It was mid-August 1975 as I was sitting down with my parents for dinner when the phone rang. I answered and George Cole of WMVR radio stated his business. He wanted to record comments from me about some upcoming Sidney football events. I was the President of the Sidney Vespa Quarterback Club booster group.
When we finished, the combo news and sports director asked if I could work with him on the air at the scrimmage that was the centerpiece of those activities. He said I sounded good over the phone and should give it a try.
“Broadcast a scrimmage?,” I asked. “Yes,” he replied. “We have an exclusive sponsor who is already on board. He wants events to sponsor. You’ll be paid $7.50.”
“Well, I’ll try anything once,” was my response and a pretty accurate reflection of Dave Ross at age 21. Just a few weeks earlier I had driven in the demolition derby at the Shelby County Fair, much to the dismay of my parents. Needless to say, my car was not sponsored by Ross Aluminum Foundries.
When I arrived at the scrimmage at Julia Lamb Stadium, I discovered that we had a makeshift Sidney roster and no roster at all for the visiting Graham Falcons. Other than that the broadcast went alright and George asked if I’d like to work the regular season with him. I said “yes” and actually stayed for 15 years before leaving radio and moving on to other media in our area.
George and I worked the ten Sidney football games together. Road trips in Cole’s bubble-like AMC Pacer were often to the Dayton area where he liked to patronize the International House of Pancakes after games when an outlet was nearby. In those days that’s not really where I wanted to be at 11 p.m. on a Friday night. However, he usually worked a news shift the next morning and that tended to cut into our late night time at IHOP.
The Yellow Jackets finished 5-5-0 in 1975 including a heartbreaking loss at Northmont, a dominant squad of that era whom we were playing for the first time. I also had an amazing experience as the two of us were on press row and in the postgame locker room for a big Cincinnati Bengals win over the powerful Oakland Raiders in Paul Brown’s final year as Cincy head coach. Around that same time Cole arranged a press pass so I could interview hockey legend Gordie Howe in Cincinnati. I loved this initial foray into the sports media business and that enthusiasm still holds true 45 years later.
That winter I got involved with basketball commentary before getting into the play-by-play role for both football and basketball during the 1976-77 school year including Fort Loramie’s boys state basketball title, a first for Shelby County. Advertising and other duties were added a year after that. By then George Cole had moved to a Lima radio station. He’d earlier done some TV in that market and had also worked in Arizona.
Before Cole’s WMVR departure and quite by accident, he got me involved in another enduring activity. At the 1977 Shelby County Fair, professional wrestling was a featured grandstand event. George recorded interviews with Flying Fred Curry and a couple other performers for later use. When he replayed them he referred to this activity as “fake,” which was largely true but taboo to mention in those days. The incensed grapplers headed to the WMVR midway log cabin to confront Cole who was gone for the day.
Instead they found me and calmed down as we visited. They could tell I was a big fan. Flying Fred was in charge and asked if I’d be their ring announcer that night. That became a secondary career over the next several decades including many nights where Curry was a headliner.
I saw George a few times while he worked in Lima before losing track of him. Over the years I rhetorically inquired several times of longtime colleagues Bob Wise and Mike Lieber, “I wonder where George Cole is.” Finally, Bob provided the answer with the online obituary of George Matthias Cole, Jr. He had died in Auburn, Indiana in 2007 at age 79.
Too bad we never reconnected. George’s name still brings a smile to my face. I’m glad he made the dinner time phone call that started it all. Thanks George. Best always…Dave
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross is the historian of Sidney High School football and 1972 SHS graduate.