60 years ago, eight of the nine high schools in Shelby County played baseball. Ironically, the one that didn’t was by far the largest of the group. Holy Angels and the seven county schools all fielded baseball while Sidney High did not.
However, SHS got a new school in the fall of 1960 and then had a spacious place to practice about the same time city owned Custenborder Field was opening for games. By the spring of 1961, the Yellow Jackets were playing the national pastime for the first time.
Back in 1913 the Sidney “Reflector” yearbook reported on the absence of baseball. “Base ball, it seems, does not interest the student body and so they will not support it. There are several good players, enough to have a good team.” At this same time baseball enjoyed enough local popularity that major league teams like the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates periodically barnstormed here for games against local and area talent in front of large and enthusiastic crowds.
By 1963 Sidney’s third team was making headlines en route to a district title and a trip to the regionals at Crosley Field, home of the Reds. The Sidney team dressed in the home clubhouse. Senior players took the lockers of star players like Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Joey Jay, and Bob Purkey. One sophomore was relegated to the cubicle of rookie second baseman Pete Rose who went on to become the sport’s “hit king,” making Tom Middleton a lucky guy in retrospect. Sidney lost its game but what an experience.
Nine years later, Middleton coached Anna to the small school state baseball title as the Shelby County League took two in a row. Russia won in 1971 and Anna a year after.
Pro wrestling legend
Back in the fall of 1953 a pro wrestling show was booked in front of the grandstand at the Shelby County Fairgrounds. As I grew up and enjoyed watching this activity, my dad often spoke of the near riot that took place at that specific event. Many years later I found the story in the microfilm archives of the Sidney Daily News as housed at the public library.
Things got out of hand when intoxicated ringside partisans brawled with each other and the participants, resulting in multiple arrests that night and court appearances the next morning. The judge admonished everyone involved, saying there was plenty of blame and shame for all concerned.
One of the wrestlers was the masked “Dark Secret” who had to remove his mask and reveal his identity for the court appearance. 35 year old Fred Blassie was fined $50 plus costs, a substantial sum 67 years ago. Blassie later became an international headliner as both a wrestler and manager. Classy Freddie Blassie was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1994.
First football soccer kicker
Who was the first soccer style placekicker in American football? Many sources cite various kickers from the 1960’s. I’ve researched the subject thoroughly and have no doubt that it’s German exchange student Albert Burger who kicked for Minster High School in 1951. Next season will mark the 70th anniversary of this milestone.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross has worked in local sports media for 45 years.