An obituary in the Lima News this past weekend captured my attention. Bill Komminsk, 88 years young, passed away in his sleep last week. And while Komminsk’s obituary described him as a pillar of the business community in Lima, I believe he will be forever remembered as a leader and star of one of the most memorable sports team to ever compete in our community, the 1946 Lima Central High School football squad.
In an era when the landscape of athletic competition is forever changing, one immutable truth remains: there are championship seasons that have the ability to bind a community together and produce memories that can last for generations. We all have cherished recollections of great teams stocked with gifted athletes that captured the spotlight and headlines. But for all of those teams and athletes, the memory of their achievements eventually fade with time.
Perhaps a gauge of a team’s greatness can be achieved by measuring the lifespan of the memories it produces. That being the case, the 1946 Central High School Dragons may represent the gold standard in our community. Seventy-one years after their magical season, their story retains the ability to capture our imagination.
Their story has been chronicled many times. Under the direction of their beloved second-year coach, Seraph Pope, Central High School ran off an improbable string of 10 wins without a loss against a grueling schedule and, in an era before the postseason playoffs were instituted, laid claim to the mythical football state championship of Ohio. The entire community of Lima fell in love with the Dragons. Their last game of the season, against archrival Lima South High School, was played before the largest crowd ever lured to Lima Stadium, estimated at 9,500 by The Lima News.
The Central Dragons are certainly not the only local team that provoked strong sentiment through the years. The 1948 St. Rose basketball state runner-up squad, the 1996 Lima Senior High football state champions, LCC’s 2010 basketball state champions and Perry’s inspiring tournament run last season represent a small sampling of successful seasons that will not soon be forgotten.
The 1946 Central team’s impact in our community continued long after their season ended. Many of the players remained in Lima and assumed leadership roles in their professions and in their church and school communities. Great teams don’t happen by accident. Most are stocked with leaders who understand the values of commitment, loyalty and teamwork. When applied to their daily lives and professions, their positive impact on our hometown remained long after their decorated athletic careers came to a close.
I believe the 1946 Central team left another clear message to athletes of succeeding generations about the rewards of their competitive experience. The greatest gift they will receive from their athletic involvement is friendship. Talk with any athletes, long after their careers, at any level, have come to a close. When asked what they miss the most, they talk about the camaraderie of the locker room, the friendships forged, the memories shared.
The ’46 Central teammates and friends have been meeting together for lunch on the last Wednesday of the month for the past seven decades, some of them driving great distances to reconnect with their comrades. They never tire of hearing and telling the same stories and jokes and reliving their sweet season. I felt honored to be an invited guest at several of those gatherings. I was struck by their fellowship and genuine affection for each other. When the luncheon broke up, their handshakes turned to embraces.
With Bill Komminsk’s passing, only a few former player chairs remain at the table for Central’s football team luncheon. In time their story will fade into history. But when it is revived, let it be known that the 1946 Central team’s positive impact was felt in this community far beyond their success on the football field.
Their coach, Seraph Pope, whose black, granite tombstone in Woodlawn cemetery is carved in the shape of a football, would be proud of his boys.
Bob Seggerson is a retired boys basketball coach and guidance counselor at Lima Central Catholic. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.