As legacies go, Lou Spadia’s is indelible.

Lou Spadia

From his childhood growing up in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco and starring on the baseball diamond at Mission High School, to his Navy service in World War II, to his 31 years helping to run the San Francisco 49ers, to his fundraising efforts through the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, Spadia left a permanent mark on his region.

But to define his legacy only by those accomplishments would be like leaving a painting unfinished. And Spadia’s completed work of art might just be worthy of Rome’s Galleria Borghese. The son of Italian immigrants, Spadia grew up modestly, but lived a rich life filled with family, faith and the 49ers.

His picture is only complete; however, when one factors in traits not included on a resume.

“He was such an amazing, interesting human being,” his daughter Louisa Spadia-Beckham – more affectionately known as Lulu – said. “Integrity was his best quality and humility was his middle name.”

So it is fitting that Lou Spadia is the inaugural recipient of the International Sports Heritage Association’s (ISHA) Legacy Award – one created to honor a person in the city hosting the organization’s annual conference. The 2018 conference is being hosted by the 49ers Museum in Santa Clara, Calif., from Sept. 26-28.

“We are honored that Lou Spadia was chosen for this very prestigious award,” said 49ers Museum director Jesse Lovejoy. “His contributions to both the Bay Area sports landscape and the history and trajectory of the San Francisco 49ers were wonderful and impactful, and he makes the perfect recipient for ISHA’s first Legacy Award”

Spadia died in 2013 at 92 years old, but his impact on the Bay Area not only lives, but also thrives. Lulu wept when receiving Lovejoy’s call to inform her of the honor. She also knows how her father would have reacted to receiving the same call.

“He would try to talk you out of it,” she said. “Not that he would be ungrateful, but he would want to defer the honor to [original 49ers owners] Tony and Vic Morabito.”

Fighting back tears, she added, “He would say that he was so incredibly proud and honored to have been part of the 49ers, but he was equally proud of his with work with the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF). It feels like an honor that he so deserves.”

Lulu would know. The youngest of four Spadia children, she was always around the 49ers during her father’s tenure with the team that spanned 31 years from 1946 to 1977. She traveled with the club and spent summers at training camp at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

“I remember when I was 16 years old at training camp one summer,” Lulu began. “My parents would go out to eat and I would eat with the team. One night I’m out by the pool around 10 p.m. and out walks someone with a bag of money and a list of food orders. This is when Dick Nolan was the head coach. So they give me the keys to [defensive end] Cedric Hardman’s red Cadillac Eldorado with the license plate ‘Nasty,’ and Mike Nolan and I head out to pick up this loot.

“We’re at a stop light and we see my parents. I slumped down in the seat, but my dad honked his horn and started shaking his finger at me. I was told, ‘This is your last summer at training camp.’ But I think I went two more times.”

She laughed as she shared that memory, and it is one of many she has of her dad, who started with the 49ers upon their founding by Tony and Vic Morabito in 1946.

After finishing his Navy service following World War II, Spadia was struggling to make ends meet when he read in the newspaper that his former commanding officer, John Blackinger, had been named the 49ers general manager. So he hit him up for a job.

Blackinger apparently figured that because Spadia had learned shorthand and could type, he would be useful in the office. He convinced the Morabitos to hire Spadia, who accepted the position for a reported $275 per month. Once in the door, Spadia handled some office duties, but helped with team travel, equipment, bed checks, contracts and whatever else was needed.

“You name it, he did it,” Lulu said.

Former 49ers President Lou Spadia poses with Jane and Josephine Morabito.

He did it for three decades, eventually buying five percent of the team (with his wife, Maggie, buying five percent as well). He became chief executive officer and general manager in 1964 and team president in 1967.

In 1968, he hired Dick Nolan as the 49ers head coach. Two years later, the team started a string of three straight NFC West titles. Spadia never took credit for such accomplishments. He gave it to the Morabitos and anyone else he could.

“It was always understood that dad would downplay his decisions,” Lulu said. “That humility was instilled in my siblings and me (Lou Jr., Kate, Dorothy and Lulu). Our dad went to Mass every day and we were taught to respect what we had. We were blessed and lucky but our parents were adamant about staying out of the limelight.”

Spadia’s will and spirit were tested throughout the 1970s. Maggie Spadia was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1970 and fought for six years before succumbing to the disease in 1976. In the meantime, Lou lost his father in 1973 and his mother in 1974. The 49ers were then sold to the DeBartolo family in 1977 and Spadia retired when Joe Thomas was hired to run the team.

