01/15/11 — George Whitfield Hall of Fame inducted

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George Whitfield Hall of Fame inducted

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 15, 2011 11:29 PM

Ron Frederick stood with his hands clasped in front of his body, and thought quietly about his athletic career.

The former Tampa Bay signee who felt the sting of the NFL strike in 1992, Frederick played a highlight reel in his mind while listening to a list of accomplishments during the 39th annual George Whitfield Hall of Fame ceremony Friday evening.

A two-sport letterman at Goldsboro High in the mid-1970s, Frederick joined fellow members of his family who had been inducted into previous Hall classes.

"I was reliving some times, thinking about actual moments on the field when he was reading the statistics," said Frederick, who resides in Raleigh. "It seems like it was just yesterday. It's just such an honor, not only just this outstanding group tonight, but when you look back at all the other athletes and people who have done so much for their communities, it just thrills me."

Pate Jr., who was instrumental in starting the Goldsboro Little League in the 1950s, echoed Frederick.

"While standing there, I was thinking nobody stands in a place like that without a lot of support," said Pate Jr., who served as president of the old Goldsboro Touchdown Club. "I can think of my wife and the things that my children sacrificed, and all the people I've worked with over the years who helped me get where I was.

"I have to say 'thanks' to all of them."

Whitfield, as usual, took his guests on a journey down memory lane throughout the two-hour ceremony.

Tears filled his eyes and his voice choked as he recalled his first-ever encounter with long-time friend, the late Clyde King. King offered to help Whitfield run a baseball practice, and a cherished friendship developed that chilly afternoon on the diamond.

A folded New York Yankees jacket and hat sat in a front-row chair, the spot King occupied every year during Whitfield's annual Hall of Fame event. Whitfield dedicated the evening to his friend, who selflessly gave his life to baseball.

King's wife, Norma, and his children and grandchildren acknowledged Whitfield's gesture with smiles and mouthed "thank you" to him.

The 39th class of 24 inductees featured a broad spectrum of careers that spanned from the White House to Vietnam and numerous points throughout the United States. Whitfield enshrined two of the nation's top military members -- Goldsboro native Karl Eikenberry, the current U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, and Fremont resident Walter "Joe" Marm Jr., a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.

"I had never met a Congressional Meda of Honor winner until I sat in Colonel Marm's house a month ago," said Whitfield. "It was an honor, believe me."

Inductee Fisher DeBerry, who guided Air Force Academy to 169 victories, delivered the speech before Whitfield's annual baseball clinic on Saturday morning. Fathers and sons spent the day learning the different nuances about the nation's favorite pastime.

Whitfield has already starting preparing for next year.

"Never did I believe 38 years ago that this would develop into what it is today," said Whitfield. "It's been a lot of fun."