BRISTOL – While having spent a tremendous amount of time covering some of the most revered athletes across the globe, receiving the recognition of being inducted into the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame was about the city that Adrian Wojnarowski calls home and the athletes he grew up admiring.
“Bristol is a unique sports town,” Wojnarowski said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be around sports not just around the country but around the world and what Bristol has is unique. It’s really humbling to be a small part of it.”
Wojnarowski graduated from Bristol Central in 1987 and earned a degree at St. Bonaventure University.
One of Wojnarowski’s many accomplishments was most recently becoming the NBA Insider for ESPN.
He has been honored with national awards at papers in Waterbury, Fresno and Northern Jersey.
In the Bristol community he helped start The Writing Initiative for students at his Alma matter Bristol Central with teacher Gale Dickau.
“It offers some opportunities and exposure to the written word,” Wojnarowski said. “And we hope to have some guest speakers over time and to be able to help put that together with Gale made this perfect for me to come back and be part of that Central High community high again because I wouldn’t be here without it.”
The others inducted that Wojnarowski was honored to share the night with were John M. Benzinger, Jack Hines, Don Cassin, Daryl Floyd, Dr. Werner “Willie” Rosshirt, Joe Jandreau and Matt Wilson.
Benzinger was a 1982 graduate of Bristol Central where he played both football and baseball.
“I think playing a multitude of sports was real important,” Benzinger said. “I played baseball and football but I played basketball and I played hockey too and I think nowadays there is too many kids who just specialize in one sport. I think it’s important for the young kids and high school kids to do everything and be an all-around athlete.”
Both of his kids carried on his legacy as a strong athlete.
His son Jake is a member of the Wake Forest University football team and his daughter Jenna is a member of the Brown University women’s basketball team.
For Hines, his impact on the Bristol community led to his induction into the Hall of Fame and he currently serves as the President of the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame.
“I came to Bristol in 1968 with my family,” Hines said.
“I know many of these people or watched them perform and they’re all so deserving to be in the Hall and I’m going to make mention to some of them tonight when I give my acceptance.”
As a prominent leader in the community, Hines was involved not only in sports activities but various organizations.
Hines brought the Celtics and 76ers to the community in 1970 for the Mum Festival with the help of others.
“It’s a real honor to be part of this,” Hines said. “I’ve served a number of years as the director and I know I wasn’t getting in on the athletics side so I thought I’d better get involved with community service.”
The late Cassin was also well integrated in the community as a coach of Bristol Midget Football, a sponsor of the Edgewood Little League Mets, the Bristol Cassins and the Cassins semi-professional basketball team that played in the New England Basketball Association.
His son Christopher, the athletic director for Bristol accepted the award on his behalf along with his mother and Cassin’s wife Rosemarie.
“It’s a great honor,” Cassin’s son and current athletic director Christopher Cassin said of the recognition his father received. “Bristol had always been a great deal for him. The Bristol Sports Hall of Fame has had some great inductees that have come in over the years. A number of the inductees that have come in have played for one or both of the teams that my father has sponsored over the years. It’s a great honor to accept the award on his behalf and the behalf of our family.”
Both Cassin and his son shared fond sports memories and on Sunday the two had their difference as Don was a Giants fan and Christopher is a Cowboys fan.
“It always made for very interesting Sunday’s,” Christopher Cassin said. “But I remember coming to watch myself, my brother and my sister play through youth sports through high school and even when I continued as a coach in town him and my mother coming to our games. Athletics has just been a big part of our life.”
Floyd was well known for his success in both track and field and basketball at Bristol Eastern.
“It’s a wonderful honor to come back to Bristol where I was born and spent all my years and raised,” Floyd said. “I went through the school system. My father was a coach here. My mother worked for the education system. And just to be here and have them see my friends and some of the people who have influenced me is just a great honor for them to be here and see where I come from.”
His father Johnny Floyd was inducted into the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 and served as a cross country and track coach and his mother Virdie was the director of libraries for the public schools.
Floyd went on to Boston University to play basketball and his career was highlighted in 1979 when he was named as the most improved player for the Terriers.
Rosshirt was a three-sport athlete at Bristol Central. He participated in soccer, basketball and tennis. He earned second team All-State honors in basketball as a senior and was undefeated on the tennis court in his senior year with a 13-0 record.
He went on to attend Trinity College and his work in the classroom was just as impressive as what he did in athletics highlighted by finishing fourth in his class as Bristol Central and receiving the Bob Harron Award at Trinity, an award that recognizes the most outstanding student-athlete.
All of that work culminated in him becoming a doctor.
Jandreau was a star baseball player at Bristol Eastern. In his three seasons at the varsity level he was named all-conference and as a senior was awarded all-state.
His greatest attributes as a player were his hitting and base stealing ability as well as his prolific speed on the base paths.
“Since I’ve grown up in Bristol and been here my whole life and to see all my family and friends and coaches and ex-teammates it’s very special to be honored and to know that I’m part of the Bristol sports history,” Jandreau said.
Another baseball player being recognized was Wilson. He played on both the Bristol Central and Bristol American-Legion teams for three seasons.
It was the first time back for Wilson in years.
“I’ve been looking forward to this because of all the people who I see,” Wilson said. “I see some but not many so it’s kind of like a reunion for me because it’s been almost 30 years since I’ve been back.”
“One thing that Bristol always does well is sports,” Wilson said. “I was fortunate enough to play baseball so the rich heritage of Bristol baseball from Legion state championships to the quality of the high school and the Little League coming through and around the state Bristol has always been known as a baseball powerhouse so to follow in the footsteps of some of the players that I looked up to has a special place for me.”
The seven inductees all contributed to the sports history of Bristol in numerous ways and all make up a strong class and one for the city to be proud of.
“I’m a little prejudiced being part of it,” Hines said with a grin. “But I think we’re in the top 10.”
Written by DAN ORENCOLE