“It was a really tough time,” Lulu stressed.

But in so-called retirement, Spadia dedicated himself to helping underprivileged youth participate in sports. He started the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame as a way to raise money to give back to kids in need of an opportunity.

There was no brick-and-mortar structure because a building was expensive and needed to be maintained. Spadia wanted all of the money raised to go to the kids.

“He grew up without much money and he was that that kid,” Lulu said. “He wanted to give those kids a chance. It was about providing an opportunity for kids more than honoring athletes so that those kids could become those athletes.”

Since its inception in 1979, BASHOF has distributed millions of dollars to hundreds of local youth groups, fulfilling Spadia’s goal and then some.

That legacy, the one for which he is being honored at the year’s ISHA Conference, never waned.

“He was riding in an elevator at the Fairmont Hotel when a little boy and his dad get on,” Lulu said. “The dad is whispering to the boy about who it was in the elevator. The boy looks up and says, ‘Didn’t you used to be Lou Spadia? So my dad reached into his pocket, grabbed his wallet, showed the boy his license and said, ‘It says here I still am.’”

And who he was is why he is being honored by ISHA as much as for what he did. But then again, what he did was because of who he was.

 

 

 

 

 

The International Sports Heritage Association will go west for its 48th annual conference this fall and while delegates won’t be traveling by covered wagon in search of gold, they will get to see a covered wagon suspended from a ceiling and plenty of gold—as in San Francisco 49ers gold.

The 49ers Museum presented by Sony is not only home to five Vince Lombardi Super Bowl championship trophies, but also to this year’s ISHA Conference.

“We are thrilled to be the 2018 host institution and we continue to work diligently with the host committee to make this year’s conference ISHA’s best ever,” said 49ers Museum director Jesse Lovejoy. “We are excited for delegates to see our museum and education facilities within Levi’s® Stadium and to experience the Bay Area as whole. With attractions like The Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, Napa Valley and Yosemite National Park, our area has so much to offer beyond the conference and we hope visitors take advantage of their time here.”

The conference dates will be finalized once the NFL releases its schedule in late April, but it is being planned for the last week of September or first week of October (placeholder date pending NFL schedule is Sept. 26-28).

“We have to wait for the 49ers home schedule to finalize the conference dates, but we’re full steam ahead on planning,” Lovejoy pointed out.

Speaking of STEAM, the 49ers Museum presented by Sony is home to a renowned STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) education program that serves more than 60,000 Bay Area students annually. The Denise DeBartolo York Education Center is a centerpiece of the venue and ISHA delegates will learn about the 49ers Museum education programs and how those lessons are implemented.

The entire museum is a 20,000 square foot facility located within Levi’s® Stadium, home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, in Santa Clara. The Museum’s 11 exhibit galleries celebrate the 49ers past, present and future using digital storytelling, state-of-the-art technology, unique art and design elements, and traditional game-used artifacts.

Levi’s® Stadium is an attraction in of itself. The $1.2 billion stadium is the world’s most technologically advanced and sustainable sports and entertainment venue and was named the 2015 Sports Facility of the Year by Sports Business Journal. The world-class venue has hosted many prominent events, including Super Bowl 50, Copa America Centenario international soccer, Wrestlemania 31 and numerous concerts. In January 2019, Levi’s® Stadium and the San Francisco Bay Area will host the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship.

“We are hoping that ISHA delegates will not only want to learn and grow through the conference’s carefully planned education sessions, but also will be inclined to attend because of our area’s unique history and culture,” Lovejoy said. “We are proud of our museum, stadium, programs and region and we want ISHA members to experience it all.”

Sounds like a golden opportunity to go west.

 

 

The Smithsonian Affiliations program aims to bring the resources and experiences of the Smithsonian Institution to communities nationwide. The Hall of Fame is the first and only independent sports Hall of Fame to be selected to participate in the program’s 20+ year history.

Credit: Kate Whitney Lucey / International Tennis Hall of Fame

NEWPORT, R.I., May 18, 2017 – The International Tennis Hall of Fame has earned a prestigious designation as an official Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Through this affiliation the Hall of Fame will have special access to the Smithsonian’s network of exhibitions, education initiatives, research expertise and resources for use in developing new exhibitions, programs, and educational experiences.

“We are incredibly excited about our partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, as it will benefit our community, visitors, and tennis fans immeasurably,” said Doug Stark, ITHF Museum Director. “Collaborating with the Smithsonian and museums across the country affords us the opportunity to offer a more enriching experience by providing in-depth content, new exhibits, and special programs. As the first independent sports hall of fame to earn this recognition, we are excited to incorporate tennis and sports history into a national dialogue.”

