By Jean DePlacido
---- — DANVERS — Seven outstanding athletes, as well as the 1949 state championship golf team, were ushered into the Beverly High Sports Hall of Fame during its 11th annual dinner and induction ceremony at the Danversport Yacht Club on Saturday night.
The latest class of Panther inductees ranged from Claudette Tache Turner (the lone female in this year’s class) from the Class of 1957 to 2002 graduate Scott Gambale.
One can only guess how many more points Tache Turner would have scored if she played now; many of her shots came from beyond the modern 3-point line that didn’t exist six decades ago, when girls basketball had half-court rules.
“This is a pretty special night for me after all these years,” said Tache Turner, who still lives in the same house in Beverly that she did when she was in high school. “I’d say 75 percent of my shots came from a long way out. I used to practice in the gym during study periods, and after school I’d go down when the boys were practicing. They were always nice about letting me take shots.”
Tache Turner, who will celebrate her 75th birthday in two weeks, said her father worked nights and never saw her play, but he saved all the newspaper articles about her games.
She is one of the best pure shooters in Panther history, a playmaker, rebounder and defensive standout who scored 223 points in 10 games during her senior season. Tache Turner’s 37 points in one game was unheard of at that time, but was soon broken by fellow BHS Hall of Famer Emily Witwicki Morency (45).
In her junior year, Tache Turner drove to the basket for a layup with seconds remaining against Ipswich to give Beverly its only unbeaten girls basketball season.
Two of the newest inductees were 1999 graduates. Roger LeBlanc Jr. joins his father, Roger Sr., in the BHS Hall of Fame. LeBlanc starred on the ice, breaking the all-time Beverly hockey scoring record with 86 goals, 86 assists and 172 career points. He also had a fine baseball career. Panthers hockey fans will never forget his breakaway goal with 26 seconds left that gave the Panthers a thrilling 6-5 playoff win over Methuen.
“That’s my best memory from high school. It was the only playoff game we ever won in my four years,” said LeBlanc, who still lives in the Garden City and plays hockey with some friends from Beverly in a men’s league in Gloucester. “It means so much to me to go into the Hall after my dad. He coached me my entire life, and I know he’s very proud.
“I kind of knew this was coming, but it is still a big honor for me and my family. I know a lot of the guys in the Beverly Hall of Fame and have great respect for them.”
Justin Shairs, also from the Class of 1999, was an all-star in football, hockey and lacrosse. He is fourth on the all-time hockey scoring list and currently serves as a varsity assistant coach for the Panthers. In lacrosse, he set a BHS single-game scoring record with six goals and five assists, but his fondest memory came on the football field at Hurd Stadium in front of more than 8,000 fans.
“Playing in the 100th Thanksgiving game against Salem my senior year was special,” said Shairs, a captain on that 9-1 team. “We scored on our final drive to close the gap to 7-6. I remember coach (Roger) Rosinski coming over to me and asking what I wanted to do: go for the tie or the win. I told him if he called a kick, I’d pull the ball off the tee and run with it. So he called a quick pitch, and Eugene Moore ran it outside for the two points — the same play we had scored on.”
The large Shairs family came out in force to support Justin and filled four tables Saturday night. Shairs said he was out to dinner with his brother Ryan when Bill Moody called to tell him the news.
Shairs, who is the first in his athletic family to be inducted, played lacrosse at the collegiate level at St. Anselm but will never forget the thrill of putting on his hometown jersey and playing with a bunch of friends.
When the call came to Dick Young, the former Beverly High football player, he couldn’t believe it. A 1963 BHS graduate who played for legendary football coach Roy Norden (his teams only lost twice in three years, including 8-1 his senior year), Young was inducted for his tireless work on behalf of the sports community and Beverly Boosters Club.
He was a committee member of the BHS Hall of Fame and has supported all sports for many years. Young frequently attends many high school sporting events and has volunteered his time as equipment manager and basketball timekeeper.
“I was in shock when they told me,” he said. “I’m very humbled and thankful for this completely unexpected honor. I’ve been a member of the football boosters for 29 years, and my grandson Brian Tripoli played on the 2012 (Super Bowl) team, which was very special.”
The first swimmer ever inducted into the BHS Hall is Robert Tilton (Class of 1986). A three-time captain, Tilton set several school and Northeastern Conference records and helped the Panthers win three straight conference championships before continuing his career at UMass Amherst.
Michael Cahill (1979) was an outstanding soccer player who took part in two of the longest tournament games in MIAA history. He was also a strong defenseman for the hockey team and went on to play soccer at Middlebury College. Cahill later returned to coach the sport at Beverly High, where his teams went to the state tournament six times (finishing with a 99-22-16 career record).
Gambale was a natural athlete who took over as the Beverly High starting quarterback even though he had never played the position. And when the basketball team needed a point guard, it was Gambale who made the switch from his natural shooting guard spot. In baseball he pitched, caught, played shortstop and first base. He was not only captain but MVP in all three sports.
In 1949 the Panthers won the state golf title under coach Bob Brown. Players on that honored team were Ron Kirby, Paul Kelley, Jim Buckley, Bill Palm, John Duran, Jim Gillis, Alden Norman and Billy Kirby. Kelley, one of two living members of the team, accepted the honor and spoke on behalf of his championship squad.