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Projecting The 2025 Ultimate Hall Of Fame

Ultimate Hall of Fame.You may not realize it, but by August 30th the official nominations for the 2015 class of the Ultimate Hall of Fame will be due. Don’t worry if you miss the deadline and don’t get to nominate your favorite player. Because this article is about what the Hall of Fame might look like ten years down the road.

So who will be in the 2025 Ultimate Hall of Fame? Simple question, tough choices.

Before you comment on our suggestions below, please read the adjunct article that details the current Hall of Fame process and Hall of Famer Jon Cohn’s concerns that the Hall is too selective.

I wanted to write this article years ago and finally started it last summer. This is not an easy list to compile and the categories are arbitrary. To help me cross-check names and generate ideas I submitted help from veterans Kyle Weisbrod and Gwen Ambler. They added names, advice, comments, and suggestions but asked to stay on the sidelines for the most part so as not to offend folks or disrupt the voting process. Gwen was on the Hall of Fame committee for several years while serving on the board for USAU so her input is both invaluable and sensitive.

I want to thank them for their contributions. Together we spent several months going over the list before it was pared down to this version. It was not easy but it was a fun process, even if it took over a hundred hours start-to-finish. The important thing to remember is that this list is meant to be both informative and, yes, for fun.

Whatever names are on here remember that the current Hall of Fame members will be deciding nominees and it’s important to know what they consider a Hall of Fame player. Below is a partial list defining the great from the good – quoted directly from the Hall of Fame Vetting Committee guidelines.

Typical characteristics of an “inner-circle” Hall of Famer:

• Can start on O at any position or on D against any opponent for any team

 Is among the best in the game in several specific skills (throwing deep, handling in the zone, skying)

• Is good at just about every specific skill

• Causes other teams to adapt their styles because of him/her

• Can stand out on a windy day, in a swillfest, and on a fast day

• Will still be a stud if one aspect of his/her game is taken away

Typical characteristics of a borderline Hall of Famer:

 Can start on O at his position or on D against a certain type of offensive player

 Is among the best in the game at least one specific skill, and pretty damn good at some more

 Is good at most skills, and no worse than average Regionals player on others

 Makes other teams take notice of him/her

 Thrives in almost all conditions

 Might have an occasional bad game

The Hall of Fame committee also considers ten criteria for a player that voters order differently depending on their opinion of greatness. In no order, here are those criteria:

— Leadership

— Level of Competition

— Fear Of / Focus On (when this player was playing against your team, for example)

— Skill Breadth

— Spirit

— Contributor

— Athleticism

— Longevity

— Field Position Breadth

— Number of Championships

Now that you have in mind what a Hall of Fame player is you can probably put together your own list and categories. Here is our take on it – please note that we included many names of players who may never get in the Hall of Fame but should be commended and recognized for their extraordinary careers nonetheless — and, of course, be in the conversation.

WHY AREN’T THEY IN ALREADY?

These players are age-eligible (Masters age + 10 years), have competed and won many National Championships (with some exceptions), and have long been considered top players in the game. Could Calder and Lugsdin, already in the Canadian Ultimate Hall of Fame, become the first ones to cross the border?

Billy Rodriguez
Stu Downs
Nicole ‘Sprout’ Beck
Andrew Lugsdin
Leslie Calder
Lori Parham Ewald
Steve Dugan
Paul Greff
Leslie ‘Lester’ Charles Flores

TONY COMMENTS: I’m biased on this one, but Lori Parham Ewald should be in. When I started playing in Indiana, Parham played with elite men’s teams as a starter. She eventually moved to Atlanta to become a top player on Ozone before settling in to win four titles with Lady Godiva as a ringer. Could do everything on the field.

Read the ‘Inside the Hall of Fame‘ article for more on Billy Rodriguez and Nicole Beck—two of the winningest club champions in history.

Stu Downs guided Chain Lightning to 16 straight nationals appearances and was known as the cat who coined the term “scoober” which gets my vote on that cleverness alone. If I had a vote.

