I umpired much baseball and some softball from 1969-82 and saw many interesting things along the way. A few weeks back I mentioned Sidney’s Tom Goffena who became the first ever draft choice of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977. The shortstop was so thoroughly scouted that it was routine for at least a dozen major league scouts to attend each of his senior season games with that number increasing as the June draft approached.
I recall one game at SHS where I arrived to work home plate to find that the visiting team was yet to appear. Still, the two sections of visitors benches were full of scouts whom I joined until the opponent’s bus finally delivered its cargo.
That same year Dayton Meadowdale outfielder Tony Nicely was the first pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates and I had called one of his American Legion games. In 1979 Lima Shawnee outfielder Brad Komminsk was the fourth choice overall and went to Atlanta. I umpired him several times in both Legion and high school.
I followed the careers of the trio though only Komminsk made the majors, revealing the nature of this very tough business. He tore through the minors and was seen as destined for major league greatness before he became a journeyman player who also coached and managed at several levels. When he was first called up to the Braves and I attended one of his games in Cincinnati, I was proud to say that I’d umpired and called radio play-by-play in games Brad Komminsk played in Sidney.
I enjoyed interacting with many coaches, especially in high school baseball. My first two assignments in my first season of 1975 were at Miami East where I quickly and favorably got acquainted with coach Rick Gold who was launching a great career. He even reached out to me to work some summer home games. I enjoyed my visits to Casstown and the mutual respect I shared with the coach.
Rick’s diamond resume’ expanded at Piqua HS and with the Piqua Legion squad, and he also coached the Russia Raiders for three championship seasons. He’s a baseball “lifer” and multiple Hall of Famer, now in his second stint assisting at Wittenberg University. We’ve been friends for over 44 years. He’s a wonderful example of the fine folks I’ve met through my favorite sport.
One coach I’ll never forget is the legendary Joe Hawk of Cincinnati Bentley American Legion which got the top players from Western Hills, Elder, and the entire west side. Bentley traveled in style with a large budget and it was a big deal when they came to Sidney. During his lengthy tenure, Hawk won five national titles and coached 14 future major leaguers including Don Zimmer and Pete Rose. I was honored to meet him and work his game.
Sports officiating also has its light and odd moments. One Saturday night I worked a church league softball game that went extra innings. In the third extra frame each team scored seven times and we kept playing.
Sidney native Huber “Doc” Staley (SHS 1934) was a well known football, basketball, and baseball official who liked to be noticed, and stories of his antics spread quickly. Before one assignment I was approached by Russia coach Jon Heffner. “We had Doc last week and you won’t believe what happened,” the veteran mentor opined. I listened and then asked who the other umpire was. Jon didn’t remember but it was me. I always said that if you officiate with Doc, you may not be noticed.
One night I was working 13 and 14 year olds at Custenborder Field when a line drive caused the pitcher to suddenly jerk out of harm’s way, causing his cigarettes to be strewn about the mound area. I called “time” and declared that the pitcher should gather his misplaced items.
Finally I’ll recount the start of the final game I worked in 1982, a junior varsity high school match between Elida and Sidney also at Custenborder. A very short Elida hitter entered the batter’s box to begin the game when the batgirl/statgirl came forward to pour water on his helmet. My eyes met her’s and I asked what she was doing. “I’m trying to make him grow,” she stated.
Next Friday: 1965: Future No. 1 band performs in Sidney. Our state song will follow.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross joined local sports media in 1975 and is a Past President of the Ohio Sportscasters Association and Shelby County Historical Society.