Dave Sprague sat under an umbrella Friday night as the ballpark lights shone a spotlight on the rain that was steadily drowning Lima Stadium.
He couldn’t have been happier.
It was the first time since leaving town 45 years ago that he watched a football game at the stadium.
What brought him here on this soggy autumn evening?
It’s pretty simple.
His wife, Rosanne, was with her sisters at the Knights of Columbus, where a reunion was being held for those who graduated from the old St. Rose High School. Dave, a Lima South High School guy, Class of 1953, heard that two undefeated teams (Lima Central Catholic and Delphos Jefferson) were playing at the stadium. He had a choice: Hang out with the women or watch football in the rain.
It was easy.
Football in the rain.
“How long has that guy been coaching this team,” he asked about LCC’s Jerry Cooper. “You can tell he loves it. He’s up and down those sidelines, never quits moving, always chatting up his players.”
As the rain began to come down harder and the band took the field for halftime, Dave started talking more sports. And boy could he talk sports.
He grew up in Lima following the Cleveland Browns, his boyhood heroes being the likes of Jim Brown, Lou Groza and Milt Plum. His allegiance now, however, belongs to the Cincinnati Bengals.
How did a crime like that happen?
“When I got out of the service, I landed a job at NCR in Dayton. The Bengals were just starting up. They were only a few miles down the road and tickets were easy to get,” he explained, only to sigh later, “They’ll never win a Super Bowl as long as Mike Brown owns that team.”
He started talking basketball.
“Do you know Dayton Arena has hosted more NCAA tournament games than any other facility in the U.S,” he asked.
I never would have guessed that.
“It’s true,” he said. “I’ve watched a lot of them. I also watch the Dayton Flyers … been doing that for 45 years.”
Who is the best college basketball player he ever saw in person?
He hesitated only a few seconds and then smiled, “Magic Johnson. ... Yes, Magic. I can still see him dishing off those passes.”
Somehow the subject turned to history. He pointed out he drove a charter bus and rattled off the many historic sites he’s visited. It was right around then it began raining harder and lightning flashed. The stands started to empty. I figured David would be heading over to the K. of C. to join the St. Rose girls.
“No, I’ll just head back to my brother’s house,” he said. “My brother used to shoot game films for Lima Senior; he did it when they won the state football title.”
We never finished that conversation, getting separated as we made our way to the exit. The game would end up being postponed until Saturday.
I can tell you one thing, though.
On this cold, miserable, rain-soaked Friday night, I had a wonderful time talking with my new halftime friend.
ROSES AND THORNS: A few this week.
Rose: To the “royal family” of Allen East — the Richardsons, who have three generations of homecoming royalty. Mary Richardson was queen in 1965, the first year of Allen East High School. Deb (Guthrie) Richardson was queen in 1964, the last year for Lafayette-Jackson school. Amy (Richardson) Allen was queen in 1987, and her daughter, Emily, is up for queen this year. Her older daughter, Devon, was up for queen when in high school. A granddaughter, London, is this year’s junior attendant. Angie Richardson also was on the homecoming court during her high school years.
Rose: To Bath Township Fire Chief Joe Kitchen. The Ohio Department of Public Safety couldn’t have found a better person to name as its Ohio Fire Officer of the Year.
Rose: To Allen County Republican chairman Keith Cheney, who kept the streak alive. Today’s visit by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan marks the 16th straight presidential election wherethe Republican nominee for president or his running mate has visited Lima.
Rose: To Gene “Groamy” Frueh, owner of Groamy’s Music Store. Not too many people can say they’ve kept a “records store” open for 20 years, but he’s one of them. His nickname, “Groamy,” also is a classic.
Rose: An Interstate 75 landmark between Dayton and Cincinnati has been resurrected. A 51-foot likeness of Jesus Christ, nicknamed “Hug Me Jesus,” depicts a full-bodied Jesus who is standing with his arms opened. It replaced the old “Touchdown Jesus” statue that was destroyed by lightning in 2010.
Rose: To Ted Davis, of Lima, and Sandra Kistler, of Pandora, who recently had their ideas featured in the nationally syndicated comic strip “Pluggers.”
Thorn: A “hit list” was found at two Kenton schools. It included names of teachers and students. Authorities believe the list was made by three middle school students.
Thorn: Police are seeing an increase of daytime burglaries on Lima’s north side. With the help of neighbors, police have been able to arrest 10 juveniles so far.
Thorn: An 80-year-old woman reported to police her motorized wheelchair hasn’t been working properly ever since she was sideswiped while driving it on Town Square on Sept. 9.
Thorn: Two Putnam County teachers — Jeremy Stober, 41, of Kalida schools and JeffreyL. Perry, 54, of Continental schools — are facing charges for having sexual conduct with students.
PARTING SHOT: Indecision is the basis of flexibility.