Steve Dugan was the face of the Condors franchise for many years and resurrected the club in the late ’90s turning them back into National Champions. His leadership and Spirit qualities are off the charts and will get him into the Hall once the Hall gets up to speed.

GWEN COMMENTS: Leslie Calder is the best athlete I’ve watched play the game. She was known for her huge bids, great speed (fast enough to play on open teams at FlowerBowl), and huge lefty throws. She was also a tough-as-nails gamer and a leader on every team she played for. She’s a World Champion with Team Canada at WUGC and the World Games. The rumor is that 2005 Team USA picked players specifically to try and guard her at the World Games (although she ended up not playing due to injury).

FUTURE LOCKS

Really, why even bother with the discussion? Rather than indicate all of the National Championships (minimum two each on this list), World Championships, Team USA and Team Canada appearances, Callahan Awards and Spirit of the Game awards—it’s easier just to list these future “first-ballot” HoFers by name.

Dom Fontenette
Gwen Ambler
Beau Kittredge
Greg ‘Hollywood’ Husak
Alex Snyder
Deb (Cussen) Scheibe
Jeff Cruickshank
Miranda Roth Knowles
Alex Nord
Kurt Gibson
Jimmy Mickle
Octavia Payne

GWEN COMMENTS: Miranda’s accolades speak for themselves and are quite well known: Callahan winner, two-time national champion with Riot, world champion on Team USA at the World Games and in WUGC in the women’s master division. Between 2004 and 2010, she was the most well-known women’s player out there. I don’t think I’ve seen another woman with layouts as massive as hers and her competitive drive and focus are in a league of their own. Her leadership and dedication to giving back to the sport are equally legendary. Among other things, she developed and inspired countless players as a coach in Seattle, China, and Atlanta.

TONY COMMENTS: Even though they’ve only been playing for a short period of time, it feels like Jimmy Mickle and Octavia Payne are well positioned to go straight into the Hall of Fame when they are eligible in…2025. Each changes the way the game is played when they are on the field and both have already won two Championships. Injury or early retirement could change the equation.

THE 2014 LINEUP

In 2014 only two players made it into the Hall from a “Slate of Eight” finalists. Below are the remaining six candidates plus the top five women and top ten men vote getters (NOTE: this list is not in vote count order). Take a hard look because these are the players closest to the Hall of Fame at the very moment.

Amy Wilbur
Buzz Ellsworth
Lori Van Holmes
Kevin Cande
John Conway
Dee Rambeau
Cat Pittack
Anne “Westy” Wescott
Brian “Biscuit” Morris
Skip Kuhn
Jon Gewirtz
Bob Sick
Stu Downs

TONY COMMENTS: What strikes me most about this list is the regional diversity: Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, New York, Southern California, Dallas, Atlanta, and Chicago are represented, among others. It would be curious to know what percentage these folks received (like we see in the Baseball HoF voting) so we could get a sense of who may get in soon and who may not. The first six names were on the “Slate of Eight” finalists. Is this a list of 80s and 90s players that were very good, great in fact, but not Hall-worthy? Or is this a list of players we will see elected in the coming years? Many are also included in other categories above and below.

KYLE COMMENTS: Stu Downs was an incredibly creative, athletic, and talented player, is the best middle-middle ever, an awesome and spirited person who had a huge hand in creating the culture of the Atlanta Ultimate scene — but he never won a Championship. Championships seem to be a big factor for Hall of Famers. Will his accomplishments be enough?

THE TOP VOTE-GETTERS OVER THE NEXT 10 YEARS

If you don’t know these names you should. There is a lot of firepower and a ton of titles. These are players that are on the tail end of amazing careers or retired already. It wouldn’t surprise me if everyone on this list made it. But is it possible?? Only time will tell.