Organizations that are selected to be Affiliates enjoy a range of benefits, from facilitated object and exhibit loans and discounted Smithsonian memberships for their patrons to custom-developed education, performing arts, and public programs. Staff at the Smithsonian and the International Tennis Hall of Fame have already commenced discussions of potential collaborative projects for the first three years of the affiliation, including object loans, new exhibits, visits to Newport by Smithsonian experts for programs, and access to the Smithsonian Affiliates Membership program for individuals who are enrolled in the Hall of Fame Advantage Program.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame joins a select group as one of 216 Smithsonian Affiliates in 46 states, Puerto Rico and Panama, and currently places the ITHF as the first and only independent sports Hall of Fame with that distinction. Smithsonian Affiliate candidates undergo a meticulous vetting process involving all aspects of their organization, from their leadership and financial structure to a review of their collections management and programming protocols. Affiliates are accepted into the program on the basis that they share a common mission with the Smithsonian, a commitment to education and public service, and have the capability of bringing Smithsonian artifacts, exhibits, and programs to their communities.

The affiliation honor was officially announced in a special event at the Hall of Fame last night, in which members of the local community, Rhode Island museum industry leaders, and representatives of the Smithsonian Institution celebrated the news.

“We are very honored to recognize the International Tennis Hall of Fame as our newest Smithsonian Affiliate,” stated Harold A. Closter, Director of Smithsonian Affiliations.  “Both of our organizations share strong common interests by looking at tennis and other sports as historical mirrors of changes in our society. The International Tennis Hall of Fame has amassed an unparalleled collection that tells the story of the rise of tennis around the world, presented in creative and engaging exhibits, developed by its expert staff.  We look forward to working together on future exhibits, educational programs, and collaborative research to honor the history of tennis and to inspire future generations to recognize the relevance of all sport as a vital and barrier-breaking human activity.”

The International Tennis Hall of Fame and Smithsonian Institution share similar philosophies including a focus on expanding their collections and making educational programs more accessible.

Discussions about future collaborations have already begun. Potential opportunities that have been identified through the program may include a retrospective on Althea Gibson, who was the first African-American to win a major tennis tournament, utilizing Smithsonian loaned artifacts; an expanded tennis and art exhibition at the Hall of Fame; development of a national traveling exhibit; and increased educational opportunities to utilize tennis history as an educational platform for school groups in the area.

Further outcomes of the new International Tennis Hall of Fame Smithsonian Affiliation will be shared in the future on www.tennisfame.com.

About Smithsonian Affiliations

Established in 1996, Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums, educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. The long-term goal of Smithsonian Affiliations is to facilitate a two-way relationship among Affiliate organizations and the Smithsonian Institution to increase discovery and inspire lifelong learning in communities across America. More information about the Smithsonian Affiliations program and Affiliate activity is available at www.affiliations.si.edu.

About the International Tennis Hall of Fame

Established in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame is a non-profit institution that preserves and promotes the history of tennis and celebrates its champions, thereby serving as a vital partner in the growth of tennis globally. The Hall of Fame is located in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, on a seven-acre property that features an extensive museum that showcases the history of the sport and honors the 252 Hall of Famers; 13 grass tennis courts and an indoor tennis facility; and a rare Court Tennis facility. Annually in July, the venue hosts Rolex Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend, as well as the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships for the Van Alen Cup, an ATP World Tour event. For information on the International Tennis Hall of Fame and its programs, visit tennisfame.com.

The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, the only facility of its kind dedicated to all levels of women’s basketball and host of the 2017 International Sports Heritage Association Annual Conference (Oct. 17-20), is located in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. The conference is titled, Shoot for the “Summitt”, and the ISHA Conference Committee is currently working diligently to build an entertaining and educational program.

Knoxville is often described as a hidden gem sitting at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. First-time visitors are typically amazed by all this city has to offer. The fact that some of its most appealing attractions are within walking distance of a very vibrant downtown is a plus. Very few places offer the opportunity to experience live music, culture, outdoor adventure, eclectic shopping and highly acclaimed cuisine in one unique location.

