The ninth class of the Helena Sports Hall of Fame was honored on Thursday, with the induction ceremony and banquet taking place at the Great Northern Best Western convention center.
And, as with the previous eight HSHOF classes, the latest inductees are an eclectic group. But all were united in common cause on Thursday.
From Major League umpire Brian Knight to 94-year old world age-group swimming record holder Charlotte Sanddal; from the 1966, and 1968 national O-Mok-See champion McGowan family -- Bobbie, Peggy and Bill -- to the 1988 Capital High boys gymnastics team; and the 1982 Helena High cross country team, to eight-time State champion soccer coach Ricknold Thompson of Capital.
Twelve individuals and 12 teams joined in celebrating the outstanding accomplishments in their respective athletic arenas.
The oldest inductee was Elaine (Phillips Cooper) Powers, 96, from the 1940 Helena Boosters softball team. Christina (Smetana) Eichler, 29, a three-sport athlete and 2006 Capital High grad, was the youngest.
Knight, who was able to attend the festivities during the All-Star Game break, flew in from his residence in California on Tuesday.
“I found a place just like home -- I live in Lincoln, California, and the closest town is Marysville,” he quipped.
On Wednesday, he and six other members of his 1987 Capital City Bambino baseball team -- Kevin Tenney, Kyle Inabnit, Ryan Garrity, Kelly Ferriter, Jake Connor and Jake Ziegler -- held an impromptu reunion at the Grubstake. The club placed fourth at nationals in Oakland that year, which is believed to be the highest finish of a Montana team at the Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth World Series.
“I actually haven’t worked for nearly a month due to a severe neck injury,” said Knight, a Capital High grad and former Helena Senators pitcher. “I’m waiting to hear from my doctor, to find whether I have to fly out tomorrow, or if I can spend another day home and get out on the river.”
Everyone knows the verbal abuse umpires receive, but he described the physical pounding most folks are not aware of.
“The repetitive jarring from foul tips, and sometimes even a bat, adds up to cumulative concussions,” Knight said. “And that work behind the plate, crouching up and down for 3 ½ hours, is hard on your back. I’m only 42, and the doc said my X-rays show the neck of a 70-year-old man.”
Some of those traveling the furthest to attend the banquet were Roxanne (Score) Register (Helena Trail Riders) from Baco Raton, Florida; Larry Schneider and Judi (Schneider) Pavon (for Leo ‘Dutch’ Schneider), from St. Petersburg, Florida, and Knoxville, Tennessee; Dan Roberts (Capital golf and gymnastics) from Alexandria, Virginia; and Marge Hamer (Days Plasterers softball) from Peoria, Arizona.
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The late Dutch Schneider (1910-83), a skilled baseball player, golfer and bowler, is the third member of his family entering the HSHOF. He joins grandchildren Erik of the 1980s HHS golf teams, and Judi, Bengal girls golfer, former LPGA pro, and current University of Tennessee ladies golf coach.
At least two team inductees were enshrined in two different sports: Karyn Hamilton (Wolf) with the 1950s Plasterers softball and 1960s Helena Trail Riders, and Dan Roberts with the 1980s Capital Bruins golf and gymnastics.
The lone Helena High individual elected this year, Nate Boyd, HHS 1999, was unable to attend from Arizona, so his father, Richard Boyd, was drafted for his acceptance speech.
"What father would turn down the chance to brag about his son?" asked the elder Boyd with a grin.
Roxy Score and Chuck Hart (Severance, Colorado), were the 1966 national titlists in the 12-15 Rescue Race. They were also classmates with Helena High’s Class of 1970.
“The Rescue Race had two people at each end of the arena; Chuck was on one end with his horse Sparky, and I was at the other end, standing still like the barrel in a barrel race,” explained Score. “The rider started on the ground next to his horse, and had to mount on the go signal.
Chuck would race over to me, and as he circled around, we’d both reach out an arm, and lock our hands on the other’s upper forearm. Then at the same time I’d jump, he’d swing me up behind the saddle, and then race back to the starting point.”
They described the main trick to the event was being able to use the momentum, which reminded this reporter of how a water skier whips out wide behind a boat on a sharp turn.
“And there were at least a couple times when I’d flip all the way over and land on the ground on the other side,” Roxy laughed.
At the unveiling ceremony at HSHOF display at the Great Northern’s Carousel on Thursday morning, Hart discovered that a former co-worker in Longmont, Colorado -- the late Herb Plews, who played for the MLB Washington Senators in the 1950s -- was a charter Hall of Fame member in 2003.
“I heard that Herb made the big leagues, but he was getting older when I knew him,” recounted Hart, who grew up on a ranch near Hauser Lake, “and it was pretty neat to see his plaque here, and how young he looked back when he played ball.”