Inaugural Dalton CRA Hall of Fame class celebrates induction

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DALTON — For Abbie West, getting into a Hall of Fame is an honor. Getting into the Hall of Fame in her native Dalton was a bigger honor. But having the Hall of Fame in the building where she, in large part, grew up in is something else again.

"It's great. I definitely grew up here, that's for sure," she said. "Playing youth sports and everything, it's wonderful. I think it's such a nice thing for the community to recognize everyone."

West was one of 15 athletes, five coaches, three contributors and three teams to be inducted into the inaugural Dalton CRA Athletic Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame festivities began on Saturday afternoon with the unveiling of the Hall of Fame inside the CRA building. Then, after a reception, the festivities moved over to the Stationery Factory, where Baseball in the Berkshires set up an exhibit featuring Dalton baseball and the four Hall of Fame members who were involved in Major League Baseball. Pitchers Jeff Reardon and Turk Wendell, along with former MLB executives Dan and Jim Duquette were all inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The Duquettes are known for their baseball management exploits, but both have longstanding ties to the sports community here. They grew up in Dalton and were multisport athletes at Wahconah. Dan Duquette went on to play at Amherst College, while Jim played at Williams.

"This place and the DYC [Dalton Youth Center] just down the street, we spent a lot of time practicing and playing basketball here. There are a lot of good memories," Jim Duquette said. "Even coming back to the town, I was thinking about this driving up, about how much you miss the place when you go away and come back. It's really kind of a special town.

"It's pretty exciting to be a part of the whole group. When I got the call, I was really, really honored and excited."

Hall of Fame weekend actually started Friday, when the Hall of Famers were honored during halftime of the Wahconah football team's home opener against Pittsfield.

Saturday night's activities included an autograph session by Reardon, Wendell, and the Duquettes.

At the CRA ceremonies, the Wahconah state champion Unified Track and Field team was recognized for their accomplishments last year. The team members received quite the ovation.

Everything comes to a head on Sunday at 1 p.m., when the formal Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will take place at the Wahconah Country Club.

Being honored were the 1983 Wahconah football team, the 1986 Wahconah girls soccer team and the 1987 Wahconah boys basketball team. The athletes being inducted were Pat Bramer, Edward Cuverwell, Dan, Jim and Pat Duquette, Kevin Hunt, Rick and John Kovacs, Derek Lombard, Keith Poopor, Reardon, West, Meghan Vaughan, Wendell and Matt Whitcomb.

Coaches John Donovan, Ed Ladley, Robert "Boog" Powell, Jim Rivers and Gary Campbell Sr. were also part of the inaugural Hall of Fame class.

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"I've never been one about all this publicity stuff, I'll be honest with you," Gary Campbell Sr. said. "It does mean a lot, being honored by the people in your town. Of course, I've been in so many towns.

"This is such a very important part of kids lives, here or the Boys' Club, places like that. It's fabulous, having institutions like this."

Wendell played at Quinnipiac before being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the fifth round of the 1988 MLB Draft. He was signed by then-Braves scout Paul Ricciarini of Pittsfield.

Wendell was part of a trade that sent him to the Chicago Cubs. Going back to Atlanta was former Pittsfield Cubs catcher Damon Berryhill. Wendell went on to pitch 11 seasons in the majors with the Cubs, the New York Mets, Philadelphia and Colorado.

"I spent a lot of time here, a lot of time," Wendell said of the CRA. "It means a lot that I was chosen to be a Hall of Famer and in the inaugural class. I kind of feel like I don't really deserve it. I didn't do all that much in high school. I guess I just peaked at the right time when I had to. It's kind of funny seeing a lot of people I hadn't seen in a long time, and I go 'Wow, I thought you were a lot bigger than I was.'"

Reardon and Dan Duquette were a battery at Wahconah, and Reardon went on to pitch for the legendary Dick Bergquist at UMass. A draft pick of the New York Mets, Reardon was traded in 1987 to the Montreal Expos. He signed with Boston in 1989, was traded to Atlanta in 1992, when the Braves were perennial World Series contenders, and then finished his career with stints in Cincinnati and with the Yankees. On both teams, he had shave his trademark beard.

"This means more to me than anything," Reardon said, "because I'm from this town. This is where I started. I've got the [American Legion] field named after me. I'm in the inaugural Hall of Fame."

Reardon was asked if, when he was pitching at Wahconah, he could have imagined having the kind of career he did.

"No way. I had the confidence I could make it. I knew it would be a tough road," he said. "Once I got to the threshold in the minor leagues and saw what I called bonus babies, I felt I was just as good or maybe better.

"I felt like when I got to the minor leagues, I felt like I could make it."

Making it is what every member of the Dalton CRA Hall of Fame must feel like this weekend.

"There are a lot of great athletes from this area," inductee Bramer said. "To be included with the guys who are in this room like the Duquettes and Turk Wendell and guys like that, it's an amazing feeling."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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