INTRODUCTION: Originally written in the 2002, June ARROW ADDENDUM booklet printed by Kehl Kolor, Inc and pictures by Maurer Photography Studio & Ashland Times-Gazette.
From different sources around the State the golf coaches have been asked, “What’s with Ashland? You are not a big city school, you’re not a parochial school, you’re just a small community, but Ashland is near the top of the State every year. How do you do it?” This isn’t just true of golf only. The question applies to the overall sports program and our acclaimed sobriquet “Someplace Special.”
The answer entails several factors over Ashland’s long sports history. First is the willingness of the community to provide the facilities and the programs for their youth and many times without tax dollars. While track “Field Days” at the turn of the Century were held at the old Fairgrounds off Sandusky Street, the earliest recreation centers were the YMCA (1909) and Brookside Park (1917). A grandstand for baseball was built on the YMCA field in 1913. In 1921 that Y Field off Holbrook, Brookside Park, and the Country Club of Ashland expanded their sites with land donated by the FE and PA Myers’ families.
By the end of the Twenties basketball was being played at McDowell Auditorium in the new high school; and the football, baseball, and track teams were playing at YMCA (Myers) Field. In 1928 a pool was added at Brookside, and the high school began holding “cold” swimming meets in May. The first athlete went to State George Fluke. In 1931 Glenwood opened as a public golf course on West Main.
Every time a sports need appeared the Ashland community responded with a new venue. When Little League baseball was born in 1955, they used Brookside No.1 and Emmons Field; and two State championships came home the first two years. Governor Frank Lausche even threw out the first pitch in 1956. Then Governor O’Neill did the same two years later. By 1960 a lighted Pony League field from the VFW was used by the youth baseball program.
In the 1960s the new high school at King and Katherine included land for athletic fields. In 1963 Community Stadium replaced Redwood Stadium as the Arrow’s home field. The $110,000 project was the result of a community effort spearheaded by Fred Martinelli and George Valentine. Many credit T.W. Miller Jr. as the force behind the project. While the basketball team moved to what is now Arrow Arena, the track and baseball (the nationally recognized Bud Plank Field) teams also received new home sites on the property. In the meantime the tennis courts remained on the drawing board, and the swimming pool continued to be the hoax under the gym floor.
When T.W. Miller Jr. made softball a national attraction, a community group added new lights at Brookside Diamond No. 1 and Cahn Grove got the old lights. Bill Mills led a fundraiser in 1951-52 to get lights at Myers Field. Another community project was led by Dave Gray and Russ Harpster in 1985 to improve the lights, seats, and press box at Community Stadium.
From a modest beginning the Soccer Association introduced the sport to the community in 1981. A traveling team began on the Y-Field, and now over a thousand kids play at a half a dozen locations. The soccer groups continued the Ashland tradition of community projects to provide facilities with the 700-seat Community Soccer Stadium at Ringler Field.
Since 1942 a tax levy has financed the Parks and Recreation Dept. The Brookside Park area has been the major growth area from that revenue. In the 70’s Brookside Golf Course had two 9-hole golf additions in 1971 and 1978. When girls’ softball came into vogue, the Girls’ OHSAA State Tournament came to Ashland in 1978. The development of Brookside West dates from 1982. Today, the P&RD continues to run the summer softball, tennis, basketball, and golf programs.
The most visible public support group is the All-Sports Boosters club, which was organized in 1947. Their fund raising efforts for Arrow athletics are nearing a half-a-million dollars. Several other parent and mothers’ groups are spin-offs from the Boosters Club. However, many industries, businesses, and individuals have supported the athletic department by advertising in the program, supporting the Cruise Party, donating to the banquet awards, and backing special events on the athletic schedule.
The Weiss and the Armstrong are two of the oldest varsity and JV golf invitationals in the State. The Wendy girls’ softball event is now an interstate gathering, and its sister tournament, East of Chicago, carries on Ashland’s softball reputation. Myers, Faultless (Abbott), and probably every downtown business have contributed to the athletic department. For years the clothing stores (Toggery & Strauss) were the ticket outlets for tournament games.
Almost every sport has benefited from some kind of feeder system from the community. The YMCA has the longest record of helping basketball, football, swimming, and other sports some of which have ceased like bowling, boxing, and the rifle teams. The Youth baseball probably has the longest record of Summer recreation. The JAWS program has developed AHS wrestlers since the 1970’s. One of the most popular feeder programs was the Junior High City league for football, basketball, and track from four elementary schools during the 1950’s and 60’s. The Taft Presidents/Senators, Osborn Redmen, Edison Inventors, and Montgomery Monties vied for the Faultless Rubber trophy. Since that time a continuous 5th and 6th grade program still goes on today. Finally, not to be overlooked the finest in-house program; the Girls Athletic Club (GAC) thrived for four decades until Title IX opened the door to girls’ interscholastic sports.
Another factor in Ashland’s success is the people who have run these sport programs. Some sports have maintained the stability of having the same coach for a long and successful tenure. The head coaches with more than 20 years were: Bud Plank, Dave Smalley, Carl Leedy, Barry Ferguson, Bob Henikman, Jeff Burnett, and Tom Williams. Although other sports have continuously changed coaches, Fred Martinelli, retired AU football coach and AD, is quick to point out that most of the coaches hired from outside the AHS system brought winning records with championship credentials from other schools.