Mark “Paco” Enright
Chase Sparling-Beckley
Vicky “VY” Chow
Bart Watson
Ben Wiggins
Fortunat Mueller
Tina McDowell
Amy Wilbur
Anne Wescott
Mike Caldwell
Paul Greff
Mike Grant
Kirk Savage
Alicia White
Johanna Neumann
Vivian Zayas
Sammy “CK” Chatterton-Kirchmeier
Cara Crouch
Nancy Sun
John Conway
Jody Dozono
Anja Haman
Dave Boardman
Ron Kubulanza
Alex de Frondeville
Dylan Tunnell
Skip Kuhn
Kimber Zambora

KYLE COMMENTS: Fort (Mueller) had a long and incredibly impactful career. 10 straight years of Nationals, I think; all semis or better, most as a captain; won the Callahan, World, Club Nationals and College Nationals in a consecutive span; highlighted the inaugural World Games team. Seems like a lock.

Cara Crouch put Showdown on the map, won twice with Team USA at the World Games, won the Callahan and has been a top five player for almost a decade. Gwen adds, “Every opponent has to game plan for her specifically so the ‘fear factor’ is high.”

GWEN COMMENTS: Sam “CK” Chatterton-Kirchmeier was so good. Often regarded as one of the most important players on Sockeye for years even if he wasn’t the flashiest. He had a workhorse style: always out-ran his defender and then incredibly consistent and smart with the disc. He became a critical player for Chain Lightning’s championship run when he moved across the country and was a captain of Team USA that won World Games gold in 2009.

Kimber Zambora helped establish Stanford women’s program in the early ’90s and played on top Bay Area teams, including Fury, through 2004. She was a captain who led with her actions and determination. Kimber is still playing in the women’s masters division, even notching a layout block in the 2013 Finals.

TONY COMMENTS: See notes on Mike Grant below in the “Brown Out” category. Did he retire too early? For me, just playing and making it to the finals with Team Canada at Worlds 2004 by switching to his left hand after a serious right-arm injury and still being a force would have my vote. Not that I’m likely to get a vote anytime soon.

Jim Parinella’s O-line mate Alex de Frondeville’s frothy spirit and perceived lack of skill diversity may hold him back. A dead-rip hucker and cocksure handler with a quick first step, de Frondeville rubbed people the wrong way but he was a critical component to Death of Glory’s six championships and is still going strong having made it to Nationals (in some division or another) for twenty straight years.

Skip Kuhn was tremendously athletic, competitive, and renowned for his reliability in big games like Worlds’ and Nationals’ semis and finals which New York New York always won. They say he never turned over the disc and played his position to perfection. NYNY often credits Kuhn specifically for winning many of those games. Will Skip find traction on a NYNY team already crowded with Hall of Famers? See the “Fifth Man” category below.

I played against Paco in the mid 90s and saw him in action at various Masters and Grandmasters tournaments in the ’10’s and he had exactly the same combination of lethal throws, lightning quick feet, and sneaky ups. If you played against his team you knew where he was on the field at all times or he was going to burn you. Also one of the best pullers I’ve played against.

NEED A FEW MORE GOOD YEARS & THEN START THE CONVERSATION

Generally speaking these are all potential HoF folks — they may need to keep tying up the cleats for a few more years, win some more titles, or retire with great fanfare to make it official. Obviously in the case of injuries, like Brodie Smith, a few more years could prove difficult.

Leila Tunnell
Shannon O’Malley
Cree Howard
Josh Markette
Matt Rehder
Robbie Cahill
Sandy Jorgensen
Anne Mercier
Brodie Smith
George Stubbs
Ashlin Joye
Kira Frew
Danny Karlinsky
Georgia Bosscher
Rohre Titcomb
Anna Nazarov
Mark Lloyd
Emily Baecher
Sarah Griffith
Claire Desmond
Robyn Wiseman
Lisa Pitcaithley

TONY COMMENTS: To me this is a list of names where you could see a glimmer (or more) of the Hall. Some more than others, perhaps, but all of these players are still competing and a future title run might push them forward.

Incidentally, both Kyle and I are biased and love Josh “Cricket” Markette and think he might have a case to make the hall—maybe those MLU titles will count for something one day?

We all know Lisa Pitcaithley now. I saw her win with the Polar Bears, then win gold with Team USA Mixed at the 2011 World Beach Championships, and then, really, she just keeps winning (like Beach Worlds 2015 as well) and elevating her game to elite women’s. All of the tools are there as is the track record. If she can kill it at the next level for five-to-ten it’s a done deal.

START THE DISCUSSION?

These are all excellent, even dominant players. The kind that can do it all. But enough to make the hall? You make the call.

Idris Nolan
Justin Safdie
Andy Crews
Mike Namkung
Jim Schoettler
Val Dion
Jared Inselmann
Tully Beatty
Danny Clark
Marc Seraglia
Jolian Dahl
Julie Baker
Angela Lin
Mike “Tank” Natenberg
Katey Forth
Beth Wiseman
Leah Towne
Sarah Savage Davis
Calvin Lin
Tim Gehret
Derek Alexander
Eric “Turtle” Lonsdorf
Su-Ning Strube
Kati Halmos
Kirstin Unfried
Liz Duffy
Jenny Fey
Steve Finn
Kathy Dobson

KYLE COMMENTS: This is a really interesting list. These players are the borderline for the Hall of Fame – excellent all-around players who had impacts for years and years. I can imagine between zero and four of them making the Hall depending on how welcoming the committee wants to be.

GWEN COMMENTS: I would put Angela Lin on the “Top Vote Getters for the Next Ten Years” list. She was dominant in college – she carried Georgia Tech on her back and then helped lead Georgia to a national title in her fifth year. In club, she has been a rock for Ozone for over 15 years – a critical piece to remaining competitive at the National level year-in and year-out. She was an alternate on the World Games team in 2005 and is a phenomenal thrower known for breaking the mark with ease.

TONY COMMENTS: Steve Finn is an interesting case study. As the alpha cutter and thrower, Finn won Nationals with two different teams in the Mixed division. He was a force on Open teams from Philadelphia, New York and Seattle and has qualified for Nationals with 9 different teams. On the field he is very difficult to cover and can take over a game both offensively and defensively– but he could also hurt his team with turnovers. If the Hall of Fame criteria stays the same, Finn will have difficulty finding traction. If it opens up, Finn’s qualifications will make him hard to ignore.

Turtle is a player to keep an eye on to see how the voting might proceed down the road. For me, having spent my time on the East Coast and with the West Coast teams winning Championships I feel comfortable in knowing those players and teams. So what to do with bomb players like Lonsdorf from Minneapolis? Surely this list is already missing Chicago players and Michigan and North Carolina and Texas and so forth, yes? The Vetting Committee is keen on regional diversity. Lonsdorf, Boardman, McDowell, Downs and others may be litmus tests.

THE FIFTH MAN/ GIVE SOME LOVE TO THE D

Longstanding dynasties NYNY, DoG, Lady Godiva and Fury will or already have three to four players in the HoF. So a question on the Hall of Fame Facebook page is – will the fifth best player on a stacked team make it? Here are some of the best of them – players who might make it on their own merits if they weren’t on superstar squads. Incidentally, many are defensive players.

Skip Kuhn
Paul Greff
Chris Corcoran
Greg Shiring
Jeff “Dick” Brown
Kathy Scott
Lakshmi Narayan
Al “Al-Bob” Nichols
Derek Alexander
Moses Rifkin
Mike Caldwell
Judy Layzer
Kate Coyne
Alicia Mercer Barr
Oscar Pottinger
Liz Penny
Allison Maddux
Anne Wescott
Walter VanderShraaf
James Studarus

TONY COMMENTS: it’s hard to call Judy Layzer a fifth member of any team when she won seven national championships as a key player for Lady Godiva. She should get in. Ditto that for Anne Wescott.

Chris Corcoran won five national titles as the go-to deep threat and unrestrained id of Death or Glory. He was dangerous on the field on O and D. No team could play against him and not know where he was on the field at all times. His “fear factor” was high. His skill set was limited, however, which could hold him back.

Paul Greff never called himself by the nickname bestowed upon him—“The Greatest Player In The Game”— but others did for good reason.

