4 new members picked for Sports Hall of Fame

Published 11:56 am Tuesday, March 5, 2013

WELCOME TO THE HALL: Those named to the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday were, left to right, Carol Chason Whitmire, Ed Varner, Joe Crine and Ben Rogers.

WELCOME TO THE HALL: Those named to the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday were, left to right, Carol Chason Whitmire, Ed Varner, Joe Crine and Ben Rogers.

Saturday night was a time to celebrate sports excellence, as four new members were inducted into the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Bainbridge State College’s Kirbo Center.

The members of the hall of fame’s Class of 2013 are Carol Chason Whitmire, Joe Crine, Ben Rogers and Ed Varner. Each inductee was presented with a plaque Saturday night, and their plaques will also be placed in the permanent Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame at the Bainbridge Area Convention and Visitors’ Bureau building.

Each inductee was introduced by a friend or family member, who often spoke humorous anecdotes about their relationships with the inductee. Bobby Trawick, who introduced Whitmire and coached her at Bainbridge High School, jokingly pointed out that she had gone on to success in basketball “even despite my coaching.”

Email newsletter signup

Whitmire had a successful career both at BHS, and also at Valdosta State University. She is VSU’s second-leading scorer, putting in 2,265 points during her four-year career from 1975 to 1979. She later went on to play professionally for the Nebraska Wranglers, and coached at the University of Georgia and University of Florida.

Speaking Saturday, Whitmire said she disagreed with her former coach’s assessment.

“[Trawick] gave me the tools to achieve success, both on and off the floor,” she said.

Whitmire broke down emotionally several times, as she talked about the role her mother played in her life.

“She was a very, very special woman,” she said. “She taught me many things that helped me become the athlete and person that I am today.”

Sam Griffin Jr., the former publisher of The Post-Searchlight, introduced Crine, who has been the sports editor for Bainbridge’s newspaper since April 1970. Griffin said when he first talked to Crine, he told the college graduate that the paper only had openings in its press room.

“[Crine] said that made no difference; he just really wanted to work at a newspaper,” Griffin said.

Griffin gave Crine a part-time writing job to prove himself, and eventually hired him full-time as the sports editor.

“Joe quickly became the most indispensable writer at The Post-Searchlight,” Griffin said. “He also became the best ambassador the paper could ever have.”

Crine was all smiles as he accepted his plaque.

“We all have our favorite college and pro teams,” said Crine, who has covered the grandchildren of athletes he covered years ago. “But to me, it’s all about the high-school kids.”

Fred Alford introduced Rogers, who played football for BHS from 1952 to 1956 and later went on to great success as a basketball and football coach.

“I’m glad that I was on Ben’s coaching staff at one time,” Alford said. “But more importantly, I’m glad to be his friend.”

Rogers lettered in football and tennis at Troy, and served as the head basketball coach at Middle Georgia College from 1968 to 1993. He won 468 games at MGC and was named the “Winningest Georgia Junior College Basketball Coach” by the Atlanta Tip-Off Club in 1997. He is also a member of the MGC Sports Hall of Fame and National Junior College Athletic Association Hall of Fame.

“I’ve been named to other halls of fame before,” he said. “But to be recognized like this in your hometown, that’s truly special. This is the most prestigious, honorable award I’ve ever received, and I will treasure it forever.”

Fields Varner introduced his brother Ed Varner, who was a football star at both BHS and Georgia Tech.

Ed Varner was a three-sport athlete at BHS, and scored 27 touchdowns and collected 2,415 yards in his high-school football career. He went on to play football at Georgia Tech, and also ran track for the Yellow Jackets.

Varner was also a standout on the baseball diamond at BHS, and jokingly told a story of when he was playing Little League and warming up for a game. He threw a pitch so hard and wild that it went over the backstop. The next inning, the opposing team’s catcher was up to bat first, and arrived at the plate in his full catching gear, before the umpire made him take it off.

“I guess he didn’t want to get hurt by my pitch,” Varner said, as the audience laughed.

While Varner thanked several of his coaches and former teammates, he saved his highest praise for the very end.

“Thank you, Suzy, for sticking with me through good times and hard times,” said Varner, addressing his wife. “Thank you all for this great honor.”