Ever wonder about those triangular bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalk along 6th Street in San Pedro, between Centre St and the harbor? They display names like Tracy Austin, Louis Zamperini, and Jim Thorpe, so I assumed that local--meaning South Bay--sports heroes were being honored. I was close. Most honorees are from the South Bay area, but some have a college or pro connection to Los Angeles instead.
In 1978, Councilman John Gibson came up with the "San Pedro Sportswalk to the Waterfront" to pay tribute to local athletes, or athletes wth a connection to Los Angeles. There's a list of all the Inductees here.
The San Pedro Magazine says the old Trani's Majestic Cafe was a big hangout for sports stars. Since that restaurant opened in 1925, I'm not gonna argue. The current and fourth J. Trani's is on 9th Street, but my guess is that the first restaurant was on 6th, near where the Sportswalk is now.
The funding/sponsorship for the Sportswalk fizzled after twenty years, but bounced back in 2004. Tony Rodich, who had been on the Sportswalk Committee (of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce) back in the 1990s had a brainstorm: Start it up again with a posthumous award to Pat Tillman.
Tillman was such a hero, no real local connection was needed. Tillman's family supported the idea, and it turned into an annual award given to an athlete who showed exemplary courage--professional or not. Pat Tillman, Sr. comes every year for the ceremony. Louis Zamperini has been awarded, as has Joe Anzack, a football player from South High in Torrance who who was killed in Iraq. Here's a list of other awardees.
As for the regular Sportswalk heroes, I am surprised at some of the L.A. connections. Sparky Anderson? Turns out he went to high school in L.A. Sugar Ray Robinson retired here and started his foundation for youth in Los Angeles. Marty McSorley played hockey for the Kings, but didja know he lives in Hermosa Beach?
For footballer John Brodie and boxer Andy Heilman, though, I draw a blank. Anyone?