Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Latest ballot as good as it gets for hall of fame

After 30 years, one would think Elmer “Chump“ Pollock wouldn’t be getting a whole lot of nominees for the Tri-County Area Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. The list of men and women already inducted into the hall is an impressive one, mind you, as well as a long one.

But there is still no shortage of outstanding athletes and coaches who made such an impact on area sports and enriched their respective neighborhoods’ sports history. That was so evident when Pollock and his tireless staff put together this year’s ballot.

“Wow … what a list,” Pollock mumbled a couple of months ago, just prior to releasing the distinguished ballot.

What Pollock meant, and a number of others (in their own words) acknowledged in the following weeks, was all 12 of the nominees more than deserved to get inducted.

Unfortunately, there was only room for seven.

And the three major sports — baseball, basketball, and football — may have never been represented better than by this year’s class.

James “Doc” Finn and Rod Johnson will share the baseball limelight; Dave Caldwell and Jill Burkert Detweiler will share basketball’s center stage; and Aaron Beasley, Edward E. Brown, and Stan Rogers will share football’s spotlight.

With all due respect to those who have previously been inducted into the Tri-County Chapter’s Hall of Fame, it’s hard to get any better than this.

Finn, a standout catcher at Canisius College up in Buffalo before arriving at The Hill School, has been the mastermind of Hill’s success on the baseball field. Since 1978, his first spring in the Blues dugout, the program has won 261 games, put together three undefeated seasons, and swept five Pennsylvania Independent School Tournament championships. Finn, who has his doctorate in classics, has been a key in extending a number of his former players’ careers, too. He has helped more than 100 graduates move on to play college baseball, and four are currently playing professionally.

Johnson was a standout in football, basketball, and baseball at Spring-Ford — where he helped the Rams to the 1973 Ches-Mont League championship in football. He went on to become an All-Conference and All-American infielder at Temple University, helping the Owls to the College World Series. Later drafted by Cincinnati, Johnson was the Reds’ Minor League Player of the Year in 1979, but an injury would lead to release a couple seasons later. Johnson won more than 475 games as the manager of the Spring City and Paoli American Legion programs and has been an assistant coach at Villanova the last seven years. He is also a member of the Temple and Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fames.

Basketball hasn’t had many better ambassadors than Caldwell, or many better players than Burkert-Detweiler.

Caldwell starred at both Owen J. Roberts and the University of Delaware, then got into coaching as an assistant at St. Francis (Pa.) for seven years. He took over the boys program at Spring-Ford in 1990 and, in 16 seasons, led the Rams 10 Final Four appearances, three Pioneer Athletic Conference championships, the program’s first District 1-AAAA playoff win, and 253 wins overall. Caldwell, who was as class an act off the court as he was on it, averaged 20 wins and just five losses in his final nine seasons at Spring-Ford.

Burkert-Detwiler rewrote the basketball record book at Pottsgrove, overshadowing otherwise standout careers in track and tennis. She was a two-time All Ches-Mont League selection and The Mercury’s Player of the Year in 1983. When she graduated, she was the only area player — boy or girl — to score more than 1,000 points (1,589) and pull down more than 1,000 rebounds (1,161). She made quite an impact on the program at Philadelphia University, where she was a two-time team MVP, an All-American selection, and two-time Academic All-American honoree. She scored more than 1,000 points in college and still holds the PU single-game rebounding mark with 26.

Beasley is still remembered as one of Pottstown High School’s greatest all-around athletes. He excelled in cross country, football, basketball, and track, helping Trojan teams to five district titles as well as a state runner-up finish in basketball. After a year at Valley Forge Military Academy, where he was the football and basketball teams’ MVP, Beasley lined up as a defensive back at West Virginia University. A two-time captain and All-American selection, Beasley set Big East Conference records for interceptions in a season (10) and career (18). He was drafted into the NFL by the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he played for six seasons, then continued his professional career with the New York Jets for three seasons before retiring after a season with the Atlanta Falcons.

Brown, also a three-sport standout at Pottstown, went on to letter four years at Shippensburg University. He was the Red Raiders’ co-captain as a junior and senior, leading the team to the NCAA Division II semifinals as a senior. He was a four-time All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference selection, including three first-team honors as a defensive lineman. An All-American honorable mention as senior, Brown still holds Red Raider records for sacks in a season (10) and career (24). He was inducted into Shippensburg’s Sports Hall of Fame three years ago.

Rogers anchored the offensive and defensive lines for Jim Mich at St. Pius X for three seasons, then went on to an outstanding career at the University of Maryland. He was a three-year starter and lettermen for the Terrapins, earning the Coaches Award (for the outstanding lineman), All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors, as well as All-American honorable mention recognition. Rogers, unquestionably one of the true gentlemen of football, was drafted in the fifth round by the Denver Broncos, who he started for in 14 games in 1975 before a knee injury ended his career.

The Pottstown Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame will holds its 31st induction dinner 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19 at the Elks Home on High Street. Tickets are available from any Pottstown Chapter member, or by calling Pollock at 610-323-5113.

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