Newly elected Hall of Famer Tab Ramos holds his Hall of Fame jersey along with Hall communications director Jack Huckel. (Photo by Ernesto Motta)
This story originally was posted on BigAppleSoccer.com on April 20, 2005
By Michael Lewis
New York — He has played in three World Cups, in three professional leagues and has been around the world and then some.
Yet, former MetroStars midfielder and team captain Tab Ramos admitted on Tuesday that he was stunned when he learned he had been elected into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
“It’s not something you can prepare for,” he said at the ESPNZone in midtown Manhattan. “It’s not something you dream about. It’s the ultimate of the ultimate. If you’re lucky enough to get selected, for any of us to say they know how to react to this, I think it would be totally false.”
Ramos, who was born in Uruguay and emigrated to the U.S. with his parents when he was a child, discovered he was in the Hall when he received a phone call from NSHOF director of communications Jack Huckel a couple of weeks ago. He was in his kitchen “making myself a sandwich or something.”
“I don’t get excited about too many things,” Ramos said. “And you guys have known me over the years, whether its losses, wins or honors. This time it really shook me, it really shook me.
“When I got the call, and they told me when it was the Hall of Fame, obviously I didn’t know what to expect. Then Jack says he is the lucky one who gets to make this call. I tell you, I was really shaken by it. I had to sit. I said, ‘You know what, give me a second here to sit down.’ I don’t know how to handle it.”
But knowing what he had accomplished in his career, didn’t Ramos realize he would be elected?
“Once you start looking at the players who were inducted last year and you see that you’ve been part of that group, it’s almost like the guys who didn’t make it last year are looking toward next year,” he said. “I was one of the guys, too. You have a great opportunity. You never know.
“This class this year was incredibly talented. It wasn’t just Americans. I think the support we got from the media and the coaches and everyone else was really overwhelming when you look at the numbers. We are incredibly proud of that.
“When you are playing, you try to do the best you can always. Whether you win or lose or you have your worst game, you’re doing the best you can. You never, until you get that support from your peers, the media and everyone else. You can think you’ve done a good job. But you can only know that once people think that you did, once people tell you. And I think there’s no better way than to people tell you than to vote for you for the Hall of Fame.”
Ramos will be inducted along with Kearny, N.J. native John Harkes and Marcelo Balboa, both vital cogs on the 1990 and 1994 World Cup teams. In fact, that made it five players from the 1990 team, who have been elected to the Hall. Eric Wynalda and Paul Caligiuri were inducted last year.
“It goes to show,” Ramos said. “Now we look back at 1989 and all of a sudden it doesn’t look like such a shock anymore. You look at it and say, ‘Well, yeah, it was a surprise result.’ But it’s not when you look at the guys who were there. These are personalities. These are guys who wanted the ball. These are guys who wanted to make a difference. They were guys who were not afraid no matter who we played.
“You look back at the whole (thing), I’m not so surprised that we made it to 1990 or that we held Italy to that 1-0 result or that we made that huge improvement between 1990 and 1994.”
Asked to recall his most memorable match, Ramos felt it was that 1-0 loss to Italy after the Americans were humiliated in their 5-1 opening loss to Czechoslovakia.
“That’s the game for me,” Ramos said. “As I look at my whole career, I feel I was born that day. That’s how good it was.
“I just thought that was the perfect game for all of us to go into a shell and lose, 15-0. After all, that’s what people expected. All they talked about during the week was about whether the scoring record in the World Cup was going to be broken.
“You look back at that and that’s what people expect of you. Then you go out there and show (yourself). We played with some pride. We’re not better than Italy. If we play them 100 times, we’re probably going to lose to them 99 times and some of those times by many goals. But it’s not going to be today, it’s not going to be today. That was big for a lot of us.”
Ramos assisted on two of the most important goals in American soccer history — Caligiuri’s score in the 1-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago in 1989 that lifted the U.S. into the 1990 World Cup, the first time the Americans qualified in 40 years, and on Earnie Stewart’s goal in the 2-1 upset of Colombia in the 1994 World Cup.
Yet, the 38-year-old Ramos downplayed his contributions.
“They’re just stats,” he said. “I am proud of so many things I did on the field that were not on the stat sheet or in the locker room. Just fighting for the team, doing what it took for getting a result. That’s what I’m proud of.
“I could take credit for giving Caligiuri the ball and then he dribbles by the guy and shoots a 40-yard ball. Oh, I gave him the ball. I think this will be a nice thing to talk about when I’m 60-years-old. “Hey, I was the guy who gave him the ball,’ when no one wants to hear me anyway. But at this point, to take any kind of credit for some of the great goals — Earnie Stewart’s — it would be too much. I am proud of a lot of other things that are not just on the stat sheet.”
Friends and family showed up to honor Ramos, including the Under-11 Boys team that he coaches for the New Jersey Soccer Academy. The Gunners are ranked No. 1 in the state and 13th in the country.
“They’re pretty good,” said Ramos, who operates the Tab Ramos Sports Center in Aberdeen, N.J. “I feel I am in a four- or five-year project with these kids. Hopefully, a lot of them can become something. If not, they’re going to have a helluva lot of fun over the next five or six years . . . because I am. I’ll promise you that.”