Al-Bob Nichols was the D specialist for Furious’s three championships and is still a competitive force in his early 40s. Consider how many bomb players Furious had in winning three titles and that, of all those players, Nichols was the first one elected to the Ultimate Canada Hall of Fame.

Kathy Scott (Riot) and Liz Penny (Riot/Fury) are on this list for being defensive monsters with a high “fear factor” — an important quality in voting and JeffDickBrown was Death or Glory’s fiery D captain.

James Studarus will face Spirit question and was known for his masterly footwork—some say traveling violations—developed from years as a championship hackeysack player. But he also won three straight college championships with UCSB and two with the Condors and was a critical member of all of those teams and if you knew him personally he was a good dude.

ON THE COACHING SIDE…

There is no specific category for coaching at the moment. Coaches fall into the Contributor category and there are none in the Hall of Fame. But that must change and Tiina Booth will be the first to crack it open. Matty Tsang should be the second. A factor the HoF considers for contributors is a person’s playing career. That’s why the first three names on this list are interesting as each has won a National Championship (or two) as a player and as a coach.

Mike Payne (Revolver)
Jen Donnelly (Stanford Superfly)
Lou Burruss (Oregon Fugue and Carleton Syzygy)
Matty Tsang (Fury, Team USA)
Tiina Booth (Amherst High School, UMass Zoo Disc)
Mike Baccarini (Paideia High School)
Alex Ghesquirre (Team USA, Revolver, Scandal)
Mary Lowry + Joe Bisignano (teachers of the Seattle youth scene)
Brian Dobyns (NC State, Backhoe)
Robin Knowler Davis (Stanford Superfly)

KYLE COMMENTS: Maybe I’m too close to this one, but I added Brian Dobyns because his success coaching NC State in 1999 was what caused the movement to bring in established coaches. While JD (Donnelly) was a huge impact at the time, it just seemed like Stanford had more talent than anyone else. Had we (Brown) or UCSB won without a coach, we probably wouldn’t have brought in a coach and other teams (like Stanford in 2002 with Mike Payne) may not have followed suit.

TONY COMMENTS: There’s a lot of folks who coach Team USA teams these days so names in this category will expand. But through coaching, playing and contributing you can bet that Tsang, Burruss, Payne, Booth, and Baccarini are locks.

THE CANADIAN QUESTION

The first question is: is there a Canadian question? When Canadian players and teams were welcomed into the UPA in the mid ’90s there was controversy and that controversy has never quite gone away. That said, even though the UPA changed its name to USA Ultimate to align with other Olympic non-profit sports, they also begat a pro-style league called the Triple Crown Tour and this further cements all North American players as candidates.

According to HoF chair Suzanne Fields, “The current focus for HoF candidates is competing at the highest level of the sport. There have been Canadian players nominated in the Ultimate Frisbee HoF. When nominated, they are considered just like everyone else. However, since Canada has their own HoF with categories for Athlete, Builder, and Team, I’m not sure how that may impact the volume and interest in the USAU HoF [voting].

My guess is that there will be enough voters who feel apprehensive about Canada to withhold their votes for North-of-the-border superstars. I think this issue will be more pronounced in the years to come. Remember that Furious George won three Club Championships and the core from that team (Savage, Cruickshank, Grant, Nichols, Lugsdin) have to be considered.

FOLKS WILL GET VOTES

These are veterans with tons of success, a national championship here or there, and lots of longevity. Their names will be considered (if they haven’t already) but they might not have the bonafides of some of the locks.

NOTE: There’s a statistically high chance that every player on this list is better than you.

