Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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April 29, 2011

10 Pioneers inducted into inaugural class

BLUEFIELD — Out of all the many athletes and coaches who have performed their craft in McDowell County throughout the decades, 10 have been selected to be pioneers.

Those 10 will comprise the inaugural class of the McDowell County Sports Hall of Fame, which will hold its first induction ceremony on Sunday at Raymond’s Restaurant in Welch.

Admission is $25. Reservations are required, and can be attained by calling (304) 436-2572. The ceremonies will begin at 2 p.m.

Shrine director and event emcee, Wayne Hicks, a nearly five-decade member of the sponsoring Welch Lions Club in McDowell County, said those 10 were chosen from an application process of about 40.

Hicks was pleased with the selections, which will be followed on an annual basis by four to seven each year.

“It wasn’t too difficult, those 10 were the most outstanding of the bunch,” Hicks said. “We didn’t get as many applications in the first year as I thought we would, but this bunch is far above for the first class anything that we could have expected.”

The original 10 include Tom Beasley, Jennings Boyd, John Brewer, Jr, Tony Colobro, Sid Cure, Gordon Lambert, Mario Poletti, Ergie Smith, Jim Smithberger and Fred Yorke.

Six of those are expected to attend Sunday’s ceremony. Boyd, Brewer and Poletti are deceased, and the 96-year-old Yorke resides in Alabama and will be unable to make the trip.

Hicks said 45 reservations have been received by Raymond’s Restaurant owner Raymond Bean, but Hicks hopes to have as many as 60 in attendance, with calls still being accepted for the meal and program.

 “We will have a short program and introduce each of the inductees,” Hicks said. “They have a person that is going to introduce them as to the reasons they are in the Hall, and all the recipients will have a chance to speak a few words.”

Each person or family representative will receive an honorary plaque, and another plaque will be placed on a wall at the Sterling Drive-In. According to Hicks, restaurant owner Harold McBride to planning an addition, and at least one room will include a sports memorabilia theme and will serve as the Hall of Fame headquarters.

Hicks has known all of the inductees, except for Yorke, who at 96, still resides with his 93-year-old wife, Mildred, in Alabama.

“I coached for a few years and I have some knowledge of some of those guys,” Hicks said. “I have worked with some of them, but I probably don’t know the guy from Big Creek (Yorke).

“I talked to his wife and she said he still gets around pretty good.”

Below are just a few highlights of each of the inductees:

Tom Beasley: Hometown: Elkhorn; High School: Northfork, played football, basketball, baseball, Class of ‘73; College: Virginia Tech. ‘77, four year starter at defensive tackle; Professional: 7 seasons, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins, two-time Super Bowl champion, 1978-79.

Presenter: Undetermined on Thursday.

“Tom Beasley probably more than any of them (stands out) because he has two Super Bowl rings with Pittsburgh, and he played with the Washington Redskins,” Hicks said. “He played the longest in the NFL.”

Jennings Boyd: Hometown: Leemaster, Va.; High School: Northfork, ‘51; College: Concord, ‘54. Coaching career: Northfork boys basketball coach, ‘66-81, 307-62 (.832), national record eight straight West Virginia Class AA basketball titles, won 9 titles overall, 18-0 in state tournament play, National High School Sports Hall of Fame, ‘84, West Virginia Sports Writers Hall of Fame, ‘02.

Presenter: Gary Dove.

John Brewer, Jr.: Hometown: Iaeger; High School: Iaeger. College: Louisville, ‘51, did hold Cardinals’ record for longest kickoff return for touchdown, played in North-South All-Star Game, ‘51. Professional: Philadelphia Eagles, ‘51-55.

Presenter: Sandy Bright.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of information on him from high school,” Hicks said. “He did play four years with the Philadelphia Eagles, and he played with Johnny Unitas at Louisville.”

Tony Colobro: Hometown: Kimball; High School: Kimball, all-area, all-state football and basketball; College: Concord, played football and basketball; Coaching: football coach, athletic director at Bluefield State, ‘64-73, football coach at Concord, ‘74-82; 5-time WVIAC football champions, four NAIA national football playoffs; 5-time WVIAC coach of year, NAIA Hall of Fame, ‘85; Concord Hall of Fame, ‘95, basketball coach at Iaeger, ‘48-51, football coach at Welch, ’58-63.

Presenter: Ted Gillespie.