The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame opened in June 1999 and its mission is to “honor the past, celebrate the present, and promote the future” of women’s basketball. With the 2017 Induction, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame will celebrate its 19th Anniversary and add six new members to this prestigious Hall, honoring 157 inductees. The outside of the striking 32,000 square foot Hall of Fame is encompassed by the world’s largest basketball which weighs 10 tons and sits on top of a glass staircase that resembles a basketball net. Inside the hall is filled with multiple interactive displays, numerous basketball artifacts, photographs, scrapbooks, medals, trophies, and old uniforms that bring the history of women’s basketball to life. There is something for everyone to love about the Hall of Fame.

With the conference committee working and planning a terrific program, start planning your trip to the 2017 ISHA conference. The conference brochure and registration will be available around June 1, 2017. The host hotel for the conference is the downtown Knoxville Marriott, adjacent to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Four major airlines serve Knoxville’s airport (McGhee Tyson TYS) and is located only 15 minutes from the Hall. So please start making plans to join us for the 2017 ISHA Annual Conference in East Tennessee, where you will enjoy some southern hospitality, a slower pace, some smooth spirits and a relaxed way of life. Come as a stranger and leave as a friend.

 

International Hall of Fame Museum Director Doug Stark

International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum Director Doug Stark

The International Sports Heritage Association (ISHA) has named International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum Director Doug Stark as its 2016 Schroeder Award recipient. Stark was presented the award on Sept. 27, 2016 during ISHA’s annual conference, which is being held at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in Calgary.

Presented periodically, the W.R. “Bill” Schroeder Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor presented by the International Sports Heritage Association and is given to individuals for meritorious service of lasting nature in the sports heritage industry and their communities.

“Doug Stark’s service to sports heritage is extraordinary and worthy of our highest honor,” said ISHA President Marjorie Snyder. “Whether at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the USGA Museum or in his current role at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Doug’s commitment to our industry has never wavered. We are honored to name Doug as the winner and look forward to presenting him in September.”

Stark oversees the day-to-day operation at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. He successfully directed the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s pursuit of accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), thereby making it the first sports hall of fame to earn accreditation. He recently directed a $3 million renovation and complete redesign of the venue while incorporating state-of-the-art exhibits. Most impressively, he has been a part of capital projects that have re-conceptualized and rebuilt three new sports museums.

His wealth of experience has included strategic thinking and new facility planning; exhibit, program, and outreach development and execution; financial management, community and board engagement; collections care; branding and messaging; and product development. He has helped make sports history more engaging, relevant, and accessible to a wider, diverse and worldwide audience.

Stark is also an accomplished author of sports heritage-related publications. He is the author of The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball’s Greatest Jewish Team published by Temple University Press in 2011. He is the co-author of Tennis and the Newport Casino released by Arcadia Publishing in 2011 and he also co-authored a children’s book, Shikey Gotthoffer, published by Maine Authors Publishing in September of 2015. His latest, Wartime Basketball: The Emergence of a National Sport during World War II was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2016. He is currently working on two additional books – one on the integration of professional basketball, and the second on editing oral histories of Jewish Basketball Players.

Stark is a New England Museum Association board member where he serves as the group’s first vice president. He is also an adjunct professor in the Museum Studies program at Harvard University.

Additionally, he has implemented programing at the Tennis Hall of Fame that caters to a wide range of visitors, including an architectural symposium that has grown into an annual sold-out community event.

 ABOUT ISHA

The International Sports Heritage Association (ISHA) is a non-profit membership organization incorporated in 1971 to assist sports museums and halls of fame to develop, operate and promote their facilities. ISHA includes more than 130 members from countries such as China, New Zealand, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Qatar and the United States.  ISHA’s mission is to educate, promote and support organizations and individuals engaged in the celebration of sports heritage.

It’s time to begin thinking about your silent auction item for the 46th Annual ISHA Conference.

The Founders Fund Committee works to raise money through:

  • An annual gift program
  • Silent auction held at the annual conference
  • And through various other avenues

All the revenue raised though these avenues directly impacts ISHA’s ability to support worthy projects and provide grants that promote sports heritage and fund other initiatives important to all of our member institutions and the entire sports heritage industry.

We are looking for items that appeal to sports and non-sports fans.

Helpful Hints:

  • Customs allows you to carry (1) bottle of liquor or wine into Canada
  • National Park Services (US or Canada) gift certificates make great auction items
  • Order an item online and have it shipped directly to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Gift Ideas:

  • A unique experience at your facility
  • A hand-made item

To submit an application, simply fill out the linked form and e-mail or fax back to Sherry Crose (scrose@derbymuseum.org)

ISHA 2016 Silent Auction Form