As you could tell from the “50 years ago” SDN columns of the past few months, the basketball exploits of the new Lehman Cavaliers and long standing Sidney Yellow Jackets had been local headline makers a half century ago. This was especially true for Lehman and star senior John Freytag who would go on to play at Miami University in Oxford. He was on the team that beat coach Dean Smith and North Carolina in 1974.
Lehman was the consensus favorite to win the small school state title in 1971 but couldn’t get past Fort Recovery in the regional finals in UD Arena’s second season. One Recovery starter, Ed Snyder, went on to be the boys head coach at Minster and eventually move to Sidney. His son, Greg, will become Principal at Sidney High School this summer.
Across town in 1971, Sidney gained momentum at tourney time and made it to the district finals at Troy’s Hobart Arena. They needed one more win for a big school regional berth in an NBA arena, Cincinnati Gardens, home to the Royals of Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas. However, Springfield North prevailed over the Yellow Jackets.
Once high school basketball was concluded, it was baseball season as many fans renewed their interest in the Cincinnati Reds. 37 year old Sparky Anderson was in his second season as manager, and this early version of the Big Red Machine did not perform to expectation as defending National League champs.
The Reds went 79-83 in 1971, prompting the trade that retooled and elevated the Big Red Machine as second baseman Joe Morgan, starting pitcher Jack Billingham, and outfielder Cesar Geronimo arrived in the Queen City in 1972. World titles followed in both 1975 and 1976.
Bally Sports Ohio is periodically running an hour tribute to the recently passed Morgan, hosted by Jim Day and Marty Brennaman. I rank it as a “must see.”
Cincy morning host
Whenever I visit Cincinnati during the week, I seize the opportunity to watch the channel 12 “Good Morning Cincinnati” news/variety show anchored by Sidney native Sheila Slyh Robinson (SHS 1983), known professionally as Sheila Gray. She was inducted into the Sidney City Schools Hall of Honor in 2005. April 1 was Reds opening day and she was looking good with a “Mr. Red” mustache on her covid mask at the ballpark.
When synthetic turf was added to Sidney Memorial Stadium back in 2114, Sheila commented from her previous marching band perspective that she welcomed the improvement. While in high school the clarinet player had difficulty traversing the dirt/mud during a marching band competition at Julia Lamb Stadium. “I almost got stuck,” she still recalls today.
The stage name “Gray” has no particular significance other than to substitute for an inappropriate one. Her first boss told her that the name “Slyh” sounded dishonest which wouldn’t be good for a trustworthy news professional. Sheila Slyh Robinson (Gray) makes me proud to be a Sidney Yellow Jacket.
Want to see an interesting roster? Check out the NCAA runnerup Gonzaga Bulldogs, based in Spokane, Washington. The Zags (unofficial nickname) have young men from eight states including Washington, and five countries including the United States.
Legendary basketball coach Roy Williams recently stepped down at North Carolina and will retire. Back in 1995 his Kansas club opened the NCAA tourney as the top seed in Dayton. My press seat was right behind the Jayhawks bench. Though he didn’t upstage the officials, I was amazed at how much he was talking to them, “working them” as is often said. Most of the interaction didn’t show up on TV.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. The first Dave Ross byline appeared in the SDN in 1975. He’s a Past President of the Shelby County Historical Society.