Greenwich High welcomes Young, Merz, Bella into inaugural Hall of Fame class

John “Zeke” Bella could no longer contain himself. He was the first of three inductees gaining entrance into the Greenwich High School Sports Hall of Fame, with Olympic ice hockey champion Sue Merz and NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young rounding out the group.

Bella, the longtime sports official who played major league baseball for the Yankees and Kansas City Athletics, tried to finish reading his speech but the emotion of the night finally caught up to him.

“I am humbled to be nominated with these two tremendous athletes. Again, thank you ever so much for …” he said before he choked back tears. He couldn’t finish the rest of his speech to the crowd at the Hyatt Regency Old Greenwich on Sunday night.

Bella said this was his first social outing since heart surgery earlier this year. Master of ceremonies Mark Yusko finished reading his speech to raucous applause and a standing ovation — one of several that night.

Bella graduated from GHS in 1947 and excelled in baseball, football and basketball.

The Hall of Fame is the brainchild of Greenwich High Athletic Director Gus Lindine and physical education teacher Pat Mediate. A committee was formed including state Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151st District), who delivered a proclamation to the ceremony from the Connecticut General Assembly.

Chris Hunt of HSZ Media co-ran the event, along with Julie Chiappetta. In addition, Hunt also worked on promotion for the Greenwich High event and wrote the speeches used by the captains of the current sports at GHS that corresponded to the honorees.

Baseball captains JT Hintzen, Kyle Dunster and John Dreher inducted Bella.

Girls hockey captains Erin Ferguson and Lizzy Russell stepped up to introduce Merz, who graduated in 1990, before there was a girls hockey team at the school. She instead played lacrosse, softball and field hockey, as well as travel ice hockey.

Merz went on to have a highly successful career playing ice hockey for Team USA. She won the gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and a silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Playing at the University of New Hampshire, Merz finished her career with 53 goals and 54 assists, and was named to the All-ECAC Second Team and the New England Hockey Writer’s All-Star team her senior season.

“During my high school years, I had some tough personal times, and it was the team sports that I played on that gave me a much-needed outlet,” she said.

Young was introduced by football captains Jack Harrington, Justin Gaccione, Jose Melo, and Jack Wynne. He was able to elicit big laughs from the audience, in response to an earlier statement by Merz, who said she met the football quarterback at an event in Salt Lake City in 2002.

“We have Greenwich in common after all,” she said. “So I went over and said, ‘Hi Steve, I’m Sue Merz. I’m from Greenwich, too,’ and he looked at me and he said, ‘Oh.’”

“When I first met Joe Montana, he walked up to me and said, ‘Hi, my name is Joe Montana,’” Young said. “I said, ‘Oh.’ When I’m mesmerized, that’s all I can do. It’s a pleasure to see you again.”

Young graduated from GHS in 1980 as a three-sport captain in football, baseball and basketball before going to BYU, where he replaced Jim McMahon, the college football legend who had graduated. Young finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting. Mike Rozier won the honor. Young then played for the Los Angeles Express of the USFL and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL before creating his legacy in San Francisco with the 49ers, where he won two Most Valuable Player awards. He won the MVP of Super Bowl XXIX and was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2005. He now works for ESPN.

He told of hearing that he had been elected to the Hall of Fame, and how he flashed back to Greenwich.

“It’s your roots,” Young said. “It’s where you become who you are. No one gives you a playbook to go do the things that you did, but you knew how to at least approach it because of what you experienced.

“I was nothing spectacular,” he added. “I was a good athlete. I played hard. Whenever I would fall down, there was somebody to pick me up. Whenever I would do well, there was someone to remind me that you really haven’t accomplished that much.”

The next Hall of Fame class will be inducted in 2015.

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© Hersam Acorn. All rights reserved. The Greenwich Post, 10 Corbin Drive, Floor 3, Darien, CT 06820

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress