Monday, January 14, 2013
WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla High School bestowed the honor of Hall-of-Fame status on five of its best all-time athletes Saturday night during a ceremony staged in the Blue Devil gym.
Eric O’Flaherty (Class of 2003), Phil Reser (1965), Bill Till (1952), Randy McDougall (1968), and Dick Turner (1952) were recognized between games of a girls-boys basketball doubleheader pitting the Blue Devils against Mid-Columbia Conference rival Kennewick.
Reser, McDougall, and Turner were on hand for the event.
O’Flaherty is currently pitching for the Atlanta Braves. He was drafted out of high school by the Seattle Mariners after being named the Big Nine Conference’s Player of the Year and to the league’s all-star team.
“Eric didn’t play baseball his freshman year,” said Wa-Hi coach Keith Gradwohl, who accepted the award on O’Flaherty’s behalf. “His sophomore year, our coaches said his ball moved like a snake. We have a strong tradition of pitchers at Walla Walla High School. Eric is at the top of the list. Now big-league hitters think his ball moves like a snake.”
Reser ended his baseball career with Tacoma of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. He signed a professional contract with the Chicago Cubs after achieving all-Big Sky Conference recognition at the University of Idaho. Reser also starred in the American Legion ranks and at Wa-Hi, where he started 70 straight games and led the Blue Devils in hitting, runs batted in and stolen bases.
“It’s really neat — quite an honor,” Reser said. “It brings back a lot of memories of when I used to play — stuff I haven’t thought of in a long time.”
Both Till and McDougall earned eight varsity letters apiece at Wa-Hi. Both lettered in football and baseball. They were on separate paths in the winter sports season — with Till lettering in basketball and McDougall earning his stripes on the wrestling mat.
“He would tell you that Wa-Hi was the world to him,” said Till’s daughter, Tammy Sutherland. “To the athletes, it’s integrity first. Give it your all.”
“It’s a humbling experience,” McDougall said. “It’s all about my teammates. They still have my back. I’m proud of them.”
Turner played football, and was a boxing and track participant.
“I’m thrilled to know that after 60 years that people remember what you did back then,” Turner said. “I loved playing on a Washington state championship football team (fall of 1951) and throwing the javelin.”
Turner won the state javelin title in 1952 and earned All-America honors.
With regard to boxing, Turner’s son, Derek, noted that his father won many of his matches by default because coaches on opposing teams did not want to put one of their athletes against him, to which Turner quipped, “He always wants to toot my horn.”
This group of Wa-Hi standouts brings the number of Blue Devil HOF inductees to 48.