So did Derrick Brown cost himself millions by jumping into the NBA draft last week rather than playing his final season at Xavier and possibly upping his profile, his draft status and his bank account?
That question has been volleyed back and forth the past five days, especially down in Cincinnati — “Brown, Meeks make big mistakes by eschewing final year of eligibility” read a headline in the Cincinnati Enquirer — since the Chaminade Julienne grad was taken in the second round, the 40th pick overall, by the Charlotte Bobcats.
I can see Brown’s reasons for leaving: He’s already graduated and he sat out a red-shirt year for the Muskies; a new coach is coming in; there’s always the possibility of injury; next year’s draft will be more loaded with talent; and, of course, he had plenty of people telling him he would be a first-round pick.
That said, I still think he should have stayed. I said it before the draft.
Although Xavier’s scheme usually isn’t built to make one guy the star — at least not since David West — I think Brown could have dominated in the Atlantic 10 this coming season, especially if new coach Chris Mack could build a fire, a sense or urgency, in him for every half of every game.
And I think had Brown known last week what he knows now, he would have stayed at Xavier. In fact, his camp said so in the weeks leading up to the draft. To paraphrase: “If Derrick’s going to end up in the second round, he’ll stay in school.”
The flip side is that he’ll be playing alongside better players and be learning from Larry Brown. He certainly should make the Bobcats and that could position himself for his next contract.
As for that aforementioned Enquirer headline, it was above an item in a Sunday column by Richard Skinner, who wrote:
“They (Brown and Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks) certainly couldn’t have done much worse than being picked in the second round. Both do have great opportunities to make the teams that drafted them, but both left guaranteed millions behind by not being picked in the first round where each could have been selected next year.”
So what kind of money are we talking about here?
This isn’t the NFL — the NBA has a rookie salary scale — so the loss isn’t as drastic by not being a first-rounder. But it’s still a sizable difference of cash when you end up in the second round.
Last year, for example, Doug Lewis made $442,114 — the league minimum — from the New Jersey Nets as the 40th pick in the draft.
The 15th overall pick in 2008, Phoenix’s Robin Lopez, was slated for a three-year deal worth $5.24 million. The 25th pick, Portland’s Nicolas Batum, was set for a three-year deal worth $3.36 million.
The first pick in the draft, Derrick Rose signed a contract that gave him a contract worth a guaranteed $10,007,280 for two seasons and a team option at $5,546,160 for a third season.
(On a side note, in the NFL where there is no set scale, the top pick in the 2008 draft, Jake Long, agreed to a five-year, $57.75 million deal with the Miami Dolphins.)
In the NBA, the real money comes with the second and third contracts. Remember almost a decade ago, the second contract of Wright State’s Vitaly Potapenko — who had been a first-round pick — was worth $36 million for six years.
All this said, Brown just needs to remember guys like this: Manu Ginobli, Michael Redd, Carlos Boozer, Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis, Cedric Ceballos, Dennis Rodman, Mark Price, Jerome Kersey and Jeff Hornacek.
They were all second-round picks. They all did have or are having good (some great) NBA careers and they became multi-millionaires doing so.Tweet
Eager to share the collection she had put together over the past few months, she led the way — enthusiastically telling one story after another — toward the back dining room, now The Sports Room, to show you part of what Don Donoher called “a little mini-museum.”
She never made it that far.
Just before the doorway — hanging on the wall above the corner booth in the main dining area of Hickory Bar-B-Q — her eye caught the artist’s rendering of an incredible scene at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.
Margo Fisher kicked off her shoes, hopped up into the booth and soon was detailing the spectacle like some earnest schoolgirl with a science project:
“This was the day Goldsmith Maid, the most famous horse in America, came to the Fairgrounds to try to break the world (trotting) record. Look at all those people. There was a grandstand on one side for men. On the other, for women. The infield’s full, the whole track is surrounded by a crowd. One newspaper report said there were 75,000 people. Imagine that.”
It was October 2, 1874 and it’s doubtful Dayton ever has had a single sporting day quite like it.
City officials issued a traffic flow pattern to get to the new fairgrounds which, back then, were on the outskirts of town. Wagons and buggies going to the track from downtown had to take Main Street. Those returning had to come up Warren Street.
Passenger trains coming to Dayton were jammed. According to one newspaper account, at the Miamisburg rail station alone, over 1,000 people were left stranded on the platform, unable to cram into the over-loaded passenger cars.
Hotels were filled. At the track, there were so many people, they spilled out onto the racing surface where they continually were pushed back by mounted police.
Everybody was here to see the fabled harness mare, Goldsmith Maid, who was unbeaten from 1871 to 1874 and in her career would won 350 heats, 95 of 123 races and $364,200, a mark that stood 60 years. The crowd that saw her in Dayton — when she tied the record of 2:18 — was the biggest of her career.
“Pretty neat, isn’t it?” Margo gushed. “Now look back here.”
LANDMARK GETS FACE-LIFT
She led you into The Sports Room, where a collection of 37 photos of Dayton sports personalities and teams covered the walls.
Margo and her husband Gary — who own the Hickory with Margo’s sister Shirley and their 86-year-old mother, Irene — recently wanted to spruce up the landmark Brown Street restaurant that Irene and her late husband Joe Kiss launched with Irene’s brother and his wife in 1962.
Turning the front dining room into a Dayton History Room and dedicating the back to sports was Margo’s project.
Her work was unveiled at a reception last week that drew quite an assortment of sports types, including: Olympic gold medalist Lucinda Adams, current women’s pro basketball player Megan Duffy, 81-year-old power-lifter Felix Nichalson, hockey’s Moe Benoit, former Major League pitcher Fred Sherman, 91-year-old former Detroit Lions tackle Tony Furst, softball legend Jerry Raiff, Donoher and four Dayton Flyers who played in the NBA, Bucky Bockhorn, Jim Paxson Sr., Monk Meineke and Don May.
The families and friends of another two dozen sports figures also were at the gathering.
“We had three generations all together and it was definitely a neat experience,” Duffy said. “I got to meet some of the Dayton sports legends from back in the day and I thought it was pretty cool, too, that I’m up there on the wall, right next to Tamika Williams and Brandie Hoskins, all of us connected like we are. (They starred at Chaminade Julienne and in college before playing in the WNBA).”
Bucky Bockhorn agreed: “It was a good time. (Margo) did a hell of a job with all the photos and bringing us together. I knew her dad and I’ll tell you, he’d be proud of this.”
HE LIVED THE AMERICAN DREAM
Joe Kiss, a Hungarian from Romania, immigrated to the United States in 1930. He was just 11 years old.
“He came all by himself with his name safety pinned to his coat,” said George Smith, the longtime Dayton area thoroughbred owner and former Ohio State golf star. “He got off the boat at Ellis Island , couldn’t speak the language and look what he made. He lived the American Dream.”
After Irene, whose also of Hungarian descent from Romania, married Joe, they had three daughters — Jo Ann, Shirley and Margo — and the whole family, as well as in-laws and now grandkids, have worked at the restaurant.
The place became known for ribs, steaks and cabbage rolls and developed quite a following. Beyond his restaurant, one of Joe’s biggest passions was thoroughbreds. He owned several that were handled by Jim Morgan — the former Louisville All America basketball player from Stivers — who launched his celebrated training career on a financial stake from Kiss.
Margo pointed to a Winner’s Circle picture of Grand Action — the Morgan-trained horse owned by her dad and Joe Samu — that had won the Ohio Millionaire Stakes at Thistledown:
“With the race there was a contest tied into the Ohio Lottery and a man named Omar Watts, a Cherokee Indian chief, won $1 million dollars because (through the luck of the draw) he’d been pared with Grand Action.
“He was very poor (according to a newspaper account Watts made $113 a week as a night watchman), had had three heart attacks in four years and two of his kids were living in foster care. When Grand Action won, (Watts) became the first $1 million lottery winner and was able to get his children back home.
“How about that.”
“I WAS A HELL OF A STUD”
Over the past couple of months, Margo immersed herself in the photo project.
“Her cell phone bill last month jumped from $56 to $400,” said husband Gary, smiling but shaking his head.
With the help of Nancy Horlacher, the history specialist at the Dayton Metro Library, Margo gathered some interesting photos from the city’s past — check out the circus elephants taking a dip in the old Miami-Erie Canal downtown — for the main dining room.
For the pictures in the sports room, she tracked down current and former athletes or their families.
She also put on display a big photo from the Dayton Flyers 1962 NIT victory that her dad had hanging in his office since the 1970s.
Taken on the floor of Madison Square Garden just after UD had beaten St. John’s, it shows fans mobbing coach Tom Blackburn, Flyers big man Bill Chmielewski and teammate Garry Roggenburk.
Some of my favorite photos include one of Donoher — the runners-up trophy in one hand — and then athletics director Tom Frericks standing on the airport tarmac after just getting off the their flight from the NCAA Championship Game in 1967.
There’s also shot of Furst, his mug filling up his leather helmet — which, back then, came with no face mask — running straight at you, just as he would defenders he was about to flatten for Byron “Whizzer” White in the 1940s.
And then there’s the photo of a well-muscled, flat-topped Bockhorn, ripping down a rebound. “Hey, I was a hell of a stud — 6-4, 210,” laughed the 75-year-old Bockhorn when asked about it. Then, with self-deprecating deflection, he said, “Naah, I’m just kidding.”
But the picture shows he was telling the truth and as you go photo to photo, you are left with so many more memorable images.
“Joe Kiss was just the nicest guy of all time, without a doubt,” said Smith. ” He bought more rounds for folks coming into his place than any restaurateur anyplace — ever. You always got something you weren’t quite expecting when you came into his place.”
Nothing has changedTweet
Here are three of my favorite videos of Michael Jackson in the sports world.
The first is with Muhammad Ali in 1977. Then there’s the 1992 session he had with Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan for his video “Jam.” Finally, there’s his performance at the 1993 Super Bowl. It’s probably the best halftime performance I’ve seen in 30 years of covering the Super Bowl.Tweet
As Joey Votto walked off the field following batting practice before the Reds Futures Game April 4 at Fifth Third Field, I met him at the dugout steps and asked if we could talk for a few minutes.
