of Fame
Trask,  Hefflefinger, and Follis did not have professional careers that were distinguished in terms of success by Hall of Fame standards (Hefflefinger is in the College Hall of Fame)—the best of the best or "the truly great" but they, too are deserving of recognition as pioneers, if not the Hall of Fame itself, the Pioneer Award is exactly the fit for their contributions to the game.
Follis  Credit: Pro Football Hall of Fame
We would encourage the Hall of Fame to not give the award every 4-5 years but perhaps every 2-3 years because, in addition to the 4-5 names here, there are undoubtedly others worthy of an award like the Hay for people who were pioneers who are not Hall of Fame-worthy. 


  1. I nominate Byron Donzis, inventor of the flak jacket, which has sustained the careers of COUNTLESS QBs and other players from rib injuries ... young fans like to belittle the statistics of QBs like Namath, Hadl, Brodie and other older players but they played when there was no flak jackets or rules to allow offensive linemen to extend their arms and hands in pass protection.

    After the flak jacket, many QBs and players were able to stay healthy and keep the owners pockets plentiful and Donzis deserves that recognition ...

  2. A debt of gratitude is in order for the blog entry amigo! Keep them coming... read more