The Branford Sports Hall of Fame became a reality in the summer of 1988 when Bill O’Brien and Alex Palluzzi discussed having the first one while on a bike ride in town. Both thought there were many outstanding candidates, living and deceased, and this would be an outstanding way to recognize them and bring out the Branford community.
A meeting was held at Bill O’Brien’s house in July and a committee was formed to discuss the idea, come up with a list of potential candidates and decide if they could hold the first dinner later that year. Bill was elected chairman and Alex the vice chairman, roles they still hold today. The first dinner was held on Friday November 11, 1988 at the former Marra’s of Cherry Hill banquet facility honoring 10 outstanding individuals. Over 350 attended the inaugural banquet.
The original concept was to recognize individuals that participated in sports as a player, coach, organizer, sponsor, journalist, or fan, and either through sports, or in their life after sports, brought honor and distinction to the Town of Branford. They didn’t have to score the most points, have the highest average, or run the fastest although many have. They didn’t have to make All League, All State or All American, although many have. And they didn’t have to attend Branford High School—although most have.
The Branford Sports Hall of Fame is different than most halls of fame in the Greater New Haven area in that it is a town hall of fame, not a high school hall of fame. From the beginning it was determined that it would be headquartered in the Branford Community House where laminated plaques with newspaper articles featuring each year’s honorees and large banners with their names on them are hung.
Each year since, the committee meets in June to discuss candidates and meets again two weeks later to vote for the current year’s honorees. Between eight and 10 honorees are selected yearly and since 2005 championship teams have also been recognized with a special anniversary award. The dinner is now held yearly the Friday before Thanksgiving at Woodwinds Banquet Facility in Branford. Attendance ranges from 325–400 at this popular community event.