The Cincinnati Reds first baseman led the way to the end of the dugout, where I asked him something about how it felt being back in Dayton again since he’d played for the Dragons in 2003 and 2004 and was very close to his host family here.
He offered up a couple of Dayton memories with a smile, after which I happened to bring up his dad, who had died last August. I had no agenda, other than I knew I had found it pretty tough when my dad died.
I asked something along the lines of “The season starts in two days and this will be your first Opening Day ever without your dad. Is that tough to deal with? Do you have any special memories of him on Opening Day?”
His face drained. His smile melted and for a good while he said absolutely nothing. “I’m not going to talk about this,” he finally said in little more than a whisper. “I’m not going there.”
I felt bad and it took me a few seconds to regroup. He never did quite refocus on our conversation, which ended a couple of minutes later.
I wrote about that encounter last Saturday night after Votto — who had missed most of a month for what, at the time, was only said to be “a stress-related” incident — played nine innings with the Dragons on a rehab assignment here.
In the Saturday blog, I wrote: “He’s scheduled to play for the Dragons Sunday and that may be especially challenging. It’s Father’s Day and last summer when his dad, Joseph — a Toronto chef and his son’s biggest supporter — died, Votto took the loss especially hard. He took a week off for bereavement, then returned to the Reds and was given some extra time out of the line-up by manager Dusty Baker.
“Before he left, he had asked the club to keep the death quiet until his return. Since then, he’s only talked on a couple of occasions — and very briefly — about losing his father … Sunday, I imagine thoughts of his dad will be swirling beneath the surface.”
By the next day — as is too often the case in the blogosphere — some real cretins came out of the woodwork.
In the internet chat rooms, the sports blogs and every other open web forum, people are able to hide behind a fake name, a catchy moniker — freyourmind and million dollar baby come to mind in this instance — and never have to reveal their identity or take responsibility for what they say.
And so somebody like freyourmind writes: “stress related, what a pus. hey million dollar baby we all have stress I say get over it and get back to your job. In my opinion they are all spoiled brats. peace”
Of course many people were sympathetic, but there were also ones whose comments were so nasty that I either killed them off my blog or erased them from my phone messages. To me you are a coward if you attack someone, but refuse to use your name.
The people who tried to make Votto a pinata — not just on my blog, but at other internet sites and on some sports talk radio shows — questioned everything from his sexuality to his toughness and his commitment and care for his teammates. Their common thread often was their lack of civility and that’s what I hate about the whole blog, open-forum free-for-all that’s now so popular.
Athletes are human, too. Some of these comments hurt them and their families and none of us is any richer for the vilest rants.
And as everyone now knows — three nights after he appeared here in Dayton — Votto, back with the Reds, told reporters in Toronto that the loss of his dad is the thing that put him into the mental tailspin he’s still trying to recover from.
He told how he’s been hospitalized twice, how he experienced panic attacks and called 9-1-1 in Cincinnati. He said he thought he was going to die.
My heart goes out to Votto. To me, it took real courage to address the situation publicly. He’s now working to make himself better. He’s getting counseling, he’s likely got some medication and he should have all our understanding and support.
As for the always-at-the-ready attackers, my guess is they’re not shamed or chastened by any of this. They’ll continue to cloak themselves in their anonymity and wait for someone else to tear down and besmirch.Tweet
Kentucky sent him a fancy notice made to look like it was from ESPN announcing he’d just committed to the Wildcats.
Tennessee, Adreian Payne said, has sent him “stacks and stacks of stuff.”
Ohio State just added assistant coach Jeff Boals, who has a close relationship with him and now is trying to lure the 6-foot-10 Jefferson High senior to Columbus next year.
And then there’s the University of Dayton, which, among other things, has Juwan Staten, the UD-bound guard, doing its bidding.
“We’ll both be out with our buddies and I never know quite when it’s gonna happen, but I do know it IS going to happen,” Payne laughed. “Pretty soon Wan will go, ‘C’mon, go with me (to UD).”
When it comes to Payne, Staten is like a travelling salesman because he’s also pitching Oak Hill Academy, the national prep school in Virginia he’s transferred to out of Thurgood Marshall High.
“Oak Hill says they don’t recruit, but they do,” Payne said. “They have Wan calling me a lot trying to get me to go with him. I looked into it, but I don’t see the point for me.”
This is what’s its like to be one of the best uncommitted players in the nation.
Payne told people at the NBA Top 100 camp that he took part in last week in Virginia, that he’s already received a dozen scholarship offers. In its prep prospect rankings, rivals.com rates him the eighth best player in the class of 2010. Staten is No 59.
Payne was at Daequan Cook’s basketball camp Tuesday, June 23, when the Portland Trail Blazers 7-foot center Greg Oden — Cook’s pal and former OSU teammate — walked in.
Soon Payne and Oden were talking. “You playing out here today?” Oden asked.
Payne shook his head and camp director Albert Powell explained: “I won’t let him. I don’t want to risk anything. He has too much at stake.”
Over the next two weeks Payne travels to Phoenix to take part in the camp run Suns’ big man A’mare Stoudemire and then San Diego for LeBron James’ camp. The rest of the summer he’ll travel the country with his All Ohio Red AAU team, which includes Staten and the OSU bound pair, Jared Sullinger and Jordan Sibert.
After Oden met with Payne, he recalled another Dayton-bred talent he met for the first time. He was playing for an Indiana AAU team coached by Mike Conley Sr., who brought the players to Dayton’s McFarland Junior High for some workouts.
“We already had Aaron Pogue on the team and then they brought this other kid in for a tryout who was supposed to be pretty good,” Oden smiled. “I figured he was just some street ball player.”
Cook remembered that meeting, too. “I walked in for my tryout and the first guy I saw was Greg. It’s pretty rare to see a 7-footer when you’re as young as we were, but it didn’t bother me.”
Oden laughed: “As soon as we started playing, he just killed everybody. Right then I knew Dayton has some pretty good talent.”
Adreian Payne is now proving nothing has changed.Tweet
As his basketball talents took him from one glorious pinnacle to the next — from state title at Dunbar High to Ohio State to a first round pick in the NBA — Daequan Cook said his mom continually reminded him of one thing:
“Don’t forget where you came from. It’s important to give back to your community and when that moment comes, step up.”
Sad as it was, that moment came when he heard that DaQuan Sales — a 12-year old Dayton boy who idolized him, a kid who used to pretend he was Cook every time he played basketball and continually asked his aunt if he looked like his hero — was killed by a car while riding his bicycle, June 13.
“You always get a sign from somewhere and I felt this was my sign,” said Cook, who already was returning to Dayton for his youth camp which opened Monday and continues today at Dunbar — a camp DaQuan had signed up for and according to his 76-year-old great granddad, Garfield Sales, “had been counting down the days to until that terrible day.”
Cook said he’d help pay for the funeral, would dedicate the annual scholarship he plans to start in Dayton in DaQuan’s name and invited the Sales family to his camp.
Monday DaQuan’s mom, sister, little brother, aunt and his wheelchair-bound great grandfather took him up on the offer and — in as touching of a meeting as you can imagine — Cook spent nearly an hour with them.
“I’ll be up ‘til all hours of the night telling my wife about all that happened,” Garfield said. “Daequan really cared. You could see it in his eyes, in his face. My grandson picked the perfect role model and now I’m in awe just like he was.”Tweet
Both came from Dayton’s West Side and loved basketball. Their first names were pronounced the same and they even had the same nickname — though one got his from Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade and the other, from his late grandpa.
“DaDa (day-day) would eat, sleep and talk Daequan Cook,” 76-year old Garfield Sales said of his 12-year-old great grandson DaQuan “DaDa” Sales and the NBA player from Dunbar High he so idolized.
Whenever DaDa played basketball, he pretended to be Cook. Sometimes he even told kids that they were brothers.
“He’d always ask me he if looked like Daequan,” smiled DaDa’s great aunt, Shirletta Freeman.
And when Cook put on a show during the NBA All Star Weekend in Phoenix last February — winning the Three-Point Shootout — DaDa was glued to the television at his North Antioch Street home
“He just cheered and cheered and cheered,” said Janell Sales, his 31-year-old mother. “He kept going, ‘He won, Mom. He won!’”
As soon as he heard Cook was coming back home and putting on a two-day youth camp at Dunbar — which began Monday June 22 for younger kids and continues today for eighth through 12th graders — DaDa got on his bicycle and rode to Deveroes clothing store on W. Third Street and picked up an entry form.
Janell said she was in the hospital getting treatment for her sickle cell anemia when DaDa called her: “He wanted to know if I’d be home when the camp started. I knew what it meant to him and I said, ‘Yeah, if I gotta sign myself outta here, I’ll be there. You are going to make that camp.’”
Garfield — who DaDa called PawPaw and loved to hang out with — said his great grandson had been “counting down the days to camp …until that terrible day.”
It was just past 7 p.m. on June 13. DaDa was riding his bicycle along the 300 block of Elmhurst Road when a white Buick driven by 25-year-old Antwonne McGinnis, a guy with a sizeable rap sheet but no valid license, tried passing another vehicle in a no passing zone and hit and killed DaDa.
McGinnis stopped momentarily, then drove off and later returned, smelling, police said, of marijuana. Three days later he was arrested.
The death stunned everyone who knew DaDa. “He was just a good, good boy,” said his mom. “He was my biggest helper. He’d give his little brother (three-year-old Dajuan) a bath, dress him and walk him to the store.
“One year I asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he refused to tell me. He said, ‘I don’t want anything, Mom, ‘cause you have bills to pay.’”
Garfield — whose emphysema has him on oxygen and in a wheel chair — has similar stories: “His (great) grandmother and I would come from the store and he’d carry our groceries in. He’d do the same for Miss Pauline, the 82-year-old lady across the street. And when another of our neighbors was raking the yard, he’d go help.
“He was just a special boy. Everybody felt it.”
Including Daequan Cook.
“THIS WAS MY SIGN”
Cook said he got a text message about the death and when he called back to Dayton and talked to Albert Powell, the Dunbar assistant coach who is running his camp, he learned more about the boy and wanted to help.
As Cook’s basketball talents have taken him higher and higher up the basketball ladder, he said his mother, Renae, has reminded him of one thing: “Don’t forget where you came from. It’s important to give back to your community and when that moment comes, step up.”
With that in mind, he said, “You always get a sign from somewhere and I felt this was my sign.”
While his camp — which Monday drew an overflow crowd of 192 third through seventh graders — was a way to help kids in general, DaDa’s death gave him a particular kid, one with a golden heart and, as his mom put it “that million-dollar smile.”
Powell said Cook told him, “Let’s make something happen.”
Cook said he’d help pay for DaDa’s funeral and would dedicate the annual scholarship he plans to start in Dayton in DaQuan’s name.
“We hope Pat Riley will be a guest speaker at a dinner we have here and we can eventually raise $100,000,” Powell said. “That way we can help a couple of kids get a start every year.”
Cook also said he’d sponsor 10 of DaDa’s friends to his camp every year and he invited the Sales family to come this year if they felt up to it.
“The Daequan that’s doing this here is the same one we see in Miami all season long,” said Heat assistant coach David Fizdale, who joined Cook here Monday. “And what he did for (the Sales family) isn’t some kind of public relations move. It means a lot to him. When that little boy passed away, he tried to imagine what it would be like if it were his family. That’s why this is so heartfelt for him.”
“DAEQUAN REALLY CARED”
Although the other advertized pros didn’t show up Monday — Greg Oden (Portland Trail Blazers) and Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzles) are scheduled to assist today — it didn’t seem to matter to any of the kids who attended.
All they cared about was Daequan Cook.
And if you could have seen the way he embraced the Sales family in private, you would have seen he even out did the hype.
Janell and her two other children — Dajaun and nine-year-old sister Daziah — were accompanied by her aunt and granddad.
While they were given Cook’s autographed Heat jersey, a bag full of camp goodies and a big box filled with Heat souvenirs, the thing they’ll treasure most from this day was the time with him.
He spent nearly an hour with them in private. He held Janell and whispered some comforting thoughts in her ear. “He said he’s family now and we can’t get rid of him,” she said with a smile later.
After playing with the kids and then — with Janell’s make up still smudged on the right shoulder of his white t-shirt — he sat next to Garfield’s wheelchair and they talked for a long time.
“(DaDa) was a lovely young man and he looked up to you,” Fairfield told Cook. “You were a great role model.”
As he stood off to the side and watched — Alfred Powell, Albert’s brother and himself a coach — just smiled: “It’s almost like Divine Intervention. Daequan’s doing so much for them, but all this is doing something for him, too. He’s learning what it means to be a role model.”
And more than just her family benefitted from it Monday, said DaDa’s great aunt.
“The impact he had on one little’s boy’s life is one that hundreds of other young people throughout this community feel, too,” Freeman said. “He’s really important to so many kids here.”
And to one old man, as well.
“Daequan really cared,” Garfield said later on in a voice that was wavering, not so much from the emphysema as from the emotion that still welled up inside. “You could see it in his eyes, in his face. He almost made me cry. What he’s doing is mind boggling.
“Some little girl or boy will go to school because DaDa was on this earth and he chose Daequan Cook to be his role model.
“Though DaDa’s life was cut short, he’ll live on. Because of Daequan Cook, DaQuan Sales will live for a long, long, long time.”Tweet
Mark LaForce has a Father’s Day message for everyone:
“Enjoy the moment, reflect on all the good things — all the blessings — you have, take nothing forgranted and, most of all, be proud of your kids.”
The Butler Township father is proving you can do just that even in the most heart-wrenching situations.
This morning, June 21, he will be in the Intensive Care Unit at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, leaning over the bed of his 18-year-old son Blake, who is 19 months into a rugged medical journey — that began with leukemia and a successful bone marrow transplant, then was detoured by an off-the-charts infection of the central nervous system and finally a pulmonary hemorrhage — that no family would want to travel.
And yet the way Mark, his wife Linda, their other two children and especially Blake himself — who was a quiet, but popular standout athlete at Vandalia Butler High — have done it, has drawn people to them from around the world.
Although Blake now can’t eat, drink, walk or talk on his own — “he’s like a full-grown chicken back inside the egg,” Mark said — that doesn’t mean he isn’t communicating with his parents.
When Mark gets face to face with Blake, he said his son “talks to him” through his eye movements, which, sometimes, are accompanied by a tear.
Mark chronicles all this in a compelling daily web journal — www.CaringBridge.org/visit/blakelaforce/journal — that has drawn over 108,000 people who are following the day-to-day battle.
I wrote more extensively about Mark and Blake in today’s newspaper and that column can also be found here on the sports web page.
As Mark told me just before we parted the other day: “Our son is teaching not just us, but a lot of other people what it means to fight, to have faith and to hold on to what you love.”Tweet
Rather than a big backyard party, a round of golf or taking in a ball game, Mark LaForce will spend Father’s Day in Room 50 of the Intensive Care Unit at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
That’s where he’ll lean down until he’s face to face with his son Blake — a boy who had combined his dad’s football musculature with his mom’s good looks, a young man whose face now is discolored and bloated by steroid treatments, whose body now requires a feeding line, a neck stint, a trachea tube — and he’ll hold out the gold cross he wears so proudly around his neck.
“I want him to see that cross,” Mark said. “It’s his and I tell him I’m wearing it to highlight our faith together and let him know God is with him.”
Although Blake hasn’t been able to speak for almost 10 months, Mark said they will communicate: “When we’re eye to eye ,that’s our quality time. That’s when he talks with his eyes.
“He’s saying. ‘Dad, Mom, I’m here.’ We know he understands because there are times he’ll pucker up for his mom’s kiss. And there is one thing that comes out loud and clear from his look. He’s telling us, ‘I’m still fighting.’”
Few Father’s Day moments anywhere will be more heart-wrenchingly intense than the one Mark LaForce and his 18-year-old son will share today, June 21.
Blake was a standout junior linebacker and running back for the Vandalia Butler high school football team in 2007 — he ran for 237 and three touchdowns against Tecumseh — and he just may have been the strongest guy in the school. One of the state’s top prep power lifters, he could dead lift and squat 550 pounds, bench 350.
For all his physical gifts, there was a quietness about him and that made him even more popular. His future appeared unbounded until a little over 19 months ago when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblast Leukemia (ALL).
After a successful bone marrow transplant in May of 2008, he appeared on the road to recovery until mid-August when he developed toxoplasmosis, a devastating infection in the central nervous system, that, as Mark put it, “shut down all his motor skills. All of a sudden he could no longer walk, talk, eat or drink. It’s been that way since.”
Even so, Blake was slowly fighting his way back from that when this past March 26 he had a pulmonary hemorrhage, or, as Mark again explains, “his lungs bled similar to what a mountain climber or diver might get… And we nearly lost him again.”
THURSDAY, MARCH 26, 2009 4:25 PM, EDT
“(The day) started badly. Blake’s breathing saturation acutely dropped suddenly…Bottom line, our doctor came in and is nervous and concerned about his sudden condition, not to mention putting the breathing tube into his lungs with the risk of causing any more bleeding somewhere else on the way down….They hit him with a big dose of steroids, running constant platelet transfusions, more blood transfusions to give him more oxygen and all the other medications he gets…..
“I am asking you, Blake’s TEAM, to hit your knees and pray for a good couple of days, so we can see some light at the end of this big detour tunnel….”
THURSDAY, JUNE 18, 2009 1:14 PM, EDT:
“We do not have to tell you that Blake’s journey is very complex and difficult for (him). We can not candy coat this. It is a living nightmare we want to wake up from. What keeps Blake going is God and just Blake.”
Mark was a lineman on the 1973 Wittenberg football team that won the NCAA Division III national title. After marrying Linda, then an airline stewardess, they had three children, he coached many of the kids’ sports teams and worked as a high tech software salesman.
He was not a writer.
But a few months after Blake’s diagnosis, he found himself drawn to the laptop he and Linda had bought their son for Christmas in 2007. So many people were asking for news and things they could do that he found the best way to communicate was to post updates on the CaringBridge website sponsored by Children’s Medical Center of Dayton.
As Blake’s medical odyssey became far more threatening, it tested the entire family. For a while Mark and Linda lived seven days a week in Cincinnati, one sleeping on the cot in Blake’s room while the other slept at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge. They now go in shifts between their Butler Township home and the hospital — a friend always stays and tends to their house — but it’s still a monumental undertaking.
With the turn of events last August, Mark was forced to give up his job to be at his son’s bedside. He said with all their attention turned to Blake, he and Linda felt strains in their marriage and their own inner resolve often was tested.
They have survived by drawing on their faith, their love for each other and the continual wave of support from family, friends and especially the Vandalia Butler High community.
For Mark, some of the best tonic has come when he’s sat down at that computer and poured out his heart in the CaringBridge posts that have become an intimate, almost-daily journal.
“To sit and reflect, it’s good for my own mental health,” he said. “I try to tell you what’s going on and what we’re learning.”
That includes, he said , ‘Not asking, ‘Why Blake? Why us?’ You’ll never make it if you keep getting hung up on ‘Why?” If you think you’re going to go through life without hardship or heartache, you’ll have a rude awakening.
“You just have to learn to be strong, put one foot in front of the other and say, ‘Okay, I took your punch, what’s next?’”
People have embraced that approach and as of this weekend, his journal — which includes pictures of Blake — and an accompanying guest book signed by people from around the world, has had over 108,000 visitors.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2008 11:08 PM, EDT:
“Much of the same, as Blake is still kind of catatonic….I stopped by the Aviators football practice tonight spontaneously, while I was in town for a few hours. The coaches were gracious enough to let me address the team… The bottom line message I wanted to convey was just enjoy this opportunity while you have it. Life is full of twists and turns and uncertainties so go for the gusto now….And take care of your teammate for many reasons.”
