Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Avenue of the Athletes

Outside of its community, Echo Park is known for a few things, if anything at all: Aimee Semple McPherson, the Echo Park Lake, Taix, and Angelino Heights.

One attraction for which the area should take pride and promote but that is not that enchanting, really, is the street. Not just any street, but Sunset Boulevard between Elysian Park Boulevard and Alvarado Street. This stretch is officially known, as of 1974, as the Avenue of the Athletes. Formed in the mid-1970s at the urging of L. Andrew Castle, a local camera shop owner and former Dodgers photographer. He died two years later, and the project almost collapsed. The Echo Park Chamber of Commerce [where is it now, by the way?] revived the project in 1980, and as of 1986, there were 32 plaques in the sidewalk ranging from Babe Ruth to Joe Louis to Roy Campanella to Billie Jean King to Tommy Lasorda.

According to the L.A. Times on October 10, 1985, the enchantment then was as missing as it is now. On the day Lasorda was awarded a space on Sunset Boulevard, he was honest:

"Asked what he thought of the plaques, Lasorda said: "They don't have the same impact or notoriety as the ones in Hollywood, but they have a big effect on people like me. I'm in pretty good company here."

That day the loosely governed selection committee also installed a plaque to honor its founder, Castle, with an image of a camera.

Now, there is one sign that continues to herald something that is somewhat unknown to motorists who pass by. Will the Avenue of the Athletes ever compete with its cousins in Hollywood (the Walk of Fame and Rockwalk) or it's step-brother in San Pedro: the Sportswalk. There's also the "Promenade of Prominence" in Watts and the Walk of Hearts in Canoga Park that draw attention from the stagnant Avenue. Even the Avenue of the Stars in Century City, which is just a street name, draws more recognition than Echo Parks promenade.

So many walks exist in L.A. that pay tribute to our heroes from musicians to artists to actors to teachers to leaders; how can this one street in Echo Park compete? Well, it has survived longer than that Los Angeles Hispanic Starwalk in front of the Million Dollar Theatre on Broadway & 3rd or the "North Hollywood Country Music Walk of Fame" outside Palomino Club (6907 Lankershim Bl) which was founded in 1979 and had just one induction: singer Eddie Rabbitt (according to Steve Harvey of the LA times in 1987).

Echo Parks rich history is preserved in the HPOZ of Angelino Heights; perhaps someone will save the honored athletes.

No comments: