Lima needs place to honor, remember area’s sports greats

By Jack Hammill - Guest Columnist

It was just a few days ago that I was engaged in conversation by an individual I admire. Interestingly enough either that same day or the next day a gentleman that I consider an absolute icon of bowling in our community continued that same conversation. On that same evening a 19-year-old rising star rolled the fourth perfect game of his adult career.

The conversations of Bob Line and John Austin as well as the game action of Drew Ambroza could not have come at a better time as the nation sports fans attend Hall of Fame activities for Major League Baseball and the National Football League.

If Cooperstown (population roughly 1,800) is almost big enough to host the Hall of Fame activities and to take care of the artifacts then Lima is large enough to come up with a building to harbor the items of value for those that have been involved in various sports in and around Lima.

It is a topic that has been addressed here at different times but somehow it may even be a better idea today. The idea entered my consciousness when speaking with Line and Austin and crystallized with a trip to Cooperstown this past weekend.

This is not meant to compare the stars of baseball to our local sports stars. We have very few that would compare. Examples may be the likes of Don Boyed who comparatively speaking is Hank Aaron who holds tons of baseball records and myself with Bob Uecker. He barely hit .200 for a career and I have never had a season where I averaged 200. Yet in each case we have made a difference.

Let’s get back to Line, Austin and Ambroza.

The conversation with Line began with his days rolling at the old Broadway Bowl as a member of the Knights of the Pythias team. Scores were not discussed as much as the concept of team bowling upstairs at the site on Main Street (now the offices of Steve Romey and crew).

Line has long been a factor in our bowling community, as a leader in the LBA. His baseball parallel would be the president of baseball operations.

This was not just two bowlers talking this was a gentleman who clearly loves the game sharing his memories. He spoke of Bowl-Mor, being there the first year that Westgate was opened as well as with Tobe Cardone in year one at 20th Century.

“I really liked Tobe. He was a great guy who really loved the game and wanted to take care of his bowlers.”

He complimented the skill set of Tom Schwenzer but also spun it forward talking about two brothers that bowled with him once upon a team.

Line continued, “The Meeker boys, Bill and Jerry bowled with me on that team. We knew that they were going to be very good but for that period of time I was the anchor of the team.” I would imagine that the smile hid a mix of the pride of the accomplishment and the memories of that great time period in his life. It was deserved. His reverence for the game was equally transparent.

Austin in many ways echoed Line with a Moreo twist and added conversation about the great families of the day to include the Riepenhoffs as we stayed Lima focused.

Austin has a great respect for Line as well. His goes back to the time that they spent in high school together. The two of them were classmates at South and I can only imagine the memories that they share from South to the Broadway to the doors of our modern era bowling establishments.

Austin has long been a sponsor for a team or two.

I reflected upon the conversation with the two men as I grabbed a soft drink from a convenience store as I departed Cooperstown after an incredible day. I had just chatted with a woman who was wearing a Jim Thome White Sox jersey. Earlier in the day I had a great conversation with a Phillies fan in Thome gear as we awaited the shuttle buses and road yet another shuttle with a female fan wearing a … you guessed it, a Twins Thome jersey. I was spared the Dodger and Oriole jersey although the Oriole fans yelled loud for Thome when he was announced.

The point of this is that in captive locations the love of a sport and a performer were once again timeless. It was and was not about the jersey it was about the love of the game.

In many ways it could be great if Austin and Line had a place to meet and simply hangout and talk about the good old days, sharing memories.

It would not have to be bowling only. It should be a building large enough that golfers, baseball, basketball, football, tennis and even soccer players could come and gather. Lovers of the individual sports in our area are worthy of a place to meet and hangout.

I really do not think it would be that hard to find volunteer docents to watch over the place. I honestly believe it is a building that would become quite popular for our area.

The young Ambroza lad has not been lost in this. He too has a parallel, somewhat more lovable than most baseball presidents and owners.

Just as Griffey Jr. was escorted onto the baseball scene by his very successful father, Drew also has had fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great grandparents who have eased the path for him.

Certainly there was some scoffing with the Griffey comparison but looking a little closer I am not sure it was deserved. Much like Junior he is a phenom who was exploding onto the scene at age 19 or if you are Drew a little prior to 19. Griffey was great and Drew has had four 300 games prior to age 19 when Junior broke in.

Perhaps it is not the stuff that Cooperstown handles, but Lima should be able to find a way to honor our community stars … upholding tradition, instilling dreams for kids not tied to video games.

See you around the lanes.

By Jack Hammill

Guest Columnist

Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.

Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.

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