Last Thursday, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame announced its induction class of 2016. One team and 15 individuals will be inducted — some posthumously.
And in a class that features world boxing champions, NFL Hall of Famers and the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers, one induction will be an old Quaker.
George Washington Orton graduated from Penn with a Masters in 1894 and a Ph.D. in 1896, a long time ago by any standard, but is still remembered as one of the best track athletes to ever come through University City.
Orton earned 14 U.S. Outdoor Championships between the 2-Mile Steeplechase and the 1-Mile run alone, and he even picked up two medals in the 1900 Olympics in Paris — bronze in the 400m hurdles and gold in the 2500m steeplechase.
The track star, who was born in 1873, in Strathroy, Ontario, overcame many hurdles on his path to Penn. After being crippled in an accident as a child, young Orton turned to exercise, particularly running, to overcome his injury. He soon discovered he had a natural gift for long distance running.
During his years at the University of Toronto, Orton dominated the half-mile and mile runs at meets in Canada and the United States. After graduating, he came to the University of Pennsylvania to study romance languages in the fall of 1893, earning an M.A. in 1894 and a Ph.D. in 1896.
Orton was the captain of the Red and Blue’s track and field team in 1895 and 1896, and won two intercollegiate one-mile championships in ‘95 and ‘97. His successes at the 1900 Olympics came as a member of the University of Pennsylvania delegation.
Orton competed in track and field from 1892 to 1903. Highlights of his track career include championship runs at the 1893 World Fair in Chicago and at the 1900 Paris Olympics. His other athletic achievements included American championships at one mile, ten miles, cross country, steeplechase and English steeplechase.
After completing his graduate studies, Orton combined his own sports participation with teaching and coaching at the pre-college level in the Philadelphia area. From 1897 to 1908, Orton taught languages at local high schools and also coached track and field.
But his contributions to Penn weren’t over.
Sometime shortly after the turn of the century, Orton began to assist in the managing of the Penn Relays, which had only just been founded a few years earlier. He also coached track and field at Penn at various times between 1912 and 1924. Before World War I, Orton was a co-author of the History of Athletics at Pennsylvania in several volumes.
In 1925 Orton was appointed director of athletics for the Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition, held in Philadelphia in 1926. From 1928-1934, he was Director of Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium. He also played an important role in bringing the Army-Navy football game to Philadelphia.
On top of all his managerial and administrative achievements, Orton was also an outstanding athlete in sports beyond track and field. He played on Toronto’s All-Star soccer team, and was still playing soccer in Philadelphia for the Merchantville Club in 1923. He took up ice hockey at Penn and played on its first ever team, and he played hockey until ‘34.
For all his achievements, Orton, who passed away in 1958, will be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame this November 3rd.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.