“Jennings Boys was a standout for coaches among the high schools, and Tony Colobro is our only college coach,” Hicks said. “He did a tremendous job on the high school level and at Bluefield State and Concord.”

Sid Cure: Hometown: Gary; High School: Gary; College: Morehead State, West Virginia; Coaching: Won 59 games in 7 seasons at Gary, claiming state football titles in 1966 and ‘70, Bluefield State football coach in 1970.

Presenter: Jim Cure, brother, standout football receiver at Marshall, ‘64.

Lambert (player): Hometown: Leckie; High School: Gary, all-county in football and basketball; College: West Virginia, ‘64-65; Tennessee-Martin, ‘66-67; College: All-America honors, ‘66, Defensive MVP, North-South All-Star Game. Professional: Denver Broncos, ‘68, New York Giants, ‘69.

Presenter: Undetermined on Thursday.

Mario Poletti: Hometown: War; High School: War; College: Concord, West Virginia; Record: Winningest football coach at Big Creek, 100-51, 15 seasons, track coach, ‘91-97; 3-time McDowell County coach of year; 2-time area coach of year, four trips to the state playoffs

Presenter: Fred Schrom.

Ergie Smith: Hometown: Kimball; High School: Kimball, all-county in football and basketball; College: Bluefield State, ‘51, West Virginia; College: All-America, All-CIAA, team captain at Bluefield State, ‘51, Bluefield State Sports Hall of Fame, 2010. Coaching: Won more than 500 games in high school career, including Class A state basketball crowns at Gary District in 1965 and Gary High School in ‘73.

Presenter: Harold Smith, long-time McDowell County coach.

Jim Smithberger: Hometown: Welch: High School: Welch High School, Kennedy Award winner, ‘63, all-county football and basketball; College: Notre Dame, ‘68, cornerback on Fighting Irish national championship team in ‘66, Second-team All-America and Academic All-American, ‘67; President’s Award for high academic achievement; Professional: Boston Patriots, Oakland Raiders, ‘68.

Presenter: Tony Colobro, Smithberger’s high school coach.

 Fred Yorke (player): Hometown: War; High School: Big Creek, all-state in ’35; College: Duke, ‘38; Played on ‘37 Duke team that was unscored on, Defensive MVP of ‘38 Rose Bowl, a 7-3 loss to Southern Cal, North Carolina all-college team.

Presenter: Wayne Hicks.

Hicks has been pleased at the reaction of those individuals who were selected as the first class of the county shrine.

“I have talked to a lot of them personally, the ones that are eligible and family members of those that are deceased, and all of them are very pleased,” said Hicks, a 1960 graduate of Welch High School, who is a member of the Concord University Hall of Fame, and part of the WVIAC’s 50th anniversary football team.

“I didn’t talk to Mr. Yorke, but I talked to his wife and she said he is very excited that his home town is recognizing him,” Hicks said. “Everybody has been excited about being selected.”

Hicks said that nominations are already being accepted for next year, with the organization hoping to induct between four and seven on an annual basis.

“Tomorrow,” said Hicks, with a laugh, after being asked when nominations will be accepted again. “We will have some applications available on Sunday if anybody wants to pick up a few.”

Screening committee across the county accept recommendations and make those to the Lions Club board, which then make the final decisions.

Those to contact in various parts of the country include Northfork (Gary Dove), Welch (Troy Hawks), Gary (Leroy Johnson), War (Fred Schrom) and Iaeger (Gary Horne). Anyone wishing to nominate someone from a black high school should call — for their respective districts — Elkhorn (Dove), Kimball (Hawks), Gary (Johnson) and Excelsior (Schrom).

He added that the screening committees will be meeting after Sunday’s ceremonies to begin going over next year’s plans.

“We need to kind of get a good solid number to balance it out and not take everybody that deserves to be in the first couple of years,” Hicks said. “We are going to try and spread it out.”

As with any new undertaking, Hicks said the formation of the McDowell County Sports Hall of Fame has had its challenges, but it’s been worth the work.

“I have really enjoyed it because I have found a lot about guys that I had never heard of to begin with,” Hicks said. “I do know some of them should have been in the Hall of Fame years and years ago, but we never got around to doing one.

“It’s been a little hectic at times to get the information I need and get all that stuff ready, but I have really enjoyed it. I am looking forward to doing it again next year.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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