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  • MEDFORD SPORTS HALL OF FAME

    Hall of Fame inductees remember their roots

    Ten newest members ushered in in first ceremony in 17 years
  • The overriding theme was evident: Remember where you came from.
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  • The overriding theme was evident: Remember where you came from.
    And as some of the greatest names in local athletic history took the podium at the induction ceremony for the Medford Sports Hall of Fame, they did just that.
    The celebration in a packed room Saturday at Skyline Plaza marked the first time in 17 years that new members were ushered into the Hall, and the honor wasn't lost on any of them.
    From former South Medford basketball player Whitney Grant, who admitted to being "truly humbled" in the presence of the other inductees and those she'd share enshrinement with, to former baseball star and current San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers, who told a story about entering Yankee Stadium and equating it to his Rogue Valley roots.
    In all, 10 members were inducted Saturday. The Hall was established in 1985, with 100 some selections, then expanded by 20 five years later.
    The newest Hall residents are former athletes Grant, Towers, Bob McIntyre (track and field), Angie Jacobs (softball) and Bob Wolcott (baseball); coaches Larry Binney (softball) and Dennis Murphy (basketball) and special contributors Dick Entinger, B.G. Gould and Steve Wisely.
    They all thanked family, supporters and the community at large, some getting emotional enough that they had to pause and take a breath before continuing.
    And in a surprise announcement, Blair Larkins, a niece of McIntyre's and a staff member of Congressman Greg Walden's, said Walden took an interest in the Medford Hall of Fame. On the congressional floor Wednesday, he spoke about each of the inductees, submitting them into the congressional record, of which each received copies.
    All of the inductees, save for Jacobs, were on hand. Jacobs is the head softball coach at the University of Utah and couldn't attend.
    The evening began with Entinger speaking about the history of the Medford Linebackers, the driving force behind the Hall, and Scott Spiegelberg, a son of legendary football coach Fred Spiegelberg, talking on the history of Medford athletics. Jerry Allen, who got his announcing start here and is now the voice of the Oregon Ducks, served as emcee.
    "Remember where you're from," said Spiegelberg. "That always had meaning in my life, and I know the inductees feel the same way."
    Towers certainly did.
    He told of how his family moved from Northern California to Southern Oregon, and his mother spoke reverently about "The" Black Tornado. He didn't know what she meant until, as a child, he watched in awe as the team in red and black dominated on the gridiron.
    When it was his turn to put on that uniform, he said Saturday in an emotional recounting, it became "one of the greatest sports memories I have."
    He recalled walking into Yankee Stadium in 1998 — "The House That Ruth Built," he emphasized — when the Padres made the World Series, and turning to manager Bruce Bochy.
    "I told him, 'You know, playing football in Medford, Ore., is a lot like this," said Towers.
    McIntyre identified two primary reasons for athletic success in Medford: It has the backing and support of the community, particularly through the Medford Linebackers, which he called the "unsung heroes;" and a long line of talented, caring, committed coaches that the administration has always gotten and maintained.
    Binney and Murphy also spoke to the commitment of the administration, particularly fellow inductee Wisely, the former Medford School District superintendent.
    "He always had seven goals for his coaches," said Binney, who in 20 seasons at North Medford coached four state championship teams and 17 conference winners while piling up a record of 471-103-1. "It was something like he wanted the coaches to be classy and stuff like that. But I could only remember one: win."
    Murphy, who last month led South Medford to its first state championship and who has eclipsed 500 career wins, had a similar recollection.
    "Dr. Wisely always said, 'We're behind you 100 percent ... to win or tie,'" said Murphy. "He was easy to work for."
    Selection to the Hall was just the latest grand experience for Murphy, who also in the past year saw his star player, Kyle Singler, sign a letter to attend Duke University, and who one week ago was coaching in a high school all-star game at Madison Square Garden.
    "Now this," he said.
    As Allen read Murphy's accomplishments, he finished with one that wasn't in the program.
    "He's the one other Southern Oregon coaches voted they would most like to see retire NOW," said Allen.
    Wolcott pitched for the Seattle Mariners in the mid-1990s, and eventually went back to school at Oregon State and earned academic acclaim.
    Now with kids of his own playing baseball, he said, "I see the impact that good coaching has."
    He thanked all the coaches who worked with him as he grew up and said they taught him well the fundamentals of the game.
    "When I became a professional," said Wolcott, those teachings "were ingrained in my soul."
    Several of the inductees spoke of Fred Spiegelberg and his role in molding them.
    Towers still considers the former football coach one of the greatest men he's ever encountered.
    Murphy told of listening to Spiegelberg address the Shrine All-Stars when Murphy himself was still a high school student in Bend.
    "I had never heard a coach speak with such passion and heart," said Murphy, "and neither had any of those players."
    It all was an indication why the inductees won't soon forget from whence they came.
    Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com
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