Brendan Smith
Brent Russell
Holly Sommers
Trey Katzenbach
AJ Iwaszko
Sean McCall
Pauline Lauterbach
Lauren Casey
Randy Ricks
Bob Pallares
Steve Courlang
Augie Krievenas
Brian “Biscuit” Morris
Tom “Worm” Glass
Dee Rambeau
Josh “Richter” Ackley
Jessi Witt
Robbye Brooks
Damien Scott
Chris Watkins
Pamela Krauss
Jana Krutsinger
Steven Rouisse
Sarah Savage Davis
Rex O’Quinn
Adam “Chicken” Simon
Alicia Dantzker
Jeff Graham
“Uncle” Anni Kreml
Vida Towne
Doug “The Bum” Saulter
Michelle Pezzoli
Sarah Cook
Frankus Flores

TONY COMMENTS: A lot of players in this category fall into the “legend” status and, coincidentally or not, the nickname category. Doug “The Bum” Saulter, Sarah Savage, “UncleAnni Kreml, AdamChickenSimon, Biscuit, Worm, Randy Ricks, Dee Rambeau, Rex O’Quinn and more are all well-known talents who played and established themselves as name brands. With the strict criteria of the Hall—however—it may not be enough. If the Hall starts to open up you will see some of these legends move into a stronger status.

Brendan Smith fell under the shadow of Dobyns. Of similar build and temperament with devastating air time, Smith played 100 miles south of New York in Philadelphia which consigned him to a region outside of the heated Boston-New York battles.

I added Frankus Flores here because he’s considered by some to be the Kevin Bacon of ultimate circles. But there is also a thought about where to put players who were legendary on the field and off. That would be a pretty fun and awesome Hall to be a member of.

Augie is another litmus test in my estimation—a great player, good-spirited and the long-time captain of a very successful Ring of Fire team. If the Hall opens up its voting Augie should be strongly considered.

CONTRIBUTORS/ADMINISTRATORS NEED LOVE TOO

This is a tricky one. What defines a Hall of Fame contributor? It’s difficult to say. Do all of the hardworking administrators who ran the UPA/USAU deserve a place? What about contributors in other areas of the sport (see Media below). These names should all be considered but it’s my guess that only a small number will make the cut. Pick three.

Will Deaver
Henry Thorne
Joey Gray
Peri Kurshan
Michelle Ng
Mike Payne
Charles Kerr
Jeff “Getty” Freeman
Kyle Weisbrod
Kate Bergeron-Gull
Rodney Jacobsen
DeAnna Ball
Tom Crawford
Neil Dambra
Cindy Fisher

TONY COMMENTS: Joey Gray may have had a divisive UPA tenure but she also shepherded the Mixed division into the UPA in no time flat and muscled a very strong response to parties calling for referees by starting the now-common Spirit of the Game scores – both were significant developments in the modern era of the organization. Neither were on the radar before she took the helm.

Mike Payne: Mike will be the Nob Rauch of his time. A National Champion as a player (and coach), a strong, fair-minded and even-keeled leader of the USAU Board, and an advocate for positive values ultimate has cultivated.

Cindy Fisher may not have been equipped to run the UPA in the early 1990s but she put in her time and her heart—a lot of time. If anyone got shafted by the changing times in the 1990s it was Fisher, the hardworking deadhead. It would be a nice way to acknowledge her dedication to the sport by acknowledging her contributions to it in the Hall.

Charles Kerr: History will look very kindly on Kerr, an outsider from Raleigh-Durham who never held a position with the UPA. Along with Will Deaver, Kerr founded the Callahan Rules, Callahan Awards, and the Observer system—each of which have been critical pieces in the development of USAU’s playing structures and all of which were purposefully designed to preserve and promote the Spirit of the Game. If Kerr isn’t part of the Hall of Fame one day for these groundbreaking contributions to ultimate, it will be a mistake for the Hall.

BROWN OUT?

If all they did was play at Mixed Regionals for a few more years they would get in the Hall of Fame. Will their shortened yet electric careers be enough?

Josh Ziperstein
Brian Harriford
Brian Linkfield
Mike Grant
Emmanuela Argilli
Enessa Janes
Chelsea (Dengler) Putnam
Kat Kidd-Shippey
Mike Zalisk
Andrea “AJ” Johnson
Amy Little
Bob Lobel

KYLE COMMENTS: This is a weird category. I can understand Brian Harriford and Brian Linkfield but Mike Grant won three championships and spent significant years as the best or almost-best player in the world. Zip fits on this list but that makes me sad.