Sitting in the backyard serenity of their home the other morning — surrounded by trees and flowers and the shrill calls of cardinals — Mark focused on a metal bench near the house.
Two years ago, Blake surprised his older sister, Lauren — who like her mom had recently become a born-again Christian — when he plopped down next to her and asked something unexpected.
“It was pretty amazing for a 16 year old,” Mark said. “He asked ‘How can I help? How can I make a difference?’”
Mark became silent, then finally offered: “Unfortunately, this is the way Blake is being used. God is working through him. I thoroughly believe that. There’s a reason he’s still here. So many people — especially those Blake’s age — have changed because of him.”
In holding tight to the positive, Mark said he’s occasionally found himself at odds with a couple of medical people.
“I’ve had them say ‘Mark, you’ve got to be realistic. Blake has got issues. He’s got a lot going on.’ And I go, ‘Yeah, so?’ Here we are knocking them down one at a time like the old Whac-A-Mole game. ‘What’s your point?’
“And they say, ‘Have you ever thought enough is enough?’ And I’ll be truthful, I’ve told those people to leave the freakin’ room.”
SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2009 2:43 PM, EDT:
“It was an honor for our family to accept Blake’s high school diploma and see the packed Student Activity Center break into a thunderous standing O applause for quite a while…. To be mentioned in so many speeches is a beautiful tribute to Blake and made us so proud. The Class of 2009 all wore a red heart with #41 in the center on their gowns….Wow, I’m tearing up even still now.”
TUESDAY, JUNE 2, 2009 10:38 AM, EDT:
“Saturday afternoon when I arrived in Blake’s room I told him I had a surprise for him…his high school diploma. He immediately opened his eyes and stared at it, reading it and (he) made a satisfied expression.”
Last month a local church organized a community-wide garage sale and raised almost $8,800 for the Ronald McDonald House and the LaForce family. Someone else has made Blake LaForce bumper stickers. A girl in the neighborhood collected a wide assortment sports shirts that bore students’ names on the backs and, with her mom’s help, sewed them into a quilt for Blake.
A woman from Texas sent a prayer quilt. Dr. Jim Klosterman, director of surgery for the Sports Medicine Center at Good Samaritan Hospital and consultant for the University of Dayton women’s basketball team and several area high schools, just completed a 100-mile. fund-raising bike ride in Asheville, N.C. with his daughter in Blake’s honor.
Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel has taken a special interest in the LaForce family and the Dave Matthews Band — through a singer songwriter friend who plays the guitar for Blake — just sent autographed CDs to the hospital.
“Blake is bringing out the best in people,” Mark said. “I know he’s made me a better person, too.
“I’ve gotten over the selfish part of me that used to focus on, ‘Oh God, what a college ball player he’d have been.’ Now it’s like who gives a ….
“He’s already proven so much more than that. Through all of this, I’ve never seen him waiver. You know how you’re proud of some one in your own life? Well, that’s how I feel about Blake 10 times over.
“He’s made me realize the most important things of being a dad and he’s teaching me how to be a man. A real man. He wanted to make a difference…and he is.”
THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2009 5:38 PM, EDT:
“Blake sprung another fever last night from ??? …. It really is so frustrating when a fever pops up because Blake is miserable and we are not sure why…..(But) read my lips, there is nothing that will keep Blake or us down. Blake/we will keep fighting until the war is won.”
SATURDAY, JUNE 13, 2009 6:43 PM, EDT: “Mom has been hands on, like no one but a mother can do, with Blake today. He’s been bathed and caressed with an attention to detail.”
TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 2009 1:36 PM, EDT:
“Again, we can’t imagine what he is thinking, but he is unmistakably fighting with every ounce of energy and will power he has. We are more than anxious to get him well again and hear his story from him.”Tweet
Joey Votto came to Fifth Third Field on a rehab assignment Saturday night and instead the Cincinnati Reds slugging first baseman found himself in the middle of a lovefest.
A record crowd of 9,507 — including several fans wearing their No. 31 Reds’ Votto jerseys — gave him its heart and he reciprocated almost instantly.
He ripped the first pitch thrown to him by West Michigan right-hander Mark Sorensen over the right field wall and out of the park onto Sears Street for a two-run home run in the first inning.
When the ball was still in the air, the roaring crowd began standing and cheering wildly. By the time Votto stepped on home plate, he was awash in standing ovation that was more like a communal embrace.
I was sitting in Section 113 and I heard people yelling to him “Welcome Back” and “We Love You” and finally some folks just began to chant “Joey… Joey… Joey.” People were snapping photos of the moment on their cell phones.
In the second inning, when the umpire called a questionable second strike on Votto, the fans moaned at the call. When he grounded out after that, they still cheered him. And in the fifth, when he stole second after a walk, they roared with glee. When he was thrown out at home trying to score on Carlos Mendez single, they offered up a collective moan. It was as if they were watching their own son get caught.
This might not be Great American Ball Park, but it is home sweet home for Votto, who played here in 2003 and 2004. He felt the connection and it was on his initiative that the bat he used for batting practice — complete with his autograph — was the grand prize give-away last night.
People cheer one of their own, but the special outpouring here was because Votto has been struggling of late with some personal issue that both he and the club — rightly so — have kept private.
Votto was Cincinnati’s best hitter — he had a .357 average with eight homers and 33 RBIs in 38 games — when he was waylaid with an inner ear infection.
In late May, he returned for three games, but was taken out early each time for unspecified reasons. The club later called it “stress-related.” He has been on the disabled list most of the time since.
He hasn’t played a full regulation game in well over a month. He played six innings two days in a row in Sarasota before coming here and also played in a Gulf Coast League intersquad game
After taking batting practice Saturday, he told reporters his biggest challenge would just be to play nine innings.
He’s scheduled to play for the Dragons Sunday and that may be especially challenging. It’s Fathers Day and last summer when his dad, Joseph — a Toronto chef and his son’s biggest supporter — died, Votto took the loss especially hard. He took a week off for bereavement, then returned to the Reds by club rule, though he was given some extra time out of the line-up by manager Dusty Baker.
Before he left, he had asked the club to keep the death quiet until his return. Since then he’s only talked on a couple of occasions — and very briefly — about losing his father. He declined to discuss the topic when the Reds played their last spring training game here — The Futures Game — on April 4.
Sunday, I imagine thoughts of his dad will be swirling beneath the surface with everything else that’s going on, so I’m sure he could use the same embrace that he got from the Dayton crowd Saturday night.
I’m pretty sure he’ll get it.Tweet
I know Joey Votto will be over playing with the Dayton Dragons tonight and Sunday afternoon, “Legally Blonde” is still at the Schuster Center and they’ve got the Civil Rights Game and all its festivities down with the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park — and all of those are good viewing choices — but if you really want to treat yourself to something special, go see “Ethel Waters: His Eye Is On The Sparrow” playing at the Loft Theatre tonight through June 28.
This has someone who swings for the fences, civil rights and the stage all wrapped into one.
I saw it with my wife Friday night and it was flat-out tremendous. It’s the best show I’ve seen here in a long time.
Danielle Lee Greaves, the Broadway vet who plays Waters in playwright Larry Parr’s one-woman show, held the audience in her spell all night as she told the inspirational story — in animated narrative and especially with her 15 songs — of the sassy, outspoken blues and jazz singer who was a pioneer for black performers some 80 years ago and whose life was forever changed when she finally joined the Billy Graham Crusade in 1957.
Waters — who lived from 1896 to 1977 — was raised in a poor and violent back-alley neighborhood in Philadelphia, was all but forced into marriage at age 13 to an abusive husband and worked as a hotel maid for $4.75 a week.
After a year, she managed to flee the guy and, by chance, her musical talent was discovered. She ended up touring on the black vaudeville circuit, then became part of the Harlem Renaissance and from there her career spanned Broadway, movies, concerts — eventually derailing with more personal trouble — until she finally hooked up with Graham.
With the lively accompaniment of Cincinnati’s Scot Woolley on piano, Greaves takes you on that journey singing many of Waters’ songs: “Stormy Weather,” “Frankie and Johnny,” “Taking a Chance on Love,” “Heat Wave,” “Little Black Boy,” “Dinah” and the Rudy Vallee/Hoagy Carmichael treat “Old Man Harlem.” And, of course, there’s Water’s signature version of the old spiritual “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.”
Greaves is so good that — even without Waters’ stirring story line — I’d come back to see her sing anytime.
Add in the direction of Dayton native Schele Williams (schooled at Stivers and Colonel White and the Muse Machine), Tamara L. Honesty’s Loft set, the fine costumes and lighting and you’ve got a magical night that will stay with you awhile.
The Loft is at 126 N. Main St. Tickets are $33 at (937) 228-3630, (888) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.Tweet
Charlie Coles — who will receive the Ohio High School Athletic Association Ethics and Integrity Award Friday night in Columbus — was talking both affectionately and sadly about Mark Anderson, his prized recruit who hadn’t panned out.
You could tell it pained the Miami University coach that Anderson — the Sinclair All American basketball player and Dunbar High product — had clanked one off the rim academically and wouldn’t be coming to Oxford to play for the RedHawks this fall.
“We had talked a lot on the phone and I don’t know if there’s ever been anyone I enjoyed talking to like that more than Mark,” Coles said quietly. “He is a truly nice kid, one of those kids you say, Let’s take a chance with him.’
“And when things worked out like they did, something happened that never has happened to me before in all my years of coaching. Mark called me up and thanked me and said he was sorry it didn’t work out. No player has ever done that.
“I felt bad and he felt bad and I really do wish the best for him.”
Coles thinks some hangers on may have gotten in Mark’s ear and kept talking to him about playing at the next level — the NBA — rather than stressing the opportunity that college basketball offered provided he meet the classroom requirements.
