The Class of 1974 is getting a lot of love in this year’s group of inductees to the West Albany Hall of Fame, with two individuals and a team among the honorees.
The hall of fame’s induction ceremony and banquet, sponsored by the West Albany Sports Foundation, will be held Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Albany Boys and Girls Club.
All are welcome to attend.
Entering the hall this year are 1974 classmates Rich Harper for football and baseball, Julie O’Hearn for tennis and the state champion golf team of seniors Steve Fortier, Duffy Schneider, Mark Cushman and Dick Thomas and junior Brad Clunes, along with their coach, Duane Barrett; the 1943 baseball team; wrestler Paul Jackson; and longtime Albany Boys & Girls Club director Ron Loney as a community leader.
Harper was a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and baseball. In football, he won all-Valley League and first-team all-state honors at defensive end and was selected to play in the Class AAA Shrine All-Star Game. In baseball, he was an all-state catcher and played in the East-West All-Star series. Playing catcher on the other team in that series was a future Major League all-star and MVP, Dale Murphy.
Harper went on to play four seasons of baseball at Oregon State at catcher, earning all-conference honors as a senior.
He currently lives near Olex, where he farms with his wife, the former Alice Weatherford, who is a 1975 graduate of West Albany.
“It was actually a pleasant surprise,” Harper said. “I certainly didn’t anticipate it.”
Tom Hawkins, who coached Harper in both football and baseball, said the Bulldog standout was more than just a good athlete.
“As a sophomore we played in a tournament in Grants Pass and he caught all four games,” Hawkins said. “He was solid from the start. But we had seven seniors that started on that team and he was a leader even at that time, with quiet poise and competitiveness.”
In football, Harper started both ways, playing quarterback and defense end, where he punished opposing ballcarriers for coming his way.
“He was compact and explosive,” said Hawkins, who was the defensive coordinator for the Bulldogs.
1943 baseball team
The 1943 Bulldog baseball team, along with the 1942 squad that had many of the same players, was the beginning of an era of powerhouse baseball teams from Albany that lasted into the 1950s, according to team member Zed Merrill.
The success of the 1943 team, he said, was their coach, Al Fortier, who took over the duties after Dwight Adams was drafted. The team went on to win its division handily over its competition. There was no state playoff at that time.
Albany also played several college teams from around the area, including squads from Oregon State and Oregon.
A few Albany players went on to play in the professional ranks. Archie Hayes spent time in the minors with the Cincinnati Reds, the Philadelphia Athletics, The Boston Red Sox and the New York Giants; Bud Fortier played for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League and the Yakima Bears of the Western International League; and Merrill was invited to a tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“We learned more in 15 minutes from Al Fortier than we did from anyone else,” said Merrill, who was the team’s second-baseman. “We were not only good ballplayers, but he taught us the tricks of the game, like double steals, pickoff plays, squeeze bunts.”
The team was so good it defeated several military squads from nearby Camp Adair, whose rosters were dotted with former professional players. Albany defeated all of them but one, the camp’s top team, the Camp Adair Timberwolves, which went on to win the national military baseball series that season.
“We had them 1-0 through four innings before they finally beat us,” said Merrill. “After the game they came over to the coach and said they had never seen a high school team play like that before.”
One of the Adair teams included Detroit Tigers pitcher Lynwood “Schoolboy” Rowe.
Members of the 1943 team included Merrill, Gene Blaylock, Butch Flomer, Bud Spencer, Bud Long, Bud Fortier, Art Ohling, Jack Boylan, Don Bilyeu, Delmer Boylan, Gene Allard, Henry Velkinburg, Archie Hayes, Paul Kennel, Maynard Leach, Bob Buchanan, Dave Eakin, Swede Ohling and Fisler.
1974 golf team
The team lost just one match during the regular season, won district by 31 strokes, then topped the state field with an 11-stroke margin over second-place Lake Oswego.
Fortier was the co-medalist at state. His father and grandfather, Bud and Al Fortier, designed and built Spring Hill Country Club.
“That had a lot to do with the success of golf in Albany,” said Barrett, who added most if not all of his players took advantage of the youth program at Spring Hill. “There’s something unique about that.”
He added, “Mark Cushman, who could not attend the induction, wrote me a letter saying a lot of people deserve credit for their success, because of the junior golf program at Spring Hill, parents who drove them to practices and matches, the high school program, and so forth.”
The 1974 squad was the first team to win a state title after the West-South split. The year before, the team placed second at state.
The team actually had a fifth player, Clunes, who helped the team to qualify for state. But because of a quirk in the rules, league play used five players, but for state, teams sent only their top four.
“It was pretty clear cut,” Barrett said. “The four seniors had been leading scorers all year. But Brad could beat any of the other teams’ fifth men.”
In doubles play, O’Hearn, won a district and state title as a senior and placed second at state as a junior with her sister, Patty. She went on to play for Oregon State University, where she was named team captain as a senior.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Julie’s father, Bill. “I felt all of my daughters deserved that, but it’s very special since daughter Julie is gone now.”
Julie died in 2008.
Bill O’Hearn said after starting the Albany Tennis Club in the early 1960s, Julie began playing tennis there when she was 5.
Loney took the reins at what was then called the Albany Boys Club in 1966 and guided it for 39 years as director, coach, fundraiser and friend.
He oversaw the growth of the club that went from a $25,000 budget to over $1 million annually in helping the youth of Albany. He said one of his proudest moments was admitting girls in 1979, the first club in the Northwest to do so.
He was also instrumental in taking on some of the elementary and middle-school sports programs when schools found it hard to finance them.
“Ron Loney’s dedication to the youth of the Albany community is legendary,” said West Sports Foundation President Wally Ordeman. “Ron’s influence on thousands of kids in our community has directly impacted the success of West Albany sports.”
Bruce Glenn was in his first year as the head wrestling coach at West Albany in 1971-72 and remembered meeting Jackson’s father, Brian, while watching a football practice before wrestling season started.
“He came up to me, kidding I think, and said, ‘If Paul doesn’t win a state title, you’re in trouble,’” Glenn said. “So I told him, ‘Boy, we better win the state title then.’”
Paul Jackson did just that, taking the high school heavyweight title and the state freestyle crown as well as a senior. He also had two Valley League titles under his belt.
“I’m very honored that Bruce had recommended my name and that I was actually selected,” said Jackson.
Glenn said Jackson was as little undersized and more of a true heavyweight that was able to effectively shoot, do double-leg takedowns an other moves. Also helping, Glenn said, was having two other good heavyweights to work out with, Dave Surmeyer and Casey Keller.
“He was great, one of the easiest guys I’ve ever coached in my life,” Glenn said. “He was one of the best heavyweights we’ve had in the state of Oregon.”
Jackson went on to wrestle for Oregon State. As a freshman he wrestled behind Jim Hagan, who placed second in the nation. As a sophomore he wrestled varsity alongside Larry Bielenberg but was hurt halfway through the season. As a junior he again battled with Bielenberg, who ended up winning the national title that year.
He said he decided it was time to concentrate on school, and didn’t wrestle much his senior year. He graduated and was married shortly after commencement.
He still gets together with former OSU teammates, who call themselves the Intergalactic Order of the Cosmos, and act as a support group for the wrestling program.
Jackson is currently self-employed as a business software consultant in Portland.