GWEN COMMENTS: Enessa Janes was a Stanford superstar with three titles, the Callahan runner-up and a weapon for Fury as a defender and deep striker. With killer speed, hops, mental toughness, and defensive chops, I’m incredibly happy to hear rumors that she is planning on playing women’s again this club season.

Katt Kidd-Shipley was an absolute beast at Georgia, with one of the best individual performances in a game ever en route to winning the finals of College Nationals in 2002. She was also a key player on Ozone, but just left the game early.

Chelsea (Dengler) Putnam: A Callahan winner, Schwa leader, and World Games gold medalist – Chelsea was an iconic player with huge bids who showcased the joy of playing whenever she stepped on the field. After graduating college in 2005 she stepped away from the club scene only three years later in 2008—far sooner than her fans would have hoped.

Amy Little was the Fury MVP in 2003. She was a Team USA pick in 2001 and tremendous athlete and thrower, making the most jaw-dropping plays look effortless. She retired from Fury  after 2004, but has recently come back on the scene as a coach.

TONY COMMENTS: If you’ve never heard of Brian Harriford (or saw him play) it’s really too bad. An absolutely dominating and thrilling athlete on the field for LSU and later the Houston Houndz. He was so talented that he made it into a late 1990s Rolling Stone “Athletes of the Year” issue with a full-page photo spread. He was so talented that he still might make the Hall of Fame despite having never made it past quarterfinals at Nationals. OK, maybe not that last one.

Manu Argilli is on this list because she returned home to Italy after collecting five national championships with Fury. Rarely was there a time when “Epa,” the Italian nickname for Napoleon, wasn’t the best player on the field. This is not hyperbole.

AJ won the Callahan, three national championships at Stanford and a national championship with Fury in the span of five years and then stopped playing women’s in 2000.

Mike Zalisk won the Callahan, a championship with Revolver and more, but never quite seemed to cross over to permanent elite status. He has spent some time coaching with success (he is currently a coach for Brute Squad. Personally speaking, I’ve never been in a game with a more dominating performance from an individual than when facing Zalisk at NE Regionals one year. He killed us by hucking against our zone and against a 20-25 mph wind-and-rain for goals from both sides of the field.

I agree with Kyle on Mike Grant. He was the real deal in every way. When you saw him play he was always the focal point. But then his teammates Cruickshank, Luggy, Savage (still playing!) and Nichols all notched another decade of elite-level play. Will it cost him?

Bob Lobel only won five national championships when he could have won six.

ON THE OUTSIDE / THE GEWIRTZ CATEGORY

Jon Gewirtz deserves a category of his own. Initially I had Mike Gerics in here, but Mike G would only have a shot at a hypothetical College Hall of Fame with his three championships with two different teams. Both men share commonalities not just related to being part of the storyline on the infamous 1997 Wall Street Journal cover article on ultimate.

I digress. Gewirtz is already getting enough votes to be in the top ten and some say he was the greatest defender to play the sport. Gewirtz is the only male to have won a National Championship in three different decades (’80s & ’90s with NYNY and ’00s with Furious George)—a fact he told me one day many years ago. After winning five titles with NYNY, Jonny G brought the Seattle scene to national prominence when he moved there in the mid 1990s, taking Sockeye to the finals twice as a team leader—no easy task. As a defensive stalwart, some might say a defensive madman, Gewirtz forced offenses to game-plan around him. His speed and quickness could take almost any player he was guarding out of the game. Furious respected his presence so much they recruited him to bring his attitude and defensive presence to Vancouver.

But therein lies the problem—attitude. Was Gewirtz just attitude or did he outright cheat? Opponents and teammates alike have said that Gewirtz crossed the line and few have argued otherwise. I cannot testify to this personally so I leave this concern to his peers. Time will mellow the viciousness of Gewirtz’s insurgency—but will there ever be enough votes for him to get in the Hall?

FOOLISH TIMES

To be honest, the Hall of Fame lacks in crediting non-players. They’ve elected two discs to the hall, a Wham-O and a Discraft—and that’s all. Isn’t it time for some of the world’s longest-running tournaments (minimum 20 years on this list) that make ultimate the best sport on the planet to get their recognition too?