“In some ways, what guys like LeBron, Kobe, Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett have done is pretty amazing,” Coles said of the four NBA stars who jumped straight from high school to the pros. “But in a lot of ways it’s a bad thing and it hurt a lot of kids.
“Guys like LeBron and Kobe and the rest don’t come along very often, but a lot of kids see what they did and see themselves doing the same thing and they can’t. That may have happened to Mark.”
I think Coles is right. When I talked to Mark after one of his big games this year, he ended up talking more about going to the NBA than going to Miami. He is a good kid but I don’t think he had the realistic future in his crosshairs. I’m sure part of it is the Daequan Cook factor, too He sees what his old Dunbar teammate is doing in the NBA and he wants some of the same.
As for the award Coles receives at the OHSAA banquet Friday night, it’s given annually to an Ohioan who has displayed outstanding ethical behavior and integrity in performing his or her duties and who is a role model to others.
Among those who previously have won the award are: John Glenn Jr., Archie Griffin, Jim Tressel, Wayne Embry, Bill Hosket and Jo Ann Davidson, the first woman Speaker of the House in Ohio.Tweet
First, he had to figure out which gal was in his arms.
Charlie Coles was talking about the night he met Dolores “Dee Dee” Jackson and her sister Darla at a dance in Oxford in the early 1960s.
“I danced with her and next, it turns out, I danced with her sister,” the Miami University basketball coach was saying. “I thought there was just one of them ‘cause they looked alike. So the next dance I resume my conversation (with Dee Dee) and she didn’t have a clue what I was talking about…I thought she was playing a joke.”
He figured it out and soon the girl in his arms was also in his heart. Because of it, Charlie and Dee Dee — who’ll be married 45 years in October — will be part of a world-record attempt on the Miami University campus, Saturday, June 20.
As part of the school’s bicentennial celebration, the Alumni Association is hoping to land a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most couples renewing their wedding vows at one time. The mark was set last year in Pittsburgh with 624.
What is known around the Oxford campus as Miami Mergers (one Miami grad marrying another) and Miami Acquisitions (a grad married to a non-Miamian) have been invited to meet at the Upham Hall Arch for Saturday’s 4:15 p.m. ceremony.
According to campus legend, if you kiss your date at midnight beneath the glowing lantern that hangs in the archway, you will wed.
While Charlie said he and Dee Dee didn’t do that — “I don’t know where our first kiss was,” he chuckled — their family has fully embraced the Miami marriage tradition.
Their two children — Chris and Mary — are both taking part Saturday, as is Darla and her husband. Yet, of all the couples involved, few have a more colorful story than Charlie and Dee Dee.
He was the high scoring guard on the Miami basketball team when they wed his senior season. She was a local girl and Miami product who was part of a singing group — the Fontones — who were one of the area’s hottest “girl” groups of the Do Wop era.
“When we married, Coach (Dick) Shrider wasn’t happy,” Charlie laughed. “Thank God for Coach (Darrell) Hedrick. He saved me.”
Charlie and Dee Dee wed on a week night at a Cincinnati-area Baptist church where her uncle was the minister. She wore the bridesmaid dress she’d worn for Darla’s wedding the year before. Fellow Miami player Johnny Swain was Charlie’s best man.
“We didn’t have a dime between us,” Dee Dee once said. “One of the coaches asked me if I was pregnant and I said, no, I was in love.”
That love was some of the glue that held them together through the address changes in Charlie’s coaching career and their major health issues from Dee Dee’s bouts with cancer to Charlie’s well-documented heart problems.
“We made it because we understood each other,” Charlie said as he began to chuckle. “I’ve always said, I could go out any time I wanted. I just had to follow three rules:
“I couldn’t dress up. I couldn’t take any money and… I had to take the kids along.”
The kids will be there with him Saturday. So will the two gals who started all this — the one he danced with…and the one he married.Tweet
They met for almost two hours at a Panera Bread cafe in the Columbus suburb of Powell, not far from Muirfield Village Golf Club.
There was laughter and there were tears. There was a lot of personal sharing and one major correction.
“Erik kept referring to ‘Isaac’s heart,’ and finally we said “No, it’s your heart now,’” Lillian Klosterman said. “It’s yours.”
And that’s when she said her son Ethan, an incoming freshman at the University of Dayton, brought the point home with a smile:
“You know how when you give a gift you don’t want it back? We don’t want it back.’”
This is the private side of a story that became very public 10 days ago at the final round of the Memorial Tournament.
That Sunday, June 7, my column was about 29-year-old pro golfer Erik Compton of Miami, who was teeing it up that morning with a new heart — and with it a whole new and quite wonderful lease on life — thanks to University of Dayton grad Isaac Klosterman and his family.
Isaac had been killed in a hit and run accident in Florida a year ago in May. At the same time, Compton was in desperate need of a new heart. Diagnosed with a defective heart as a kid, he had gotten a transplant at age 12 but that heart now had worn out. He had suffered a heart attack seven months earlier and by May of 2008 his health had deteriorated badly.
When Isaac died in the hospital, Lillian and her husband Jeff — after a confab with the rest of the family — honored their 26-year-old son’s wishes and donated his organs, tissue and bone, gifts that saved at least five people’s lives and helped many others.
Compton got the heart, the same one that had powered Isaac to volleyball fame at Chaminade Julienne and the University of Dayton.
Over much of the next year the Klostermans and Compton — who had married wife, Barbara, and then they added a baby daughter in late February — didn’t know each other’s identity.
In accordance to transplant foundation rules, they first traded anonymous letters, but soon — with some investigative work on both sides — they learned who the other was.
They finally exchanged some e-mails right before the Memorial. Both wanted to know each other and they figured this tournament — which Compton was playing in thanks to an exemption from tournament founder Jack Nicklaus, who fully supports him — was the chance.
During the early days of the tournament, I interviewed the Comptons several times in Dublin and Lillian during a break from her job at the University of Dayton. All were curious about each other. Before my story though, the Klosterman’s identity was unknown to the general public or the media.
Early on the Klostermans had thought of following Compton on Sunday, but then some corporate types with other agendas tried to orchestrate their meeting in a very public way and both shied from that idea. Each worried about the other’s sensibilities in what they knew would be a very emotional first embrace.
And so they decided to meet after Compton finished his final round. Impressive early in the tournament, he didn’t play well on Sunday, shot an 81, and tied Rocco Mediate for 76th place, good for an $11,340 check.
He arrived at Panera with Barbara and Hank Amundson, his best friend and caddy. Along with Ethan, the Klostermans brought along daughter Sylvia, a CJ junior.
“Erik said, ‘I didn’t play very well,’ and I told him, ‘Well, you made it farther than Vijay Singh,’ Lillian said, referring to the winner of three of golf’s major tournaments and last year’s top money man on the PGA Tour. “That made him laugh.”
Lillian said they thought that maybe now since their identity is out and it’s not such a mystery, “maybe he’ll be treated more normally and not just as the heart guy… But even so, it’s still a remarkable story. He was ready to go to heaven.”
Compton is making the most of Isaac’s gift and Lillian could see it:
“You could feel the love. Erik and Barbara are the perfect match for our family. He wasn’t big headed or snooty. He was so down to earth, so kind and appreciative. He far exceeded our expectations.”
Before they parted, Lillian gave Compton a copy of Isaac’s favorite book. “My Side of the Mountain.”
In turn, he gave them something.
“It was so nice to finally put a face to the name,” Lillian said. “I had kind of known it already, but after meeting him, now I’m sure of it: Isaac’s heart could not have gone to a better person.”Tweet
In New York today, former Chaminade Julienne basketball star and popular WNBA player Tamika Williams — now Tamika Raymond — was named the recipient of the 2008 Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award for her outstanding community work in Connecticut.
The award honors a player who both is a leader in the community and reflects Staley’s leadership, spirit, charitable efforts, and love for the game.
The Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award is presented annually. Each WNBA team nominated one player and a designated committee selected the 29 year old Raymond — currently as assistant coach at Kansas University — as the winner. The WNBA will make a $10,000 donation to a charity of her choosing.
“Dawn is a role model to me both as a player and as a coach,” Raymond said in a WNBA release. “She’s an even bigger figure to me as a leader, mentor and woman who’s making a difference.”
Before marrying Ben Raymond in 2007, Tamika Williams was named Ohio’s Miss Basketball while at CJ. Playing at UConn, she helped lead the Huskies to two national titles. She played seven seasons in the WNBA, six with Minnesota and last year with the Connecticut Sun. During her WNBA career, she played in 219 games, scored 1,330 points and grabbed 1,127 rebounds.
She has worked regularly with the Thames River Family Programs (TRFP), a transitional home for women and their children. She has been involved in classes, given motivational speeches to the adults and spent time reading, painting and playing basketball with the children.
She also treated the women, their families and the TRFP staff — paying for dinner, tickets and transportation — to a Connecticut Sun’s game
“Tamika’s work in her community speaks volumes — she is affecting lives in a way that will change generations within a family and community.” said Staley, currently the University of South Carolina coach (after eight seasons at Temple) and a longtime pro player, who always has been deeply-committed to bettering the communities she’s been involved in. “We need more Tamikas in this world to secure the success of our youth. I am so proud to somehow be connected to her.”
Raymond also has been an avid supporter of WNBA Cares events and causes, including both Nothing But Nets — a grassroots campaign with the United Nations Foundation that provides education on proper use to prevent malaria — and Fast Break to Reading, the League’s initiative with Pitney Bowes that focuses on the importance of reading and literacy.
” It is an honor to have Tamika associated with the WNBA. Not only has she proven herself to be a leader on the court and in the locker room, but she has also brought that same dedication and passion to her fans and the community,” WNBA President Donna Orender said in as league release.”Through her actions, she has touched the lives of thousands of young fans in Connecticut and across the nation, and we congratulate her for all her efforts and good work.”Tweet
He licked his suddenly-dry lips, blinked a few times as he tried to focus, paused several seconds before positioning his body and …then… with another blink and a slump of the shoulders, he slipped back out of sync.
