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Seven get the call to County Hall

July 16, 2006|by CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

Earl Springer won't be compared to the modern athlete. That's because after a successful college pitching career at the University of Maryland, he turned down money and fame to maintain his hometown roots.

Those roots and achievements were recognized Saturday night, as Springer was one of seven inductees featured at the Washington County Sports Hall of Fame Banquet at the Hagerstown Elks Lodge No. 378.

"He was a Hagerstown boy," said Earl Springer's nephew, Randy, who presented him into the Hall of Fame. "He had the option to play professional baseball, but he chose to be closer to his home and everyone he knew."

Springer turned down several professional baseball offers, including a contract from the Philadelphia Athletics that featured a $500 signing bonus. Instead, he signed with the Baltimore Orioles of the International League, who assigned him to the Hagerstown Owls of the Interstate League.

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He was home.

Five years later, tragedy struck when all of Springer's talents were lost when he was killed in action during World War II.

"We talk about a grateful nation for everyone who's fought for this country," Randy Springer said. "Presenting him is my way to show my dedication to him."

Springer was finally honored Saturday, along with fellow county stars Steve Shifflett, Jack Melzer, Earl Stoner, Selena Wilkes, Dirk Schultz and Kelli Myers.

Shifflett won three state wrestling championships for Smithsburg High School and finished with a 99-4 prep record. He also won state titles in the 300-meter hurdles, the 1,600 relay and as a part of the Leopards' 1984 state championship football team.

Despite all the accomplishments, Shifflett would have liked to get to 100 wins in wrestling.

"It would have been nice," he said. "I missed my first couple of matches as a senior, so that's probably why. I still would have liked to get to triple digits.

"It's nice to be remembered and to be honored. This is a wonderful class and I'm humbled to be here."

Melzer was unable to attend the banquet, but his reputation spoke for him. He was awarded eight varsity letters at Hagerstown High School and posted an 18-0 pitching record in two years of American Legion baseball. He bid farewell to legion ball with a one-hitter and 18 strikeouts in the state semifinals.

After graduating high school, Melzer signed with the Milwaukee Braves in 1954.

Stoner is the runner in this year's Hall of Fame class. He was a cross country national qualifier in 1986 and 1987 while at Hagerstown Community College. His crowning achievement came when he qualified for the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon.

"Getting inducted here tonight will be one of the most memorable moments," Stoner said, "but the biggest would probably be when I qualified for the Olympic Trials."

Wilkes was a four-sport athlete at Williamsport, where she stood out in volleyball, basketball, softball and golf. She graduated in 1992 and went on to become a member of the LPGA Futures golf tour. Still she looks back at her time at Williamsport as the years that shaped her.

"I am proud not only of what I have achieved, but also of the Williamsport High School reputation," Wilkes said. "The athletic program demonstrates the quality of the coaches and of the players. It's not just me."

Schultz remembers growing up with both Wilkes and Shifflett. Schultz, the Beaver Creek County Club golf professional, holds eight course records, including Black Rock's. He has played in PGA Tour tournaments since 1998, having qualified for seven events.

"Growing up here and being around sports makes the induction an honor," Schultz said. "And it's a class that I know, which is great. Steve and I lived on the same street and I think Selena worked at Beaver Creek when we were growing up. Everyone here deserves it."

Myers is another Williamsport grad and compiled 10 varsity letters in basketball, volleyball, track and field and cross country. She was named a top 50 basketball player by USA Today.

Myers went on to coach volleyball at the University of Connecticut from 1998 to 2004 and at Wheaton College last year.

"This is a very special night. It's just a privilege to be added to such a group," Myers said. "So much talent comes out of the county and it's good to see it recognized."

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