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Deserving honors

The Beacon congratulates the inaugural class of the Berkshire County Girls’ Basketball Hall of Fame, who were inducted recently at Taconic High School. This venture was long overdue, and I’m sure the hardest part was getting it started. Fifteen players, two coaches and one contributor were inducted.

Bob O’Neil, Mr. Girls’ Basketball of Berkshire County; Jim Abel, athletic director of the Pittsfield high schools; and the board of directors worked hard to make this happen and deserve much credit for getting it done and doing it right.

They assembled coaches and knowledgeable hoop fans from around the county to sift through years of statistics, recommendations and records to eventually come up with the cream of the crop to make up this first group. I’m sure there were some players that qualified but were left off the list because of sheer numbers.

“We wanted to keep the size of the class small to do it justice and we were glad to get the process off the ground. Since our ceremony, I have had many people get involved to prepare for the next class of inductees. We have generated a great deal of interest in girls hoop and that is a good thing.”

The public schools of Springfield never had a Hall of Fame until 2007.

Then North Adams State College grad Mike Martin, director of athletics, inducted over 80 athletes, including Travis Best, NBA; his dad, Leo Best; Vic Raschi,Yankees pitcher; Henry Payne and Kevin Collins, MLB; and 93-year-old Hy Neigher. I recall Mr. Best, Classical High School ’57, being the happiest and proudest inductee.

That initial class included Springfield kids who went on to the NFL, MLB, NBA and the Olympics. If they could represent their city and schools on those stages, Martin felt it was time for the city to step up.

“The selection process was easy, they were all great athletes and their contributions were legendary; tracking them down for the ceremony was an adventure, however, but the end result was worth it,” Martin told The Beacon. “It was like a reunion for 60 different classes and there were many stories of past games going around, a great night for all.”

Time for Lenox to step up

If you attend a sporting event in the Lenox Memorial High School gym, you will be met by many impressive team championship banners. There is also a list of individuals who have been inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame.

All of the names on that banner were worthy of inclusion, from members of  the class of 1936 that are represented to inductees of the class of 1984. However, that is when the list stops being a list.

Has Lenox had any athletes in the last 30 years worthy of getting their names on that banner? I know there are many qualified candidates. The school has had many gifted athletes that have accomplished as much, if not more, than the names on the wall at present.

Why are their names not up there? We have the highest scorer in Berkshire County basketball history not on the wall, a student that went on to compete in the Olympics along with his high school awards not on the wall; many 1,000-point scorers, all Western Mass selections in multi sports are not on the wall. Kids who were responsible for many of the team banners in the gym have been omitted, tossed aside, ignored and forgotten.

I am not pointing fingers, but at some point, someone dropped the ball on this tradition, or in this case, former tradition. An injustice has been done to many kids who might wonder why they were not appreciated by their school.

Our fine town will debate for weeks on sandwich boards, Belvederes, building codes, traffic lights and other topics to make Lenox a better place for its residents. It is time something is done, it is time to give a voice to our former and future athletes.

Is it too late? Absolutely not. There are coaches, former coaches, administrators, media members, boosters and current inductees who should want to make things right for these athletes.

In a recent phone conversation with McCann Tech Athletic Director (and former coach) Bob Guettler, I asked what year one of his former standout players graduated, he hesitated a second and said, “Hold on, let me go look on the gym wall.” I like his filing system.

The banner that hangs in the Lenox gym, having collected dust since 1984, is an embarrassment to our school system and our town. A great idea initially has eroded into something that diminishes the achievements of the current members while totally disregarding and ignoring recent accomplishments of student athletes.

Dr. Samatha Herrick, LMHS ’92, a professor at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, soon to be Rutgers University, was in town for her recent induction into the Berkshire County Ladies’ Hall. Herrick is still the top scorer, boys or girls, in county history.

“People were talking about the Lenox Hall of Fame and someone said that they just stopped doing it, I don’t know why. It would be nice if deserving athletes could be added to the list,” Herrick said.

Have any school committee members, teachers, coaches ever looked up at it and wondered, “What is up with that?” Maybe it has to be vacuumed to be noticed.

Has the price of gold felt letters gone up that much since 1984? That can’t be the reason, after all, we are the “Millionaires.” I hope it is not long before we become active Millionaires and right this injustice.

It is never too late, just ask Leo Best.

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Posted by on February 14, 2013. Filed under Berkshire Sports Guy,Columns,Opinion,Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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