By Jim Goorman
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – Everyone who attended the Irish Music Festival in Muskegon this weekend knew the song ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’ would be heard sometime during the celebration.
The Irish as well as supporters also smiled as the festival celebrated its second annual Hall of Fame induction Saturday with five inductees.
Included was business and sports-minded tycoon Bob Robert Sullivan from Grand Rapids. Known for his carpet store and two hotels in Grand Rapids, ‘Sully’s’ real passion was for his baseball teams (Sullivan’s) that he coached, played for and supported for many decades. This was yet another milestone for Sully, who has been previously inducted into five other Hall of Fames, including the HOF of The Netherlands.
Sullivan and his teams have gained plenty of status:
- Won 14 National Baseball Congress titles and two international championships.
- Sent 40 players to the major leagues, including former Detroit Tigers Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley and Dave Rozema.
- Had at least one who became a major league manager.
- Numerous Michigan state NBC tournament championships.
“I am so proud to be Irish,” said Sully in his speech after he was introduced by former player and former Muskegon area state representative Mickey Knight. “To be able to play in The Netherlands against Cuba for many years with crowds of 10,000 watching was a great experience.”
Sully always was able to get the very best players from the surrounding Grand Rapids areas as well as former major league players nationwide. His connections as a scout for many years with major league teams helped him immensely and gave him recognition with baseball teams and players. His competitive nature shown on the field with his baseball teams was advanced by his boyhood Golden Glove championships.
“Sully was always a fighter,” said Knight in his introduction.
Even though his ethnic background was Irish, Sully stated, “I do want everyone to know that I am partly Dutch.”
Sully’s businesses dealings were often with people of Dutch decent, who are numerous in many parts of West Michigan.
“After all”, Sully continued, “the last part of my name ended with van (Sulli—-van),” which drew laughter and smiles from the audience.
Also inducted was Jack Breslin, who attended Michigan State University and now is known for his name being placed by MSU on the ‘Breslin Center’, the Spartans’ basketball arena and the location of the annual Michigan high school basketball finals.