When you look up "sports history buff" in the dictionary, that's where you'll find Mike McConnell's picture. With a twist of throwback flair, McConnell captivates guests with stories and unique facts about the game and players. A sports memorabilia collector and a passionate historian at heart, there's never too much to learn or grasp for this volunteer.
Name: Michael McConnell
Hometown: Portsmouth, Ohio, which is 90 miles straight south of Columbus.
Favorite NFL team: The Portsmouth Spartans back in the early 1930s which eventually became the Detroit Lions in 1934, because I grew up in Portsmouth. It's hard to believe that the Bears, Giants and Packers all played in Portsmouth! But, as far as my favorite current team it would be the Cincinnati Bengals just because I grew up in Southern Ohio.
Favorite current player: Carson Palmer, as long as he plays well, and because he is the quarterback of my favorite team.
Earl "Dutch" Clark, the only Spartan enshrinee. He's the only Spartan and first Lion as he was a member of the Hall of Fame's charter class. A game in 1932 between the Spartans and Bears had to be moved indoor from Wrigley Field to Chicago Stadium because the weather was so bad with blizzard-like conditions. However Dutch couldn't play because he had accepted a college basketball coaching job and wasn't released for the game. The Spartans ended up losing the game, but I believe if Dutch played the outcome would have been different.
Why did you decide to volunteer at the Hall of Fame? After retiring in 2007, I looked at several fun and rewarding opportunities. The Hall has such a wonderful reputation that I was lucky enough to be in one of the first volunteer groups.
How long have you been volunteering? Three years.
What is your favorite artifact on display? It's the ledger that shows Pudge Heffelfinger being the first paid professional player.
Your favorite memory of an NFL game:
Well, it was the first Bengals game attended in the new Riverfront Stadium back in December, 1970 because I went with my future wife. The Bengals beat the Patriots that day.
The most distant traveler you've greeted: Probably China. I have met people from every European country, as well as Japan and China. They're all rabid fans of the game. It's a rare thing not to meet people from different countries every day here.
The most unusual question you've been asked by a guest: Who is the only person enshrined in both the Baseball and Football Hall of Fame? They tried to stump me, but I knew it was Cal Hubbard (1963).
Most famous person you've met: Rudy Giuliani. He was in town and made a stop at the Hall. I've met a ton of Hall of Fame and TV personalities throughout the years, but it was such a neat experience during the summer of 2008 when all NFL rookies came in to visit the Hall of Fame. I expected them to just blow off the visit and not care what was going on but I never got that feeling.
Most memorable moment as a volunteer: It's the everyday interaction with guests who are so excited to be at the Hall and having the opportunity to meet people from all around the world.
Favorite NFL fans
: The Browns, Steelers and Raiders fans because they always show up wearing their team's gear and colors.
Favorite sports movie: "The Natural"
Favorite sports book: "They're Out of Here." It's about sport franchises that are no longer in existence. It's a pretty interesting read.
Did you know? I worked 32 years in the publishing business as a vice president, printing school books, magazines, catalogs, and the Ohio State football programs for several years.
A few of Mike's favorite sports memorabilia items: I have two stadium seats, a No. 14 seat signed by Pete Rose, pitching rubber and a section of Astroturf all from Crosley Field. I also have the Spartans stock certificate and a 1931 contract, as well as some Jackie Robinson items.
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