Nevertheless, above every other factor has been the athletes. Their countless hours of dedication and perseverance are the basis of any successful athletic program. In other generations many athletes played three sports, which kept them in shape year round. Coaches recruited their athletes for the other sports because they saw the carryover value of successful experiences from one sport to another. Now almost every sport has an off-season program, which demands their time, and Summer camps abound. Today the AHS weight room is in continuous use the year around and most nights of the week.
Meanwhile the opponents and the schedule have always been the primary goals for the high school team. The immediate objective was a conference championship. Other than the years of scheduling as an independent (1945-60) AHS has been in a league since 1919. The A’s have been in the North Central Ohio League, the Tuscowand League (baseball only), the Cardinal Conference, and the Ohio Heartland Conference. In 2003 the Arrows will compete in the new Ohio Cardinal Conference.
The post-season on the OHSAA tournament trail always quickens a season ending impetus. Until 1930 AHS was in the powerful Cleveland-Akron-Canton Northeastern District. J.E. Bohn, the AHS Principal, was on the state board, and he petitioned them to switch the A’s to the Northwest District. Thus Ashland became the last school in the Mansfield-Lima-Sandusky-Toledo district on the path to the State Tournament. This 19-sport AHS history has majored on the conference, the first tournament step (sectional/district), and those, who have reached the State level of competition.
While the space in this booklet eliminates a volume of records, some highlights cannot be overlooked. One must ask if there are perhaps some unbreakable records like Roosevelt Robinson’s rushing totals, Dick Dauch and Darla Plice’s 40-point games, Tom Zappone’s 19-1 career pitching record, and Beth Mallory’s four State performances. Some other noteworthy achievements include: Andrea Bardy’s six different State meets, Bob Andy’s State trips in three different sports, the 12-letters by Joey Ortiz and Colleen Byrne. It cannot be forgotten that in the 20th sport - gymnastics Jane Schantz was the only one to make it to State, and she did it three times. Do we need to be reminded that Eddie Wells, John Roseboro, Max Messner, Darla Plice, and Tim Seder all made the big leagues?
When the coffee conversations reiterate the chronicles of the Orange and Black, they relish some of these triumphs of glory. The oldest sport football 95 years: the years of the roses (Starn and Robinson), Cloyce Taylor’s teams, four straight CCC’s well Dunne, and the 7-6 upsets of the too-tough Mansfield Tygers three decades apart. The four basketball teams at State, the 11 NCO and 10 CCC’s, the high scoring games at McDowell Auditorium, the 29-straight wins in Arrow Arena, and the 1000th win. The Dod Paxton era: the only two baseball teams to State. The string of tracksters to State: 23 of 24 years. The success of the Ashland distance runners: boys and girls, track and cross country, OHC and State. The great girls’ years of Joy Roberts, Tammy Eisel, and Amy Schmitz. The 20 golf teams to State and the only two AHS State championships. The State semi-finals in soccer and the Division I championship game at Brookside in softball. The great year of 1936 with four teams at the State: basketball, baseball, golf, and tennis. The enviable league record that only AHS won the Cardinal Conference in every sport and the OHC in every sport except one. Not to be forgotten is the distinguished expansion and promotion of Arrow athletics under Ev DeVaul’s tenure as Athletic Director.
From our indelible memories of the past even the opponents who went on to greater fame must be remembered. In 1933 Jim Jesson went to the State track meet undefeated in the 220. He lost in the prelims, and he wasn’t close to the East Tech sprinter Jesse Owens, who broke the world’s record that day. In 1957 Larry Brockway played 36-holes in the State golf championship in the same foursome with a long driving blonde from Upper Arlington named Jack Nicklaus. AHS baseball coach Herb Carr was soundly booed for intentionally walking Coshocton’s slugging catcher named Bob Brenly, who is now the manager of the World’s Champion the Arizona Diamondbacks. Perhaps the most bizarre shot in AHS basketball history was the tipped pass for the 1993 Sectional championship. Some spectators still wonder was it Bryan Murvine’s fingertips or the touch of Fremont’s Charles Woodson, who won the Heisman trophy? Finally, it will always be recalled that the doubleheader game in Akron this past basketball season had Sport Illustrated’s “the Chosen One” LeBron James playing in the other game.
For the athletes, who heard it’s the team and teamwork, one of the lasting memories was the teammates. An untold number of friendships have lasted a lifetime. This author was awestruck during the 1976 WNCO “Football Memories” program when Herb Ganyard and Don Cooper remembered the first AHS championship the 1922 NCO football first place finish. It was an impressive thing to see their endearing camaraderie of well over 60 years.
After all the plays, and all the games, and the innumerable moments, the dreams and ambitions inspired an immeasurable impact on most lives. The work ethic of sports and the pursuit of success for many athletes has carried over into their future careers. In some part their lifetime purpose and their habits were influenced by their days as an athlete.
Questions or comments? Contact: Paul Dienstberger