Fool’s Fest (Fredericksburg, Virginia)
The Jeff Warrick Memorial Poultry Days (Versailles, Ohio)
Clambake (Brunswick, Maine)
Labor Day (Santa Cruz, California)
Potlatch (outside Seattle, Washington)
New Year Fest (Tempe, Arizona)
Kaimana Klassik (Waimanalo, Hawai’i)

SPECIAL MERIT

Henry Callahan has become a household name in ultimate circles and his story is worth telling. As a player his contribution to the sport wouldn’t be enough to include him in the Hall of Fame but as a touchstone, Callahan’s legacy has provided ultimate with much to celebrate.

Henry Callahan

MEDIA

This is really a list for 2030 because contributors wait longer and celebrating and rewarding the media for contributing to ultimate may be underneath the radar for many of the current Hall of Fame. The explosion of journalism following ultimate in the past five years has been a win-win for everyone. That being said, if these members of the media expect votes they may have to stay in the game for another decade or more (with exception to Karl Cook, an ultimate photographer from the 80s and 90s). Without good media the players we love and the sport we adore just wouldn’t be as vibrant.

Scobel Wiggins (Photography)
Kevin Leclaire (Photography – UltiPhotos)
Karl Cook (Photography)
Elliot Trotter (Journalism – Skyd)
Charlie Eisenhood (Journalism – Ultiworld)
Joe Seidler, Adam Zagoria, Pasquale Anthony Leonardo (Journalism — Ultimate: The First Four Decades)
Kevin Minderhout (Broadcast – NexGen)
Rob Baril (Videography – UltiVillage)
Evan Lepler (Broadcast)

GWEN COMMENTS:  Rob Baril started UltiVillage, which was the first ultimate video company and set the stage for video coverage by NGN, Ultiworld, and Skyd.

Scobel Wiggins raised the bar for great ultimate photos with her professional photography eye and equipment. The best ultimate photos I’ve ever seen are still Scobel shot.

Kevin Leclaire started UltiPhotos and corralled all sorts of photographers into one place and has increased exposure and coverage tremendously.

TONY COMMENTS: It’s cloying and perhaps duplicitous to write about my friends, co-writers, the Editor-in-Chief of Ultiworld and myself as potentially being in the Hall of Fame as a contributor. However no one really cares about the Contributor category so we’re all good.

Is it too early to put Evan Lepler on this list? Possibly. But his excellence is hard to overlook. As someone who has done play-by-play and color for several of the sports biggest competitions (Worlds 2010, Beach Worlds 2011, World Games 2013), I can positively say that Evan is very talented, hard-working and has brought ultimate to a different level of mainstream acceptance in a very short period of time. Few would disagree.

IT’S A MISTAKE THAT THE FOUNDERS AREN’T LISTED BY NAME

These folks are already in the Hall of Fame but its likely you’ve never heard of them (well, 2/3rds of them) because they aren’t listed by name—only as a Special Merit for The Founders. They are the ones who made the rules and defined the game for many generations to come. It’s disrespectful that they don’t have their own names in the Hall of Fame. That should change.

Buzzy Hellring
Jon Hines
Joel Silver

AND IN BLACK AND WHITE…

Everything has an antecedent and every antecedent has a story. Our version of the universal frisbee game (team frisbee is universal; ultimate is specific and beloved) became ultimate frisbee when Joel Silver shepherded a game he learned at summer camp to the attention of Columbia High School. Silver learned that game from a seminary student and teacher named Jared Kass and it was his values of spirited play, joy in the act of competition, and a connection with the wonderful flight of the frisbee that have proven unique and resilient to the sport of ultimate to this day. Even if the exact origins of ultimate may seem murky we can have faith—and faith means we have:

Jared Kass

  1. Tony Leonardo
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    Tony Leonardo is an author and ultimate historian. Find him on Twitter, mock him online at thegreatestsporteverinvented.com, or simply wait a few more years until the 50th anniversary of ultimate brings an updated version of the book Ultimate: The First Four Decades.

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