Efforts by the historic Allen Street museum to recognize some of the greatest athletes in Plant City’s history, young and old alike, are picking up.
When Mario Williams signed his national letter of intent to play for the Oklahoma Sooners last week, it was a groundbreaking moment for Plant City High School history. No Raiders football player had ever reached that level of renown nationally, clocking in as one of the highest-ranked players in the country before his senior season began.
Not long after the Sooners got a copy of his NLI, the Bing Rooming House Museum got a copy as well. Williams’ letter is exactly the kind of thing the museum staff and volunteers are looking for right now as it tackles its next big project: fleshing out its Sports Hall of Fame, located on the second floor of the Allen Street museum.
“We’re just trying to get the community to take advantage of the Bing House and see history,” volunteer Calvin “Pee Wee” Callins said. “We have some of the best athletes that have ever played the game.”
The Sports Hall of Fame has already collected quite a bit of memorabilia from donations and past events it’s hosted, like world boxing champion Chevelle Hallback’s “Conversation with a Champion” and this year’s celebration of Ginger Forté Day. There’s plenty more to come, too, like exhibits for the 1982 PCHS state champion boys basketball team, athletes like Russell Evans who had record-breaking high school careers, those who came back to coach in Plant City after leaving it and football players like Gerold Dickens, Derrick Gainer and more who made it to the professional leagues. One thing in particular that the Bing House is putting a lot of energy into is memorializing the 1964 Marshall High School Dragons football team, a powerhouse of a squad that went undefeated and produced some of the finest athletes the city has ever seen.
“I hear stories about Marshall High School and that undefeated football team,” Callins said. “If those guys would have had opportunities that players had now, we would have so many NFL stars.”
The Marshall project is especially interesting to William Thomas Jr. Inspired by Major League Baseball’s recent decision to merge Negro Leagues statistics with its own, Thomas Jr. said he hopes to do something similar with the Dragons by merging their stats together with those of Plant City High School and others of that period of time.
Younger athletes like Williams and NCAA national champion T.J. Chase — “draftees, as Callins and Thomas Jr. call them — are very much eligible to make it into the Hall fo Fame even if they haven’t had long careers in their sports.
“Our planned course is young and old… their accomplishments today will be history tomorrow,” Thomas Jr. said.
Thomas Jr. said the Bing House is currently developing specific criteria by which future Hall of Fame nominees will be considered. When there’s a clearly defined list, he said, it will be posted online at the museum’s website (plantcitybinghouse.com). Anyone who wishes to nominate an athlete or team, or any athletes who have memorabilia they would like to donate, can get the process started by calling Thomas Jr. at 813-704-5800.