Garner Cleveland: Sports

Garner remembers athletic past, prepares to move forward

Dr. Greg Pleasants, a family physician in Garner, told his wife he was nervous about making his acceptance speech at the Garner Magnet High Sports Hall of Fame ceremony.

She suggested he imagine everyone in the audience wearing just their underwear.

“The really scary thing is that I have seen many of these people in just their underwear,” Pleasants said, garnering the biggest laugh of the evening at the Grand Marquis Ballroom.

Pleasants (Class of 1987) joined multi-sport star and coach B.A. Corbett (Class of ’41), baseball player Johnny Beck (’90), softball star Lauren Pleasant Bridgers (’03) and H. Wayne Bare, who was principal from 1968 through 1971, in the sixth Hall of Fame class.

“No one got here on their own merit,” said Brigders, who holds the Garner record for pitching strikeouts. “Softball is a team game. No one gets here alone.”

Every teammate who ever caught a fly ball, or got a hit, or offered a word of encouragement played a role in her selection, she said.

Dr. Pleasants echoed that he is a product of many hands. He still uses skills taught to him in high school.

“I’ll come out of a patient room and be shaking my head and remember Coach Hal Stewart saying, ‘You’re getting stressed out,’” Pleasants said. “Coach Stewart has been unconditionally supportive of me. He somehow managed to get me a scholarship to N.C. State as an athletic trainer. That enabled me to become a doctor. I owe so much to him and to the school.”

He returned to Garner to practice medicine in 1999 and soon became the school’s team physician. He also is the official physician of the Shrine Bowl Game of the Carolinas and was inducted into its Hall of Fame last year.

He compared the Garner high school to a church, saying that it is not the brick and mortar that makes a church. People make a church. And it is people that make a school.

His message was timely since the Garner Magnet building, whose oldest halls were opened in 1968, will be torn down this summer. The school will move temporarily to the site of the future South Garner High.

Garner basketball coach Eddie Gray, who presented Bare for induction, used a quotation by former newscaster David Brinkley to illustrate Bare’s contributions to the school and community.

“If they throw bricks at you, use them to build a building,” Gray said, noting that Bare led the integration of Garner High and Garner Consolidation in the fall of 1968.

Corbett, 92 and living in Florida after a career at NASA, helped build the athletic tradition at the school. He was undefeated as a high school boxer and also was a high school star in football, basketball and baseball. He played three sports at Campbell Junior College and played baseball at East Carolina.

He also returned to Garner High as a math teacher and coached conference championship teams in baseball and basketball.

“More than anything else, B.A. loved to teach,” said Johnny Corbett, his brother. “He probably would have done it forever if he could have supported his family doing it.”

B.A. Corbett left teaching to work in the United States space program, working at NASA for 30 years and having a part in every lunar mission.

Before he left Garner, though, he helped the high school field its first baseball team in several years in 1953. He found old uniforms and asked his mother to repair them. He and the team built a backstop and created an infield.

They bought a pitching rubber, a home plate and two bats.

And they won the conference championship that season.

Beck, who was represented at the induction by his brother Larry, had a 15-2 career record as a pitcher and was a four-year starting pitcher at East Carolina.

The celebration also included athletic director Nelson Smith presenting a gold football to Principal Carter Hillman.

The NFL last year gave footballs to the high schools of players who had appeared in NFL Super Bowl games. Garner received its ball because former Trojan Chris Culliver played with the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII in 2012.