Wildcats, Buckeyes and ‘Roaders

Thanks to Allen Hauberg and Ted Nealeigh for informing me that I omitted Westmont High School Class of 1954 graduate Duane Richards from the list of former major league players from the county. Richards appeared in two games as a relief pitcher for the Reds late in the 1960 season, tossing a total of three innings, striking out two. Over the course of 10 professional seasons, he participated in 311 games, 309 at the minor league level.

Back then there were only 16 major league teams, 8 each in the NL and AL, as compared to the 30 clubs of today. You can only wonder how Duanes’s career would have differed with almost twice as many available slots on rosters presently. He also was a key factor in Westmont’s journey to the ‘54 State Basketball Class B Final Four in Cleveland, where the Wildcats fell in the semi-finals to eventual state winner New Lexington St. Aloysius by a count of 71-62. As an aside, Westmont coach Glenn Harter later assumed the helm at Arcanum and in ‘56 led the Trojans to a Class B championship, defeating Columbus St. Mary’s 72-71 in the title contest.

Here’s a trivia question for you local high school sports aficionados—Bradford’s Railroaders appeared in the Final Four in what year and who was their coach? Answers at the end of this award-winning column!

Staying with memories of the ‘50s and ‘60s, let’s spend some time recalling the ‘59-‘60 Ohio State mens’ basketball team, the only basketball team to win a national championship in Ohio State history. Coached by Fred Taylor, the Buckeyes were led by national player of the year sophomore Jerry Lucas, sophomore John Havlicek, and junior Larry Siegfried with sophomore Mel Nowell and senior Joe Roberts rounding out the starting five. At the time, freshmen were ineligible to play varsity basketball. In anticipation of Ohio schoolboy legend Lucas and his incoming classmates arriving on campus, St. John Arena was constructed and to this day remains an iconic structure on the Columbus campus.

The ‘59-‘60 team paced college basketball averaging over 90 points per game (without the 3-point shot!), keying on the rebounding and outlet passing of Lucas to trigger fast break baskets. Most people today have no idea how dominant the Buckeyes were over the course of Lucas and Havlicek’s three varsity years. Did I mention key substitute Robert Montgomery Knight from Orville, Ohio? Three consecutive NCAA title games, an overpowering win over California in ‘60 with an overtime loss to an equally outstanding Cincinnati Bearcats team in ‘61, and finally another loss to UC in ‘62 as Lucas was injured and unable to play up to par concluded a golden era of OSU hoops. My father, an avid Buckeye alum and fan, passed away in 2004 having never again uttered “UC” after the ‘62 loss! Over those three years Lucas, Havlicek, and teammates compiled a record of 78-6 with three Big Ten titles and a league mark of 40-2.

Finally, the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced the expansion of football playoff teams for next fall, an increase from 8 to 16 in each region, in each of the 7 classes. The Ohio Football Coaches Association is adamantly opposed to such a move, in which 63 percent of schools would qualify for post-season play. After a Covid related year in which the ‘20 basketball tourneys and spring sports were cancelled and attendance restrictions put in place this school year, thus causing a major hit to OHSAA revenues, the coaches state “that this decision is obviously financially motivated.” In my opinion, having opening round matchups of number one seeds hosting number sixteens, twos hosting fifteens, etc. will lead to even more lopsided early round outcomes than we have presently had over the years. Those are my thoughts, what are yours?

Almost forgot the answers to the trivia question! The 1946 Bradford Roaders made it to the Class B Final Four, defeating Magnetic Springs 29-27 in a regional final. Playing the state semi-final at Wittenberg University in Springfield, the team fell to eventual state champion Farmer 57-39. Bradford also qualified, under a different format, for a Sweet 16 appearance in 1923!

The Railroaders were coached by my wife Kathy’s uncle, Harry Moore. Uncle Harry later became the superintendent of the short-lived Southeastern School District, the early ‘50s consolidation of Arcanum and Franklin-Monroe. After Arcanum won the state in ‘56 that was the end of the merger as each school soon after built new gymnasiums! Harry also was the father of former Greenville City Schools superintendent Bryan Moore. Uncle Harry’s offensive philosophy was simple — be a threat to shoot first, pass second, dribble last. Shoot, pass, dribble still holds true today! Until next time, stay healthy and active!

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Dr. Alex Warner

Shots in the Darke

Dr. Alex Warner is a contributing columnist for the Daily Advocate