Mount Holly Sports Hall of Fame gets 9 new members

by Kathy Black

MOUNT HOLLY – When people think of sports towns, Mount Holly may not grace the list. But this community of 10,000 on the banks of the Catawba River has accumulated its share of accomplished athletes.

To honor that heritage, a group of citizens in 2006 created the Mount Holly Sports Hall of Fame, which to date has 21 recipients, from Golden Gloves boxers to softball and baseball players and entire high school football and wrestling teams. Their names are etched on a glass-enclosed plaque in the city’s Municipal Building.

“We decided we had enough local individuals with a great sports history, and we wanted to recognize them,” said the Hall’s president, Eddie Wilson, who recently announced the hall’s 2011 inductees. Those eight selections will be honored at a formal banquet Aug. 20 in the Municipal Building’s Grand Hall.

Wilson, 61, played football for the old Mount Holly High School, which won the state championship his junior year, and Western Carolina University and the semi-pro Gaston Patriots. Retired after 32 years with Duke Energy, he serves on the hall board with seven others, who sift through nominations on the basis of “accomplishments or service rendered as outstanding and noteworthy.” Candidates are not limited to athletic success but also are considered for community service that supports organized athletics.

Former pro baseball player Scott Stewart, a 2011 inductee, calls his selection an honor. “Sometimes, it’s nice to be recognized,” he says. “Not that I did anything special, but it’s nice to be recognized.”

Stewart, 35, a left-handed pitcher drafted out of East Gaston High School by the Texas Rangers, played rookie league ball in Port Charlotte, Fla., and was a member of Team USA in the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba, while in Triple A. In 2001, he got the call and made his major league debut with the Montreal Expos at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

“Within sports, the biggest honor was being able to call my parents up, after I’d waited my whole life to tell them, and say I’d made the big league club,” Stewart said. “Wrigley was absolutely great. What a great place to start a career. There’s definitely a romance to it.”

Stewart, who went on to play with the Cleveland Indians in 2004, came home in 2006 and lives in Mount Holly with his wife, Melanie, and three children. He’s taking college courses at Belmont Abbey and working as a Gastonia firefighter but still picks up a baseball from time to time. His 12-year-old son plays for the Mount Holly Braves.

“I help out with some local kids, if they need any help with their mechanics or with some different aspects of the game, like the mental side of it,” he said. “Any kid that needs help, I’ll help them out.”

He says the banquet will be a chance to reunite with people, players he once knew. “I’ve been gone. I’ve been playing a lot of years,” he said. “It’s going to be fun going through the whole induction night and seeing people I haven’t seen in a long time. They contacted me and told me I was nominated, and they called two or three weeks later and said I’d made it, and I was like, ‘Wow.’”

The Hall of Fame board has applied for nonprofit status and is working on ways to give back to the community by giving 10 percent of its net collections at the end of the year to local organizations. Wilson cites the Mount Holly Optimist Club and Mount Holly Community Relief Organization as beneficiaries and said the board also is discussing the formation of a scholarship fund.

“I’m just a local guy that used to play sports,” Wilson said. “We try to put together something nice with our induction program, a sit-down dinner with the linen tablecloths. It’s a grand night for these individuals, and we hope to do it for years to come.”

2011 Inductees

• T.L. McManus – Eight-time North Carolina State Golden Gloves coach, Mount Holly Golden Gloves coach 1948-74. Boxers accumulated 2,400 victories and 50 team titles.

• Jim McManus – Mount Holly High School quarterback and halfback, 1945-49. Golden Gloves and AAU boxer, 1940-60. Carolinas welterweight champion, 1956.

• Samuel “Dink” McManus – Seven-time Carolina Golden Gloves champion, 1951-62 with a record of 291-9.

• Frank Love – Standout for Shelby High School tennis team, 1938, and founding member of Mount Holly’s Western Carolina Tennis League.

• Scott Edward Stewart – East Gaston High School baseball, 1992-94; drafted by Texas Rangers, 1994; 12 professional seasons; major-league debut with Montreal Expos, 2001; traded to Cleveland, 2004. Played in 1999 Pan Am Games.

• Bruce Bolick – MVP for Mount Holly High School’s 2A 1963 state championship baseball team; shortstop for American Legion, UNC-Chapel Hill and minor league Washington Senators. Coached East Lincoln High School baseball 33 years, with 400 wins, nine conference championships.

• Wayne Bolick – Mount Holly High School baseball, 1959-61 and football, 1958-60. Mount Holly Middle School coach, 25 years.

• Perry Toomey – Co-captain of the 1956 Mount Holly High School championship football team; Golden Gloves boxer; founding member of Mount Holly Sports Hall of Fame.

• John William Lewis – Community Spirit Award recipient, has coached Mount Holly Little League baseball teams for 42 seasons.

Banquet tickets cost $20. Get them at Charlie’s Drug & Sundries or County Squire barber and beauty center.

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