As a small-town writer, I have absolutely made it a point to respond to any reader who takes the time to weigh in on something I’ve gotten published, be it a reaction to the couple of books I’ve authored or to something I’ve had published either in magazines or newspapers.
Now, while most who contact me do so via email, there are occasionally reactions that come by way of the U.S. Postal Service. Often they’re sent by my more mature readers who may tend to eye technology rather suspiciously and feel more comfortable communicating in a wonderfully personal way learned long ago.
Among those who do send letters is a gentleman named LeRee D. Little, who’d just as soon you call him Jake. About once a month after, I’m guessing, he’ll have read my weekly rants and maybe a feature I may have scored, I’ll get another Jake-o-gram with his reactions.
Of course, within a few days, using the cursive so patiently taught to me by those St. Charles (Very) Good Sisters of Charity, as I always do, I’ll volley a letter back Jake’s way. In an age where so many, especially the young, communicate only electronically via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, texts and email when not speaking face-to-face, I consider Jake’s and my swapping letters to be striking a blow for the good old days.
In January, Jake began his riff by reacting to a reference I made to Halloran Park, where Lima’s Pandas, a Class D minor league team with major diamond aspirations, once thrilled many a local baseball fan during their championship season of 1940.
Jake then recalled Repps Sporting Goods on North Elizabeth, where, once upon a time before he was Principal Little of Gomer Elementary School, visiting sports personalities always made a point of appearing when they came to town for a speaking engagement or clinic.
Then Jake’s spitballing reached the deep-dive phase when he asked, “Does Allen County have a sports hall of fame, and, if not, why not?” In my return letter, I did mention to Jake that there is an Allen County Golf Hall of Fame, one, I’m full of brotherly pride to say, includes my sister, Joan Whittaker, who was inducted last fall. But, as for an all-sports hall of fame, well, it appears Allen County is bereft.
Following his largely rhetorical question because, of course, Jake only asked after he did the necessary research to know the answer, he said that Hancock County certainly has a sports hall of fame, both with a physical location and a very nice website, so why not Allen County?
He mentioned a small sampling of Allen County sports figures deserving of induction, among them football player Joe Morrison, football coach Seraph Pope, golfer Trois Wood and girls basketball coach Gretchen Prichard and even the preeminent and prolific Western novelist Zane Grey, who once played for a Delphos amateur baseball team.
Jake then outlined his plan to correct what he sees as an oversight. As for location, he chose Lima, the county seat, and specifically the north corridor of the Civic Center for a wall of fame with plaques for inductees and teams that have won state championships. To start the roster of entrants, there would be eight honorees the first year, six the second, four the third and two each year after.
Nominations could come from anyone throughout the year with actual voting split between the public and a committee with the type of veteran presence that would include former athletes and coaches as well as long-time sportswriters and broadcasters so as to cover the deserving figures from long ago, figures of whom a younger public may not be aware.
Of course, in any worthwhile endeavor, there’s always a rub, in this case, I think, two. First, such a project would take a lot of man and woman power, as in enough committed people willing to meet regularly to plan such a considerable project. The second rub is really universal whenever groups plan something of this magnitude, and that is funding, specifically developing ways to raise the several thousand dollars annually it would take to fund such an operation.
But, if such a group of people could be found, my, wouldn’t it be neat to see those plaques displayed that detail the accomplishments of individuals like one-time South and Lima Senior football coach Frank Hanna; St. Rose graduate and five-year NFL offensive lineman Bill Lange; Joe Bowers, the man who casts the longest of shadows in our area’s schoolboy baseball coaching; and former Major League Baseball scout Jim Martz, a man who can put an Orioles’ World Series ring on one finger and a Braves’ World Series ring on another?
Jake, it’s hard to argue with your proposal. After all, if our Hancock County neighbors to the north can honor their sons and daughters of sport, shouldn’t we? But, alas, we can’t ignore those two rubs. If anyone out there has any reactions to Jake’s proposal or is interested in working on such a project, drop me an email, and I’ll get you in touch with a pretty tenacious former educator and current pen pal who’ll definitely pitch in and help get a worthy idea airborne.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.