Marengo County Sports Hall of Fame announces 2015 class

By Tom Boggs

Marengo County Sports Hall of Fame

It is time once again to announce names eagerly awaited by the public as the Marengo County Sports Hall of Fame reveals the five individual selected for the seventh annual hall of fame induction ceremony.

The ceremony will be the second Monday evening in Feb. 2015 at the Demopolis Civic Center and will feature a gathering time, introduction of past winners, reognition of the Sweet Water Cal Ripken 12U Southeast Regional Champion Baseball Team of 2014 as well as a new scholarship winner, a full meal and induction of the five new inductees.

The Hall has honored 31 previous inductees who have brought fame and honor to the county through their endeavors and athletic skills from football, baseball, basketball, softball, boxing, wrestling and tennis.

Picture 1The first nominee is Roger Etheridge Sr., who graduated from Linden High School in 1963 where he was an outstanding quarterback in football and pitcher in baseball, having lettered four years at LHS in football, baseball and basketball. Roger pitched a number of no-hitters for the baseball team, and his senior year had a record of 10-0 as a pitcher. He set a record by striking out 18 consecutive batters with a total of 21 strikeouts.

He was selected All Black Belt Conference and All-State in all three sports, was Offensive Back of the Year at LHS in 1962, quarterbacked and led the Linden Red Devils to a 10-0 season and the Class A Championship in 1962, and played in he All-Star game at the University of Alabama.

After high school, Roger turned down a football scholarship to Arkansas State and chose to remain in Linden and marry the love of his life, Nina Glass. He retired from Georgia Pacific Paper Mill in Naheola in 2005, but for his first six years after high school, in addition to working regularly, he quarterbacked the Semi-Pro American Rebel football team, missing only one game during that time.

Roger and his wife Nina live in Linden and they have three children and nine grandchildren.

Roger EtheredgeInterestingly enough, the second inductee is also from Linden. Roger Etheridge Jr. is the son of the first inductee. “Little Roger” was selected as a Dixie Youth League All-Star and a 14-15-year-old All-Star in baseball, and in 1988 led his 16-year-old Babe Ruth area team to winning the South Alabama State Tournament. Behind the pitching of Roger, Marengo Academy won the 3A AISA Baseball Championship and during the football season he was voted team captain and was the quarterback. He rushed for a single season record of 1,624 yards and helped lead the team to the 4A state championship, being the first independent school to win the 4A championship. During the 1991 MA baseball season, he helped lead the team to the APSA Championship and was an all-star for hitting and fielding, although rehabbing from rotator cuff surgery.

After completing rehab, Roger played baseball for Meridian Community College in the spring of 1992 and in May of 1992 he signed with the Cincinnati Reds professional baseball organization. He was transferred to the rookie ball team in Princeton, W. Va., and led the league in ERA in 1993. In 1994, Roger joined the Macon Braves as an additional player as part of a trade involving Deion Sanders and Roberto Kelly.

Roger continued to have an excellent pitching record with several farm clubs, and while with the Durham (N.C.) Bulls baseball team, which was a Class High A affiliate of the Braves, he compiled a 10-4-1 win-loss record with a 2.96 ERA. Roger was released from the Braves’ organization in the spring of 1997 after which he played one year with the Madison (Wisc.) Black Wolf Northern League and then left baseball and returned home where he enjoys giving pointers to youth baseball players.

Roger, his wife Laura and two children reside in Demopolis.

Picture 3Also originally hailing from the county seat in Linden is James Gunter. “Lefty,” as he was known to his teammates, played football and baseball for the Linden Red Devils, and after high school was a member of an American Legion National Championship baseball team.

James gained nationwide fame as an official in several different sports having recently been inducted into the West Alabama Softball Hall of Fame for the Amateur Softball Association of America. He has officiated levels of play from Little League to Division I NCAA Softball. While serving in the military, he officiated both slow pitch and fast pitch games and tournaments and has officiated in 25 ASA National Championship, six NSA World Series Tournaments and two USSSA World Series Tournament, traveling all over the United States.

Having officiated in football, baseball, basketball as well as slow pitch and fast pitch softball, James has gained the reputation over 50 years of treating all the players as champions, and being sure they understood that the most important game he ever called was the game he was calling at that time.

James and his wife, Erma, live in Tuscaloosa and they have two children and six grandchildren.

Picture 4Rounding out a near sweep of Linden natives is Larry Rogers Sr. Larry began playing varsity basketball and football in the seventh grade at George P. Austin in Linden but soon knew he needed to center on his basketball skills. He averaged a total of 20 points per game, and during his senior year was named a member of the University of Alabama’s North vs. South All-Star basketball team where he was named Most Valuable Player.

After high school he was offered a total of 10 basketball scholarships, and accepted a scholarship with the Southeast Missouri State Seminoles. After playing a year he joined the United States Army and was a member of the Army basketball team.

After three years in the Army, Larry received a scholarship to play under Coach Guy Lewis at the University of Houston, and averaged 15 rebounds and 12 points per game for the Cougars.

In 1980, he was drafted by the New York Knicks where he played with Bill Cartwright and Ray “Sugar” Williams. Although off to a promising and exciting start he had a career changing injury and was placed on waivers in 1981. Even though no longer able to play professionally in the NBA, he was picked up by an overseas professional team and played for five more years in Finland.

Larry has passed his love for the game and his skills on to his children, who have all played basketball for Linden and at the college level, and he also has spent a great deal of time passing along his knowledge of the game to aspiring local basketball players.

Larry and his wife, Gwendolyn, live in Linden, and they have five children and two grandchildren.

Rodney RowserRounding out the five in the 2015 class is Rodney Rowser of Demopolis. Rodney ran on the first ever boys track team at Demopolis High School and won first place in multiple events such as the 100-yard and 220-yard dash, 100-meter and 200-meter dash. He made it to the state finals during his senior season in 1985 and was an All-American in track and field as was as West Alabama’s Spring Sports Most Valuable Player.

Rodney accepted a scholarship to Troy State where he secured many awards and still maintains records for the campus. He still holds the indoor 300-meter record as well as the 4-by-100 and 4-by-200 outdoor record. While at Troy, Rodney was selected as an All-American in track and field on three occasions. His former head coach, Charles Oliver, stated that Rodney’s demonstrated qualities of loyalty, commitment, organization, strong knowledge-base in coaching, administration, communication and team building were qualities that helped him to become an All-American and a team leader in the sport of track and field.

Rodney has been a volunteer track coach at Demopolis for over 20 years, and assisted in securing a state championship relay team, coached three individual state champions, and in the summer of 2014, coached a group of students that qualified for the United States Track and Field Championship. The girls relay team placed in the Top 20 teams in the nation.

Rodney lives in Demopolis and works at Rock-Tenn.

More information about the banquet will be made available at a later time. The Board of Directors voted to retain the $15 ticket price. And, so that anyone who might be interested could purchase tickets for Christmas presents, the tickets have already been printed, and are initially available at the law office of Tom Boggs, Demopolis High School with Dr. Tony Speegle, Robertson Bank and Sweet Water State Bank in Demopolis, First Bank of Linden, and Sweet Water State Bank in Sweet Water. A very good bargain for a night of laughter, goose bumps, maybe a tar or two, great fellowship and excellent food.