After a few more lengthy resets, he finally shot his right leg up and out and brought his bare foot crashing down — an axe kick — onto the wooden board held up by white-robed fellow student.
And — for the 12th time in a row — the board did not break causing many in the small crowd to let out a barely-audible, but fully-embracing sigh.
Jesse Richardson — who had prepared seven years for this moment — was testing for his black belt in front of Master George Bleil, head of the Dayton Area Taekwondo Center, last Sunday, June 7, at the Boonshoft Center for Jewish Culture and Education.
Jesse — who is 29 and has spent a lifetime kicking right through the limitations that come with Down syndrome — had worked his way up through 10 different belts and just a few nights earlier, in front of another crowd, had slowly read his written report on what taekwondo meant to him.
It had taken him a half an hour to get through the 250 words, but his sincerity and determined effort had brought many to tears.
Sunday he had begun his test, first by showing off various kicking, blocking and punching skills, then splintering a few boards using different blows.
But he was struggling with the axe kick.
His mom, Cathy “Kat” Welde, sat there trying to catch his eye to tell him he was fine, even though on the ride to Centerville, she’d been so nervous she nearly asked her husband, Joe Daniel, to pull over because she was going to be sick.
And Joe — Jesse’s loving stepdad — was in worse shape. Cathy wouldn’t let him sit next to her because she feared he’d break into tears — as he’d done at Jesse’s oration — and then they’d both “be bawling like babies.”
So Joe sat several chairs away, near other family members and friends and right next to Jesse’s best pal, Andy Horstman — they go to movies, the mall, the Air Force Museum and especially monster truck shows together — who had a camera around his neck.
He planned to capture the moment though he did have another duty, as well.
“I made Andy sit next to me,” Joe said with a grin. “I told him, ‘If I get emotional slap me. Don’t let me sit here blubbering.’”
But as Jesse labored in the center of the big room, everyone’s tears were replaced by strident urgings
“Your heel, Jesse,” cried one student. “Use your heel.”
“You can do it, Jesse,” urged another. “You know you can.”
And as he reset one more time, Jesse nodded and said haltingly:
“Ummm…yes….yes…yes, I can.”
MOM’S HIS CHAMPION
When Jesse was born, his mom wasn’t sure she could do it.
“I found out in the recovery room that he was Down’s and it took me a long time to deal with it,” Cathy said. “I was like, ‘Maybe I’m not right for him. Maybe I won’t be able to take care of him.’
“I thought about adoption. Your mind goes through so many things. I was at such a loss, I came home from the hospital without a name for him yet.”
As she thought about those long-past times — and now looked at her son who sat next to her in their Bellbrook home — she smiled:
“Thank God, I got it straight. Jesse has brought so much love — so much life — to me. To all of us.”
In the early years she pretty much raised Jesse and his sister Nicole by herself — they were living outside Bowling Green, Ky. — and then she endured a tough divorce.
Through it all, one thing was constant. She had become her son’s biggest champion: “You want the best for your kids, but as a special needs parent, you learn you have to fight for different situations.
“Like at the end of every school year, we’d have a meeting to set the next year’s goals and I always put down reading. But I was told, ‘That will never happen.’ So finally I took one summer and taught Jesse to read a couple of books and we went in and changed those goals.”
She got him involved in various sports, as well as the Special Olympics, and once they moved back to this area several years ago, they took a taekwondo class together at the Kettering Rec Center.
One of the best things that happened to Jesse was Cathy’s marriage seven years ago — after their 10 years of dating — to Daniel, the sommelier at Jay’s Seafood Restaurant.
“The first time I met Jesse we really hit it off — he’s a great kid.”” Daniel said. “I wouldn’t want any other person in the world to be my son.”
Jesse also was Joe’s best man, who, in turn, serves as his son’s father figure and sidekick.
When Jay’s has had karaoke at staff Christmas parties, Joe and Jesse have belted out everything from West Side Story’s “I Feel Pretty,” — “he’s not as pretty as Natalie Wood,” Joe teased — to R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.”
Joe grinned: “Jesse brought the house down with that.”
At Halloween, the two go to great lengths to decorate their yard with life-sized monsters — Freddy Kruger to Michael Myers — that are enhanced by strobe lights and a fog machine.
During the summer they work together as counselors at a special needs camp and on Christmas Day they are side by side feeding some 500 homeless and needy people at Jay’s charity dinner.
Jesse works daily at the Kroger store in Bellbrook and in his spare time, when not with Andy and some other buddies, he likes going to the theater, opera, the ballet and La Comedia.
“Now he needs to find a girlfriend to take along to some of that,” Cathy smiled.
Jesse beamed and nodded: “Aaaah…I…I like….hot girls.”
THRILL TO WATCH
When Jess graduated from Bellbrook High in 2002, Cathy wanted him to have other involvements besides work. He suggested taekwondo.
When they came to Bleil, they found an instructor who Cathy describes as “just wonderful.” A former school teacher who had worked with special needs kids, he has an open mind and plenty of patience.
Although he had standards he wanted Jesse to meet, Bleil let him progress at his own pace.
“With Jesse, if you push him, you’ll just block the processor and not get anywhere,” Bleil said. “I’m comfortable with just sitting and waiting until he gets in gear.
“And it’s pretty amazing when he does. He’s so diligent and earnest, he’s become a real inspiration. With his limited ability, to accomplish all that he has, it’s been a thrill to watch.”
Each of the belts that Jessie has earned is displayed on a special rack — beneath his collection of elaborate horror masks — in his meticulously-kept bedroom.
Yet with each promotion, the one thing he kept longing for was a black belt and finally Bleil thought he was ready.
Jesse practiced for weeks so he could read the taekwondo paper his mom helped him with. And then came last Sunday’s test and that troublesome axe kick.
Bleil patiently waited through some 20 failed attempts, but would not give Jesse a pass. “This isn’t a gift,” he said. “A piece of wood is not going to defeat him.”
And then with one sharp blow, Jesse sent his heel crashing through the board. The crowd applauded and he closed his eyes tightly and shook his hands in sheer delight.
Soon after, Joe said he looked over at Andy, who had snapped the photo as a tear spilled from his eye: “He said, ‘Joe, that made me emotional, too.’”
Later, Joe and Cathy took Andy and Jesse to Sharkey’s Lounge, where a party was in full swing. Their friend, blues rocker Eric Jerardi, announced from the bandstand that Jesse had gotten his black belt and the place erupted in cheers.
“Jesse and Andy were drinking virgin daiquiris, eating burgers and dancing with all the pretty girls,” Joe laughed. “Jesse even showed people a few of his (taekwondo) moves. It sounds like a pretty good day to me.”
Jesse’s face crinkled again. He shook his head and finally said:
“Uuummm… yes….Yes, it was….it…waaaas…great.”Tweet
Dayton’s most famous athlete has just received another prestigious honor.
Edwin Moses — the legendary Olympic track champion who grew up on Kimberly Circle in West Dayton and graduated from Fairview High School — just received an honorary Doctor of Science degree at the University of Massachusetts — Boston
“Edwin Moses is more than an Olympic athlete, UMass Boston chancellor Keith Motley told John Powers of the Boston Globe. “He is a visionary who leverages his abilities, education and understanding to inspire others.”
The son of Gladys Moses and her late husband, Irving — both long-time educators in the Dayton Public Schools system — Edwin was a skinny, studious, science geek who told Powers “I couldn’t get a scholarship out of high school. I looked like (Steve) Urkel — seriously.”
He went to Morehouse College in Atlanta on an academic scholarship, got two degrees and, in the process, became a track sensation at a school that didn’t even have a track.
A three-time Olympic hurdling medalist — he would have garnered more hardware had the US not boycotted the 1980 Olympics — he won 122 straight 400-meter hurdle races between August 1977 and June, 1987. That’s 9 years, 9 months and 9 days without ever being beaten.
And yet some of the 53-year-old Moses’ greatest accomplishments didn’t come as he circled a running track.
As Powers noted , Moses was the force behind developing “trust funds that allowed amateur athletes to keep up with their state supported rivals from socialist countries” and he pushed for out-of- competition — any place, any time — drug testing to help clean up the sport.
Today, he is the chairman of Laureus World Sports Authority, an independent public charity that funds and promotes the use of sport — and involves 45 of the world’s most legendary athletes — as a tool for social change.
Before being honored here at the Schuster Center last September, Moses sat down with me at his mother’s home and told me how he travels constantly, whether it’s giving motivational speeches or circling the globe for Laureus.
He told how he and actor Jackie Chan worked on the Cambodian mine project. In France, he was involved in programs for handicapped kids, while in Barcelona, Spain, he said, “immigrant kids were taught to be sailors the old fashion way.”
A project in Berlin involved children of East German parents who were being discriminated against and were having trouble assimilating in the West. He was involved in another project bringing together kids from Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in Northern Ireland.
“In Sao Palo and Rio (Brazil), we have a boxing program for kids carrying submachine guns during the day,” he said. “In Kenya we’re using soccer … Sports is the tool we use for social change.”
As Motley so aptly put it, Edwin Moses truly is “a visionary.”Tweet
As Mike Raiff watched the teeming activity on the Chaminade Julienne gym floor, here’s some of what he saw:
In the middle of some five dozen young girls — who were dribbling and laughing and occasionally looking at their mentors with a bit of awe — stood Megan Duffy.
The former CJ star — who went from Notre Dame Academic All American to the WNBA to playing in Slovakia and Romania this past year — was the animated conductor of the affair, sort of like Arthur Fielder of the Boston Pops had he been able to dribble between his legs and bury the three.
A few feet away Brandie Hosklins — another CJ hoops legend, who went on to Ohio State, the WNBA and most recently played pro in Greece and Israel — was kibitzing with a current Eagles player.
At the far end of the gym, Lindsey Goldsberry, another celebrated Eagle and Bowling Green star — had a comforting arm around a beaming girl who had started the week shy and intimidated.
