Many former star athletes were at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, but there was no mistaking which one Nick Crist had driven from Atlanta to see.
Crist, a Florida native, wore a Florida State University jersey as he carried his 1-year-old son Grayson in one arm and an FSU football helmet in the other.
He was there to see the Charlie Ward, who along with seven others had been selected for induction into the hall Saturday night. Ward, a native of Thomasville, played quarterback for FSU. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1993 and led the school to its first national title.
Of course, all of that is more important to Crist than the fact that Ward, also a basketball star at FSU, went on to play 11 years in the NBA. Crist got his autograph and photo with Ward.
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“He’s the best that’s ever done it,” Crist said. “He’s versatile. He can do it all.”
Ward and the other inductees, as well as many past inductees, were there for FanFest, held prior to the induction ceremony, to give fans a chance to meet them and get autographs.
Ward clearly had the longest line, although those who last tied on cleats decades ago had not been forgotten either.
Bob Hendley, a lifelong Macon resident, became a Major League pitcher and a successful high school baseball coach. He led River North Academy to four state titles in eight seasons.
But in Major League baseball he is best known for having pitched in what many call the greatest game ever pitched. On Sept. 9, 1965, Hendley threw a one-hitter for the Chicago Cubs while his opponent, Sandy Koufax, tossed a perfect game for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers won the game 1-0.
At a recent event in New York commemorating that game, Hendley met Koufax for the first time off the field. He said he told him the same thing he told reporters immediately after the game.
“It’s no disgrace to get beat by class,” Hendley said between signing autographs. “He was class, and he was the best, and I still believe that until this day.”
Another well-known inductee this year was John Schuerholz, president of the Atlanta Braves and general manager from 1991 to 2007.
“I’m quite honored, especially looking at the roster of those already in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, “ he said. “To be invited to join a group as outstanding as that, I am especially honored.”
He added that he has high expectations for the Braves this year.
“We’ve had a lot of changes and it’s going to be an exciting spring training,” he said. “I’m confident we will have a very good baseball team coming out of spring training.”
The other inductees this year are:
Bill Fulcher, of Augusta, who played football for Georgia Tech and the Washington Redskins. He later became head coach at Georgia Tech and was a successful high school football coach in Georgia.
Willie McClendon, of Brunswick, who played running back for the University of Georgia and was the 1978 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. He played four seasons with the Chicago Bears.
Alec Kessler, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but who played high school basketball in Roswell, played center for UGA and led the team to its first SEC championship in 1990. He played four seasons in the NBA and later became a physician. He died in 2007 after suffering a heart attack while playing basketball.
Reg Murphy, of Hoschton, was a multi-sport athlete in high school who went on to become a sports writer for The Macon Telegraph and then sports editor for The Atlanta Constitution, and worked for several other newspapers throughout the country before becoming president of the U.S. Golf Association in 1994.
Hope Spivey, of Suffolk, Virginia, won four individual national titles as a member of the UGA gymnastics team and she was a member of the 1993 national championship team.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.