Uncovering Florida’s sports history

My dad and I were season-ticket holders for the Miami Dolphins 17-0 Perfect Season in 1972, so the start of another NFL year is always a sentimental occasion.

I also wonder each fall about why there’s no proper museum or even a traveling exhibit that commemorates the Dolphins’ historic run, a feat that hasn’t been matched in more than 40 years. I’m betting that a lot of nostalgic football fans would be willing to pay to see such a tribute.

For now, die-hard Dolphins fans can take comfort in the fact that the team’s glory years are honored at the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, an undeservedly under-the-radar attraction in Auburndale, a Polk County destination about 60 miles southwest of Orlando.

Nestled amid the orange groves that separate the city from Interstate 4, the Hall of Fame occupies a long hallway in an administrative building at the Lake Myrtle Sports Park, a complex that also includes a variety of municipal sports fields. Although it looks like a starter location (brochures at the front desk call it the Hall of Fame Preview Center), the museum contains plenty of cool memorabilia.

The beloved teams of my childhood were represented by a game-worn helmet, shoes and gloves of offensive guard Larry Little. The shoes that quarterback Earl Morrall wore throughout the 1972 season also are part of the team display. Little’s jersey was framed on the wall, along with the uniform of quarterback Bob Griese, in a display that also includes baseball and basketball stars with Florida roots.

There’s a bronze bust of Kansas City Royals manager Dick Howser, whose baseball career started at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Other memorabilia includes an outfit worn by tennis star Chris Evert, artifacts of Baseball’s Negro League and a Don Garlits dragster.

The hall (floridasportshalloffame.blogspot.com) is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, but you might need to buzz someone in one of the upstairs offices to open the door and turn on the lights. It's free admission.

It's only a few miles to an even tastier slice of brisket, er, history. Peebles Bar-B-Q (peeblesbbq.com) is hall-of-fame barbecue. A family-owned fixture in Auburndale since 1947, Peebles is old-school, from the screened windows that offer the dining room's only breeze to the two slices of white bread that come with the rib lunch plate ($11). Worth the drive.