The Sidney High School gymnasium has seen its share of greatness in its 60+ years with basketballers from Tom Glover to Andre Gordon. I’ve been fortunate to see them all.
50 years ago a truly great non-roundball athlete performed on Campbell Road. He was an almost 45 year old suburban Columbus veterinarian who moonlighted as a villain in the scripted world of professional wrestling after earlier working full time in that arena. While pursuing his medical specialty, Bill Miller earned an astounding nine varsity letters at Ohio State in football, wrestling, and track ending in 1950. He was a two time Big Ten heavyweight wrestling champion and an All-American in the shot put and discus.
Nine days ago marked the golden anniversary of my debut as a promoter and ring announcer for one of my favorite vices, professional wrestling. I was a senior at Sidney High School.
Dr. Big Bill Miller was to be featured in the tag team main event with his brother Dan against the Fabulous Lou Klein and Flying Fred Curry. However, the brother had evolved into a good guy on televised bouts and had to be swapped into another match. The Zebra Kid, a striped masked contestant from “parts unknown” tagged with the Doctor while Dan grappled against The Executioner, allegedly hailing from Sing Sing Prison.
Big Bill was an early arrival on that night. Rather than remain in the locker room, he ventured into the lobby and examined the trophy case. The animal physician wanted some context of the place where he was performing. Contrary to his in-ring character, he freely visited with any attendees who were brave enough to engage him. At about 290 pounds, the guy was downright imposing but actually quite friendly.
The Doctor’s ring encounter was the evening’s finale following a ladies bout, a men’s match, and a mixed tag. He played his role well, utilizing frequent banter with the ringside patrons including the ring announcer. At about the 13 minute mark, Klein was having his way with The Zebra Kid when he blinded Zebra by reversing his mask. The match’s final tag brought Curry into the ring for a series of flying drop kicks that floored his opponent, resulting in a three count for the pinfall verdict.
The place went nuts except for a select few including my dad who was simply glad it was over. He was the literal “fish out of water,” as evidenced by his wardrobe. One should never wear a suit to Big Time Wrestling.
I was pumped. Things had gone well. Several minutes later I ventured into the locker room where I found a congenial mixture of performers who had been “enemies” during the show. I expressed appreciation to Klein, who had booked the bouts from his Detroit area base of operations where he ran a pro wrestling school. I was then approached by Big Bill who shook my hand and visited for a bit. He talked about getting the crowd riled up to enhance the festivities.
On Thursday, April 6, 1972 our SHS Key Club made about $600 for service projects, a nice sum in those days, while having some major fun along the way. I have many memories of that night including meeting a villain who turned out to be a unique and truly nice guy. Dr. Big Bill Miller died in 1997, the same year he was inducted into the OSU Athletic Hall of Fame.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. That title is inspired by a radio show hosted by Dave Ross in the 1970’s and 1980’s.