MOORESTOWN - The Historical Society of Moorestown transformed the Smith-Cadbury Mansion on High Street into a local sports hall of fame showcasing some of Moorestown's most successful athletes from the 1920s to the present day.
The Sports Legends of Moorestown exhibit, which features numerous rare photographs, artifacts and audio and video recordings of the township's greatest athletes, launched with a four-hour open house Sunday, drawing some of the local sports heroes honored on the mansion's walls.
Lenny Wagner of the Moorestown Historical Society, who organized the exhibit, said the whole idea began with the donation of a Walter French baseball card from the 1920s.
"The idea came from a baseball card that someone donated to us," Wagner said. "We started talking about it and said, 'I wonder if anyone else in town played for the major leagues.' The next thing you know, it developed like this."
French was born in Moorestown in 1899 and was a stand-out football and baseball player who went on to play football at West Point and professional baseball for the Philadelphia Athletics in the late 1920s, including the World Series-winning team of 1929.
French was also one of only 25 men in history to have played Major League Baseball and in the National Football League in the same year, having played for the 1925 Pottsville Maroons.
All in all, the exhibit features more than 60 athletes and coaches from 14 different sports from the days of French and 1924 Olympic Games gold medal winner Al LeConey to modern day standouts like Albert Young and Alyssa Ogle.
Joan Lewis, who played field hockey, basketball and softball for Moorestown in her day, was a local star with a spot on the wall. Her daughter, Amy Lewis, was an all-star field hockey player for Moorestown High School in 2002, 2003 and 2004 with her own display in the exhibit.
"I thought it was pretty awesome. This is quite a tribute to all the athletes and programs at Moorestown," Joan Lewis said. "Athletics have been a big part of Moorestown and to see all this up - and there's just so many kids that have gone through this program and to highlight some of them, it's just fabulous. It's a wonderful thing to see."
Other items on display included the 1957 Moorestown High School football game-ball commemorating the team's undefeated season and championship victory over Mount Holly. The ball was set in a case next to another football commemorating the team's 2007 undefeated season and championship win over Long Branch.
Matt Lengel was another local sports hero in attendance.
Lengel played basketball for Moorestown High School before playing for four years at the University of Pennsylvania and another four years in Europe. He is an assistant coach at Temple University.
"It's an honor for them to call me and say that they're going to put in a little piece of me and my career as a player and now as a coach," Lengel said. "It's a great town with a lot of successful sports men and women and it's an honor for them to consider me as one."
Wagner said he began to assemble the artifacts and information for the exhibit in September and that the athletes' families were very willing to donate items for the exhibit.
"We talked to current coaches, people at the high school, people that have been around town for a long time. We spent a couple months just trying to accumulate names," Wagner said. "We really contacted family members, the people themselves in some cases. A lot of times we got (items) from their colleges. There are probably over 200 items here between pictures, newspaper articles and things like that."
The exhibit will be on display at the mansion until June. For more information, visit www.moorestown.com/history .