This was the scene Wednesday, June 10, at the CJ girls summer basketball camp, a four-day affair that ends today at noon.
After six tough weeks around the school’s hoops program, it was dynamic affirmation of what CJ really is about.
“You don’t want to have a negative situation to remind you how wonderful CJ is, but that’s how it worked out,” Raiff said quietly. “The community and even some of us needed a reminder and right here we have it.”
The negative was the recent ouster of Marc Greenberg, the former head coach of the girls basketball team and the guy who had run this camp.
Fifteen days ago — following a May 4 arrest — Greenberg was indicted on 12 counts of using the internet to transmit obscene materials to minors, none of whom are said to be his players or girls from his camp.
His alleged misdeeds unfairly cast a shadow over a good school and since then everybody has tried to work past it.
“No matter how you tried to say it was not, it was like the 800 pound gorilla sitting out there,” Raiff admitted.
Eventually Raiff consulted with Jim Place, the former longtime AD and coach at CJ, who’s now at Middletown High. Though neither had any experience in dealing with such a situation, they both had the best interests of the kids at heart and worked from there.
Soon Duffy, Hoskins and Goldsberry offered to do whatever they could to help assistant CJ coach and longtime camp backbone, Mandy Myers, get things set for this week.
As for hiring a new coach for the nationally-acclaimed program, Raiff said some 20 people — from as far away as Texas — have gone through the first of three rounds of interviews, but a decision is still a month away:
“At first we wanted to hire someone right off and put a new face on the program, but we soon realized it was more important to be prudent and make the right choice.”
In the meantime it’s been the current and former players who are, as he put it, “leading the healing process….They remind us what great kids we have.”
And no one is doing it more this week than the 24-year-old Duffy:
“Right away, along with Brandie and some other alums, we tried to figure out what we could do to keep the kids positive and focused.
“I felt that was my responsibly. CJ gave so much to me, I wanted to give something back and refocus the attention on what it means to be a CJ Eagle.”
She and the others have done that — and one thing more.
They took that 800-pound gorilla and turned it into monkey they lifted off the back of the program. And because of that, anyone who looked Wednesday had a clear view of just what CJ was all about.
It was a wonderful sight.Tweet
“There she is, the next CJ coach.”
That’s how Mike Raiff greeted Megan Duffy when they passed each other in the Chaminade Julienne gym earlier this week. The CJ athletics director said it like it was a joke, but I think there was some wishful thinking beneath that teasing delivery.
Duffy was a bit taken aback at first and admitted that while she wants to one day coach: “the timing isn’t quite right…I still want to play some basketball. I’m just not ready to give up the game yet.”
But underneath that sincere sidestep, I think there was wishful thinking on her part, as well.
Duffy — the former CJ hoops star who went on to Notre Dame, the WNBA and now is playing professionally in Europe — makes no bones about it. She wants to be a basketball coach and is acting as such this week as she’s become the face of the CJ girls summer basketball camp at the school.
While CJ assistant coach and longtime camp co-director Mandy Myers is doing much of the behind the scenes work — and former CJ stars Brandie Hoskins and Lindsey Goldsberry are high-profile mentors working alongside the current CJ girls players, who also act as instructors — Duffy is center stage.
She’s the animated and enthusiastic ringmaster, her Minnesota Lynx shorts and tennis shoes substituting for a top hat and tails. The way she’s handled the job — fully embracing the 63 youngsters taking part in the camp — has impressed Raiff:
“She’s really going to be something. I think you’re looking at the head coach of Notre Dame one day.”
Duffy offered to help out her alma mater — as did Hoskins and Goldsberry — when former girls head coach Marc Greenberg was arrested, and since indicted on 12 counts of using the internet to transmit obscene materials to minors, none of whom are said to be his players or girls from his camp. CJ fired him in mid-May and is currently searching for a new coach.
Raiff has finished his first round of interviews — meeting with 20 applicants from as far away as Texas — and said he has has two more rounds of queries until the school settles on a coach sometime in mid July.
He said he’s looking for just the right fit for CJ and — as you watched Duffy in action this week and then talked to her — you realize there can’t be too many people who would fill that bill better than she.
Although she lacks a coaching resume, she’s has worldly experience in the game, relates to the kids and is well-schooled in her hoops skills.
She was an Academic All American at Notre Dame, played for Minnesota and the New York Liberty in the WNBA and has played overseas for teams in Wales, Italy, Slovakia and Romania, which she just left a few weeks ago.
Talking briefly about her professional basketball travels, she told about “playing in the most famous arena in basketball” — Madison Square Garden, the Liberty’s home court — living on the Mediterranean Sea and playing for a team in Sicily, touring Russia and Poland with her Slovakian team and witnessing the passion of the Romanian fans, who’d pack the gym each game “and bang drums and chant the whole game like soccer fans.”
As for returning to the scaled-back WNBA this year, that will be difficult. The league has reduced roster sizes from 13 players to 11 and, if you combine that with the folding of the Houston Comets, the job market has shrunk from 182 spots in 2008 to 143 this season.
She’ll almost certainly head to Europe somewhere to play in the fall and her agent is addressing offers now. In the meantime, she’ll work another basketball camp in Columbus and help coach an Ohio AAU team that will be playing tournaments in various states.
“My window to play basketball is not going to last forever so I want to do that first,” she said. “But absolutely I want to coach and who knows? That may come sooner than later. Ultimately I want to be a college head coach, but I know I have to build a resume first. I have to pay some dues.”
Paying them at CJ could very well yield dividends to everyone.Tweet
Few people know Martin Bayless better than Ron Todd.
They went to the same Belmont High and both played football at Bowling Green State University‚ albeit some four years apart. Most importantly, they’ve worked side by side at the free football camp Bayless has put on for Dayton-area youth since 1986.
Last Sunday, Todd, now a Dayton sports agent, joined Bayless — who played 13 seasons in the NFL and now is the assistant defensive coordinator (Denny Green is the head coach) of the San Francisco team in the new United Football League — eight NFL players and dozens of volunteers at Welcome Stadium for a camp that drew close to 1,400 kids from grades 3-12.
There is not another athlete from the Dayton area who has made this kind of commitment to his hometown and the young people here. Not for this long, not impacting so many thousands of lives and all done without a charge to any of the youngsters.
Why does Bayless — who grew up on Enroe Drive, now Martin Bayless Drive — do it?
“He was taught to never forget where you came from,” Todd said. “He made a promise to his mother and father (Stella and Charles) that he’d do this camp as long as he can. He wants to make an impact on young people’s lives and show them if you hang around good people you can do good, too.
“And what’s interesting when he first started, those kids are now bringing their own children to the camp. He’s made an impact on a couple of generations.”
Over the years — back when Bayless launched the effort with fellow Daytonian and NFL player Keith Byars and since 1994 when he’s run it by himself — his camp has always featured NFL players to teach the local kids, laugh with them, hug them and give them someone to look up to.
Pros like Boomer Esiason, Reggie White, Marcus Allen, Jim Kelly, Derrick Thomas, Cris Carter, Jerome Brown and Randall Cunningham all have taken part here.
This year’s NFL attendees included St. Louis Rams defensive tackle LaRoi Glover, the 13-year vet and four-time All Pro, 13-year fullback Zack Crockett, Browns safety Brandon Mitchell, Tampa Bay safety Will Allen, New England’s Shawne Crable, Detroit’s Marcus Demps, Bengals receiver Greg Orton and Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Johnson.
“Every kid is not as fortunate as I was to be raised by two parents,” Bayless said. “A lot of kids are raised by one parent, their grandmother, their aunt or uncle and sometimes those folks have their hands full and can use some help instilling great values.
“As for me, I’m just carrying the torch and one day it will be someone else running the Martin Bayless camp.”
As to who picks up that challenge, I don’t know?
One positive sign is Daequan Cook — the Dunbar High product who is about to start his third season with the Miami Heat — launching a camp for area youth that will run June 22-23.
It will cost $20 and features Greg Oden (Portland Trail Blazers), Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies) and Heat teammates Michael Beasley, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers.
And then there is the Chaminade Julienne girls basketball camp that’s running this week and features Eagle alums Megan Duffy (Minnesota Lynx and New York Liberty) and Brandie Hoskins (Seattle Storm) and Lindsey Goldsberry, who just finished a stellar career at Bowling Green. That camp costs $80.
But for its longevity, its no-cost proviso and the overall sheer impact it has made, nothing compares to the Bayless camp.
“I came to this camp when I was a little kid and ran around and had lots of fun, and then when I got to high school I came back again and learned some things,” said Orton, who went from Wayne High to Purdue to the Bengals. “This camp helped me see a dream …a nd I’ll never forget that. Martin Bayless has taught me what it means to really be a pro and hopefully one day I’ll be able to do the same thing here for kids.”
That, too, would be part of Bayless’ legacy.Tweet
His thoughts were divided.
As Billy Bomar played the 36 hole U.S. Open Sectional qualifier at the NCR South golf course Monday, June 8, the 46-year-old pro from Anchorage, Alaska found himself thinking not only about the fairways , but also about family.
His daughter Brittany was caddying for him.
His dad was not.
Colonel Jack Bomar — the much-decorated Air Force pilot who once used to tote his son’s clubs at various mini-tour stops — died following a battle with pancreatic cancer the day before Billy won the local Open qualifier in Wasilla, Alaska that got him the trip to Dayton.
Wednesday, Col. Bomar’s funeral services will be held in Mesa, Ariz.
A lot of people probably would have pulled out of this tournament to grieve or regroup, but the way Billy Bomar saw it, there’s no better way to honor his dad than by playing golf.
Plus Jack Bomar wasn’t about quitting or giving up. With him it wasn’t a lesson he simply preached, it was one he painfully endured.
For six years and one month — 2,221 days between February, 1967 to March of 1973 — then Major Bomar was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Held by the North Vietnamese in the notorious Hanoi Hilton, he spent much of his time on the other side of a cement wall from then Navy pilot and now U.S. senator, John McCain, who was in an adjoining cell.
