NET inductions have Carter County flavor

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- Dr. Billy Pike is an ace on the tennis court, so it wasn't a fault that he was inducted into the Northeast Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Friday night.
   Pike, an Elizabethton resident, joined fellow Carter County citizens Billy Joe McClain and B. Harold Stout as the new inductees into the N.E.T. Hall of Fame during a dinner ceremony at the Holiday Inn.
   Pike was a standout tennis player in his earlier years at University High and East Tennessee State University. Pike then went on to win 25 state singles, doubles and team titles in the three states.
   Pike has been ranked No. 1 in the south in doubles for his age group with playing partner Bob Helton for almost two decades. Pike is currently ranked No. 2 in the south in Men's 50 Singles.
   Pike becomes only the second person to be inducted for tennis, and he thinks this is good for the sport on the local level.
   "It's a tremendous honor," Pike said. "Not only for me personally, but I think it's an honor for tennis in this area. I think it's time tennis got some recognition, and that's certainly the way I'm looking at it. More so from that standpoint than me personally. But it is a great honor, especially coming in with Coach Stout and Billy Joe McClain, who were great athletes in their day and are just legends in this area. It's quite an honor."
   Pike has had a lot of great moments in his playing career, but one does standout in his mind.
   "Probably the best (highlight) of my playing career was winning the U.S. Navy Championships," Pike said. "I won in singles and doubles in the Men's Open, which was a national event at the time. Having won some 12, 14, 15 state singles titles, I feel fortunate to have done that.
   "And I've had some good doubles partners that have helped me over the years, with Bob Helton being the main one. We've beaten some really good teams throughout the south. We've been raked No. 1 in the Men's 35, 40's 45's and 50's, so I feel that having done that has been quite an accomplishment."
   Pike is pleased with his playing career, but believes his greatest achievement has been giving the game of tennis to his children, Brandon and Amanda. They have both reached the TSSAA state tournament, and they continue to do great things.
   "I feel that's probably my greatest achievement is passing on the game to my children," Pike said. "Both Brandon and Amanda have done very well.
   "Brandon got to the finals of the state high school three years ago, and is playing for Virginia Intermont now. I'm real proud of Brandon. And Amanda is trying to carry on the tradition, and is doing very well as a freshman for Elizabethton. She's playing No. 1 for them, and is going to play a lot this summer. Hopefully, she'll come back next year and go back to the state. But I'm real proud of both of them."
   Pike does have one wish for tennis in this area, and more particularly, the city of Elizabethton.
   "I would like to see them revive the program in the summer," Pike said. "The junior program, the adult league, we used to have that 40 years ago when Carmen Dugger was Park and Recreation Director. Why can't we get that going again?
   "We need a good junior feeder program to keep this thing going. We've got a great facility. If somebody in the Park and Recreation would just get behind it, and do something for tennis."
   McClain enters the Hall of Fame after a stellar baseball career playing for Science Hill and the University of Tennessee. McClain even led the SEC in hitting his freshman year at the Knoxville school.
   But McClain's love was pitching, and he pitched six years in the minors before playing two seasons with the Washington Senators.
   McClain was shocked when he got the word he was going to be enshrined.
   "This has been a surprise," McClain said. "I'm just thrilled with the honor that's been bestowed here."
   McClain enjoyed his playing days, and he wouldn't change a thing that happened.
   "It was a good life," McClain said. "I enjoyed it. I wouldn't trade a day of it. I didn't do as well as I wanted to, but by golly I saw some pretty good ball players, and played against some. I've enjoyed it all. I wouldn't trade it at all.
   McClain wanted to play in the majors longer, but he was just happy to be there.
   "I feel fortunate to get there," McClain said. "When I was selected, I had a bad arm at the time. I ended up taking a bunch of cortisone shots after I pitched. Things could have been worse, and they could have been better. But I'm not taking anything away from anything. I was proud to do what I did. I'm what I am, and I didn't try to pretend to be something else."
   B. Harold Stout was a legendary baseball coach in the area for many years. Stout coached at Milligan College from 1959-1984, then took over at East Tennessee State and stayed there until 1989.
   In his 33 years of coaching at the high school and college level, Stout compiled a record of 621-236.
   Before his days as a coach, Stout was a standout baseball player at Elizabethton High School and East Tennessee State University.
   Stout thinks that he had a lot of good people around him.
   "I've been so honored and so lucky to have good people come my way to play sports for me," Stout said. We had a lot of character and good talented people over the years. They're the reason I'm receiving this honor tonight."
   Stout's teams definitely performed to their potential, and even challenged bigger schools.
   Stout thought the highlight of his career happened to Milligan College's dominance over the University of Tennessee.
   "We beat them 11 out of 13 years," Stout said. "And when they beat us once, they let school out down there, I heard. I don't think that's true, but I heard that when they beat us once they let school out."
   Stout not only shined on the baseball diamond, but he produced men that went on to succeed.
   That's something that makes Stout very proud.
   "Everybody that I have coached has done well in life," Stout said. "One year I had six people sign professional contracts. That's unheard of for a school like Milligan. I've had several people just almost make it to the big leagues. One young man is the son of the other baseball guy that was inducted here tonight, Joe McClain. His son is probably the best thrower that I ever had. I didn't coach him, I just said 'sick him.'
   The Scholar Athletes of the Year were also announced on Friday night, with Tennessee High's Boodle Clark and Daniel Boone's Brittani Head getting the honors.
   Clark, the Northeast Tennessee football and baseball Player-of-the-Year, finished with a 3.7 G.P.A. Clark will attend East Tennessee State University in the fall on a baseball scholarship.
   Head was a standout basketball and volleyball player for the Lady Trailblazers, but she really excelled in the classroom. Head had a perfect 4.0 G.P.A, and will continue her education at Harvard this fall.
   The guest speaker for the event was the Voice of the Tennessee Vols, Bob Kessling. The master of ceremonies was WJCW radio announcer Bill Meade.