Frank Siembab stole the show at Saturday night’s Warren Athletic Hall of Fame induction dinner at the Venus de Milo restaurant, offering perhaps one of the most inspirational moments in the HOF’s 19-year history.
Here’s what happened, in the words of dinner MC and committee chairman Butch Lombardi, a charter Hall of Fame member who was standing next to Frank at the podium:
“Being the chairman of the committee and MC of the banquet I was wondering how this would go,” Butch recalled. “As soon as he said it, I was surprised and pleased when the crowd of 250-plus encouraged Frank to go ahead. He started to sing. The first three words were ‘God Bless America.’”
“Before he even got ‘Land’ out, the audience began to sing with him. I stood beside the podium singing along with Frank and the rest of the 250-plus people there. He finished to a rousing cheer with a big smile on his face. I was so proud of the people there who embraced the moment. It was one of the most inspirational moments I have ever witnessed in my 19-year involvement with the Warren Athletic Hall of Fame.”
Mr. Siembab is one of the most decorated athletes in Warren’s long history. Though he always loved sports, he never got a chance to compete at Warren High School. When the Special Olympics came along, Frank was given a field of competition where he could test his athletic abilities. It wasn't long before he started to amass a prodigious amount of hardware. He was fittingly named Rhode Island's Inspirational Athlete of the Year in 1998 and in that same year his home town presented him Warren's Unsung Hero Award.
Three years later Frank was named Rhode Island's Special Olympics Athlete of the Year. In the last 10 years he won a Swimming Gold Medal in the 25-meter backstroke at the National Games and a Running Gold Medal in the 100-meter dash at the Rhode Island tourney, and was a member of the State Tournament Champion Unified Softball team.
Over the course of Frank's career he has been awarded approximately 100 gold, silver and bronze medals.
Here is the induction speech for Mr. Siembab delivered by Mr. Lombardi:
“What would your definition of a pure athlete be? Think about that for a minute. Over the last 19 years we have inducted town champions, county champions, state champions, New England champions, US champions, and a two-time world champion. You could argue any one of those would be a pure athlete. But I think you’d be wrong. I would argue that, over the last 19 years we have inducted only one pure athlete. Tonight we make it two.
“In today’s world, sports are fueled by money and ego, leaving sportsmanship harder and harder to find — if you can find it at all. There is an exception however. It’s a playing field where sport is played for all the right reasons, an arena where athletes support and encourage each other. It’s a venue where last place finishers are celebrated as much as winners. It is a place where the act of competing means as much as winning and losing. That’s why I consider the Special Olympian to be the absolute pure athlete.
“Tonight we celebrate the induction of Frank Siembab into the Warren Athletic Hall of Fame. For a long time, athletes like Frank had no stage on which to compete. When the Special Olympics came along, Frank flourished. In 1998 he was named McDonald’s Inspirational Athlete of the Year. In that same year, his home town of Warren awarded Frank its Unsung Hero Award. In 2001, he was named Rhode Island Athlete of the Year. In 2006 Frank stuck gold when he won the 25-meter backstroke at the National Games. In 2009 he struck gold again when he became state champion in the 100-meter dash. Over the course of Frank’s career he has amassed approximately 100 gold, silver and bronze medals, showcasing his athletic ability in a variety of sports.
“Tonight Frank joins Robbie Strickland as our second Special Olympian. It is my privilege and honor to add one more accolade to the trophy case of Frank Siembab — membership in the Warren Athletic Hall of Fame.
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