E.A. Sports Today

Sphere of influence

County Sports Hall of Fame inductees influence future generations even as everyone reflected on their past

Six new members were enshrined into the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night. (Cover photo by Ken Grissom)

Six new members were enshrined into the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night. (Cover photo by Ken Grissom)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Six more sports heroes from the county’s storied athletics past were enshrined in the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night. Each spoke humbly about the honor and passionately about those who inspired them to their own heights of success.

Truth is, they were as much an inspiration to the generations that followed them as they were inspired by their own heroes and coaches.

Bobby Fulton overcame a childhood injury to become an outstanding baseball pitcher and first baseman at Anniston, in the Army and semi-pro ball and excel in softball well into his 60s. Larry Gowens was a football and basketball star at Piedmont. Johnny Ingram played football and basketball at Wellborn, went on to Georgia and came home to coach football with distinction at Wellborn and Anniston.

Bob Miller excelled in basketball at Piedmont and went on to became the leading scorer for two different college teams (JSU and Auburn). Greg Robinson was a multi-sport star at Alexandria who went on to star at Jacksonville State. Larry Skinner coached basketball at Saks and Anniston, but won seven state championships at Trinity, five of which were played on the Oxford Civic Center floor that hosted Saturday’s induction ceremonies.

White Plains basketball coach Chris Randall gets emotional when he talks about what Skinner means to him.

He played and coached for Skinner at Trinity and eventually took the program for a year after Skinner retired before moving on to White Plains. To this day Randall incorporates the qualities, approaches and lessons he learned under the coach he hoped someday to emulate.

“When I was a kid I wanted to be Coach Skinner,” Randall said. “He has a presence about him that when he walked in the gym he was in charge without saying it. He was confident without being cocky. We didn’t fear anybody, but respected everybody we played.

“We were always prepared, always in shape. When we were playing we had ‘Trinity’ across the check but it might as well have said ‘Skinner’ because our teams wanted to make him happy.

“I don’t make a decision, any big decision, without calling him first. Every big win we had at White Plains he got a phone call or had been there. Our players know who he is; he’s talked to them. He’s affecting our program even today.”

Fulton told the crowd that at 80 years old he still likes to pick up a baseball and feel the seams across his fingers. He still visualizes himself pitching in the places he had some of his biggest successes and whenever he watched grandson Josh Beshears pitch felt he was throwing right beside him.

Beshears, a co-founder of the Excel Baseball Academy, pitched in high school, college and on the independent-league level and cited his grandfather as his biggest influence.

“Simply put, he taught me everything I know about the game of baseball,” Beshears said. “He worked with me countless hours, year-round, to help me develop and learn how to play the game. And it wasn’t just me, but countless other kids that he spent his time passing on the passion he had for baseball.

“He truly loved teaching kids the game and seeing them develop as players and grow as young men. I can remember countless hours he would spend after Little League practices with players who needed extra help, not letting them give up until he helped them get it right. He wanted to see each and every kid succeed.”

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