From the Bench: Nine of Greatest in Harrison County Sports History Coming Home to Venue in Bridgeport

By Jeff Toquinto on July 16, 2017 from Sports Blog via

Nine of the greatest athletes in the state’s history either from Harrison County or who competed in Harrison County are coming home to Bridgeport. Not physically moving here mind you as most are deceased, but it is part of a revamping of the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
And nine legends will soon be on display in the City of Bridgeport.
For those confused, and before breaking down who’s coming, a little background is in order. The West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, which is sponsored by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, for decades has honored the state’s best after selection by having their plaques placed throughout the Charleston Civic Center.
As one of the state’s busiest venues, the plaques have been there for almost the entire life of the Hall of Fame, which started in 1950. Doug Huff, the executive secretary and treasurer of the WVSWA, says that he believes that plaques were put in place at the Civic Center in 1960.
If Doug Huff says that’s likely the case, then it’s likely the case. For those that don’t know Doug Huff, understand he is to West Virginia Prep Sports what Travis Jones is to Bridgeport High School sports broadcasting – only he’s been involved for decades longer than Jones (who’s been around decades himself).
Understand, there was no problem with the plaques being in the Civic Center. Rather, the recent multi-million dollar remodeling of the Civic Center led to a whole lot of solid walls becoming glass windows and, thus, there was no place for the near 200 plaques that had stood for years.
“We had around 170 up and we also have some that weren’t put up because we knew this was coming,” said Huff. “The massive renovation project has left wall space pretty limited.”
That left Huff and others involved with the Hall of Fame in a predicament. What to do with the plaques?
“We certainly had no intentions of destroying the plaques or throwing them away because they were meant for display. At the same time, had no intentions on seeing them stored somewhere out of public view for 50 years,” said Huff.
Ideally, a piece of land would be purchased. That would be followed with the construction of a Hall of Fame building and that would be that.
That, in this case, would likely come with a likely six- or seven-figure price tag and ongoing costs. As a member of the WVSWA, I can assure you that it’s not afloat in cash anywhere near that level even if you moved the decimal point in the money they have two spots back.
“A building of our own wasn’t feasible and outside of the Civic Center there’s probably not a place that draws statewide traffic to show them so we have decided to regionalize them,” said Huff. “
The good news for those that can’t make it to every place in West Virginia that these plaques will be on display is that there is a plan in the works to make the honorees and their achievements available once again for the viewing public. Huff said it won’t happen immediately, but he said it should happen.
“Down the road, again because of money and costs, we hope to have a digital display put in place at the Civic Center in Charleston,” said Huff. “We’re also developing a Web site, which will be available sooner, which will have all the biographies included.”
So how did nine of the plaques end up in Bridgeport?
“I was informed through Mike Parsons (formerly with West Virginia University as an associate athletic director, currently in consultant role with MetroNews) about the new (Greater Bridgeport Convention and Visitors Bureau) building in Bridgeport and it grew from there through conversations,” said Huff. “Now, we’re going to look at CVBS, colleges and other prominent locations that draw people throughout the state and find these plagues a home.”
Huff said they’re slowly approaching triple digits as for plaques they’ve found homes for – including the nine that will soon be in Bridgeport. “We’ll get them all out there before it’s done,” he added.
Who’s coming to Bridgeport? Here’s the list and a brief bio of the nine individuals so if you think not all the information isn’t there or there’s more – you’re right. You’ll have to visit them when the new CVB building is open and they’re place up for public display.
  • John H. McKay – Known by many for his comedic media interviews on NFL Films while a coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, McKay was highly successful as an athlete and as a coach. The former football and basketball standout at Shinnston High School, McKay coached the University of Southern California to four national championships. He also managed to take the expansion Tampa Bay squad to the NFC Title game in 1979.
  • Archie Talley – One of the rare cases where the legend and reality mix. The long-shooting guard at then Salem College was the West Virginia Conference’s all-time leading scorer where he scored 3,720 points from 1972 through 1976 for an average of 32.9 points per game. Talley was the NAIA National Player of the Year and was drafted by the New York Knicks.
  • Frank Loria – His story is well known, first as an all-state athlete at Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg. Despite some calling him undersized, he became Virginia Tech’s first consensus All-American in football and from 1965 to 1967 the 5’7, 172 pound defensive standout started 31-straight games. Loria was an assistant coach at Marshall when the plane carrying the team crashed on Nov. 4, 1970, killing Loria and everyone on board.
  • Joseph Stydahar – If the name sounds familiar, it’s because when teams play Lincoln in football they play the Cougars at home at Stydahar Field. He was a football and basketball standout at West Virginia University who later played for the Chicago Bears and coached for the Rams. Stydahar was a 1931 Shinnston High School graduate.
  • Herbert Paul Barna – Although not as familiar a name, plenty of success from this Clarksburg resident. He had a prolific career in Major League Baseball that spanned 16 years where he played for several teams including the Boston Red Sox. He also was a three-sport standout – football, baseball and basketball – at West Virginia University.
  • Clay B. Hite – Another familiar name as for years several Harrison County High School’s home venue for football games was Hite Field in Clarksburg. For 30 years – from 1921 to 1951 – Hite coached at Washington Irving High School. He also was a standout athlete at WVU from 1914 to 1919 where he was the quarterback on the 1919 squad and captained the 1916 basketball team. He helped build Hite Field, which was later named in his honor.
  • T. Edward Davis – A resident of Lost Creek, many may be familiar with the name as it is the home gymnasium for basketball for what is now Salem International University. Incredibly, he served as an athlete, coach and administrator at the former Salem College for 50 years. He also helped form the recently defunct West Virginia Conference in 1925.
  • Louis J. “Lou” Romano – A familiar name in Clarksburg circles, Romano was a successful player and coach at Glenville State College. However, it was at Charleston High School where he became a legend with some of the best boys basketball teams in state history. The Washington Irving graduate went 318-77 at Charleston High as a coach and he was gifted enough athletically to be a NAIA All-American.
  • John M. “Brooms” Abramovic – He is considered Salem College basketball royalty and among the greatest ever to where the Green and White. And the numbers back that up. In 1942 and again in 1943 held led the nation in scoring and ended up becoming the first player in college basketball to record 2,000 points for his career. He also played professionally for two years.
“Where in the building you’ll see those plaques has yet to be determined, but it will be prominently displayed for the public to have access to them,” said CVB Board of Directors President Drew Pomeroy. “We’re actually using this to start a vetting process of a few ideas that could lead to an even bigger project. Where that brainstorming will take us is unknown, but we’d like to see this as the start of something bigger.”
On Huff’s end, he sees the placing as the end of something important. And that’s not all.
Huff said there is a bright side to this. Someone who would look for an individual in the Hall of Fame in Charleston may spend a long time trying to get one out of more than 150. Now, they’re all going to be regionally located. In this case, as you can see, they’re all either from Harrison County or had ties from their athletic days to Harrison County.
“We think the good thing about this is that the individuals will get more exposure,” said Huff. “There’s a better chance you’ll see a name you recognize where they’re going to be located.”
Editor's Note: Top photo shows several of the plaques that will be in place in Bridgeport in the near future, while WVSWA official Doug Huff is shown (courtesy of OVAC Hall of Fame Web site) in the second photo. The plaque of Clay B. Hite is shown in the third photo, while CVB Board of Director's President Drew Pomeroy is shown below.

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