“I was three years old when my dad went to Vietnam and 10 when he finally came home,” Billy said. “I especially remember when he wasn’t there each Christmas. We’d always put together a care package for him — I’d send along some stuff I made — and he did get a few of those things.
“That’s how he found out we had landed on the moon. One of the sugar packets we sent, the Vietnamese didn’t confiscate and it had a picture of the moon landing on the back.
“They didn’t give the prisoners much information back then.”
But they did torture a select group of them — including Jack Bomar — almost daily.
STORIES MADE IMPACT
Jack Bomar and five other crew members were aboard a Douglas EB66C Skywarrior that was shot down by surface-to-air missiles some 80 miles north of Hanoi on February 4, 1967.
As the plane plummeted end over end, Bomar ejected with shrapnel in his leg. When he landed, villagers captured him, wired his thumbs behind his back and beat him before turning him over to North Vietnamese troops.
He was in solitary confinement for eight moths. When he ended up next to McCain, he’d put a water glass to the wall to listen to his fellow POW.
“They communicated through tapping similar to Morse code,” said Brittany, who spent the past year around her grandfather while working on her own golf game before heading to the University of Hawaii to play. “From his stories, I know the beatings were brutal.”
Billy shook his head: “What he went through I can’t imagine. Several of the POWS didn’t survive captivity.”
Three of the six men on Bomar’s jet made it through their days in captivity. The remains of two crewmen were eventually sent home — one in 1977, the other in 1990 — and one man remains missing.
While Billy remembers the parades for his dad when he got home he also remembers how tough it was for a lot of the returning POWs: “They had a lot going on inside them and most of them — my dad included — ended up divorced.”
While returning POWs found many things in their lives drastically changed, Jack Bomar showed one thing remained, quite amazingly, in tact.
“That first year he got home — after not playing golf for more than six years — he won the club championship, where he had played,” Billy smiled
A VICTORY THROUGH THE TEARS
Billy had never advanced through a local Open qualifier before this one on May 21 and had only played four competitive rounds this year because Alaska’ s golf season doesn’t begin until the end of May.
He’s also been spending much of his time with the national First Tee program. He’s Alaska’s new executive director of the effort to introduce golf to inner city and less advantaged kids who would otherwise have no access to the game. Since taking over in January, he’s already brought the game to 4,000 grade school kids in the Anchorage area.
Yet against all that — and maybe banking on his dad’s old bromide about not giving up — he thought he had a qualifying shot. The local was being played at Settlers Bay GC where he’d once been the pro.
“It was still the hardest round of golf I’ve ever had to play,” he said.
Brittany was his caddy and said: “He kept it together just fine for 17 holes. But on the last hole it kind of hit him. He’s a really fast player, but it took him 15 minutes for us to chip out and then make the putt. He’d set up on the chip, then back off and you could see the tears starting.
“The chip was maybe from 30 yards and then he had a 15-foot putt and it was clutch. They were only taking one person (from the field) and if he missed it would go to a playoff.
“When he watched his putt rolling in, he broke down and then I was crying, too.’
Bomar shot a 71 to advance to Dayton along with 67 other players from 17 states and five foreign countries. From that pool only the four with the best scores would make the Open field at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. June 15-21.
Struggling some with his putter — after prepping on the still winter-slow greens back in Alaska — Bomar shot a 75-79-154, finished back in the pack and by mid evening he and Brittany were back in their rental car, driving to Chicago, for an early morning flight to Seattle and then another to Phoenix.
Jack Bomar’s Memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday — and a miliary service will be at Arlington National Cemetery in the fall — but there’ll be another special remembrance Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s is dad’s birthday and Wednesday is also the day he used to play golf with the same bunch guys each week,” Billy said.
“They called them The Wild Bunch,” Brittany laughed.
Billy nodded: “They moved their tee time back a couple of hours to go to the service and then we’re all going out and tee it up.”
There’s no better way to honor his dad than by playing golf.Tweet
NCR is packing up and leaving town. GM declared bankruptcy and has gotten rid of most of its local work force here.
The pro golf tours that used to make annual stops here have moved on and a lot of Dayton-bred athletes — once they found fame and fortune — have put this town in their rear view mirrors.
And then there’s Martin Bayless.
He’s as reliable as the swallows of Capistrano.
For the 24th year in a row the Belmont High grad — who played 13 seasons in the NFL and has been a pro coach since — returned to Welcome Stadium, Sunday, June 7, to put on his day-long, free football camp for area youth, grades three through 12.
It was a heart-warming sight. His morning session for grade schoolers drew close to 700 kids. They were white, black, brown, skinny, chunky, mostly boys, a few girls, some skilled, all wide-eyed.
They congregated around eight NFL players he’d brought in to help. Guys like LaRoi Glover, the four-time All Pro defensive lineman with the St. Louis Rams and veteran NFL fullback Zack Crockett, as well as local Wayne High products: starting Tampa Bay safety Will Allen and Bengals receiver Greg Orton.
There also were lots of volunteer coaches and the kids would later gets lunches and t-shirts, but the key figure Sunday was Bayless.
He and fellow Daytonian and NFL vet Keith Byars started the camp in 1986 and he took it over himself in 1994. This year he also has camps in San Diego, Houston and Phoenix.
“Anyone who’s looking for a person who played in the NFL and is doing the right thing and giving back to his community, he’s the prime example,” said Josh Johnson, the Tampa Bay quarterback who starred at the University of San Diego.
The 46-year-old Bayless said the reason is simple:
“I’m from Dayton and I’m proud to be from Dayton. When I was a kid, I didn’t have this kind of opportunity, but when I was able to have some expendable income as an NFL player, my mom and dad told me: ‘You’ve got to come back and do something. It’s your responsibility to make positive contributions here.”
The 34-year-old Glover was a kid in one of Bayless’ initial camps in San Diego, as were future NFL players like Dan Wilkinson, Marco Coleman, Peerless Price, Allen and Orton here.
“This speaks volumes on Martin’s character,” said Glover, who now partners with Bayless in San Diego. “There are lots of successful people from here, but few come back. But here you have a guy the kids can high five and hug, a guy they can talk and joke with and learn from. His camp gives them someone to look up to.”
And as you watched Sunday there was Glover pulling aside 12 year William Hobbs, a Mad River seventh grader, and giving him a running tip. At the same time Crockett was coaxing Taylor Hines, an eight year old girl from Bauer Elementary, through an agility drill.
“You never know when you might say or do something that might change one kid’s life,” said Johnson. “What’s better than that?”
When he was at San Diego, Johnson visited Welcome Stadium in 2005 and beat the Dayton Flyers 48-24, throwing for three touchdowns and running for another.
He thought that would be his best day ever in Dayton.
Sunday was better.Tweet
DUBLN — In what was shaping up as one of the most unbelievable stories in sports, Erik Compton was working his way toward a spot near the bottom of the leader board at Murfield.
Fifteen holes into the third round of Memorial Tournament Saturday, June 6, the Florida golf pro with the heartfelt Dayton connection was two under par. He’d carded three birds in his last six holes and with a couple more, he’d be in great shape.
Then he bogeyed 16 and 17 and double bogeyed 18 when he missed a six-inch putt.
After signing his scorecard, he tromped stone-faced past the autograph seekers, waiting media members and even his caddy. He reached for his wife Barbara and they slipped onto a secluded stairway where they sat for a few minutes.
“I just needed to clear my mind,” he later said. “If I had a punching bag, I’d hit it. You go from having a great round to a really bad round in three holes. I wasn’t thinking. .. Now, even if I shoot 1 or 2 under tomorrow, I’m still going to finish right around dead last.”
A year ago, though, he wasn’t looking at dead last, he was facing the very real possibility of soon being dead.
Diagnosed as a kid with an enlarged heart, his original transplant had worn out. He’d suffered a heart attack and was being kept alive with medication and a defibrillator.
But when Isaac Klosterman — a Chaminade Julienne and University of Dayton athlete and an organ donor — was killed in a hit and run accident, an unbelievable story began to unfold.
It’s a story — entitled “Former CJ Athlete’s Heart Always In Right Place” — I tell in today’s newspaper and it also can be found on this web page.
After today’s final round at the Memorial, Lillian and Jeff Klosterman, Isaac’s parents, finally will meet the man in whose chest their son’s heart now beats.
And while Erik is especially appreciative of the gift, his competitive side — the side he’s regained thanks to Isaac — made him yearn for more Saturday.
“I got a new, strong heart,” he said shaking his head, “but I didn’t get a brain.”
TO REGISTER AS AN ORGAN AND TISSUE DONOR, go to:
DUBLIN — Isaac Klosterman was living life to the fullest.
A tall, good-looking 26-year-old in perfect health, the former Chaminade Julienne and University of Dayton athlete was living in Columbus with some UD friends when he decided to take a trip to Florida with a few of his motorcycling buddies 13 months ago.
As Lillian Klosterman, his mom, explained it the other day as she took a break from her job on the UD campus:
“The other guys all had crotch-rocket bikes so they put them on a trailer for the trip. But Isaac had a real comfortable BMW, so he rode down on his own and met them in (South Florida.)”
He took the breath-taking Overseas Highway ride from Miami to Key West, where he spent time on the water, took in the sunset scene at Mallory Square and hung out on Duval Street, where he and the others went dancing with some Colorado women they met.
Meanwhile, just 150 miles back up the highway in Miami, 28-year old Erik Compton was feeling the last of his life draining away.
He’d been diagnosed with an enlarged heart as a kid, had a transplant at age 12, become an All-America golfer at the University of Georgia and then a second-tier pro flirting with the PGA Tour.
But by the fall of 2007, his transplanted heart was giving out and in October he suffered a heart attack. With medication and then an external defibrillator he was able to buy a few months, but his health continued to erode.
“I slowly declined and then it was just a lot of sleepless nights as I tried to stay positive and wait for a new heart,” he said. “During that time, though, I was probably the strongest I’ve ever been mentally. I think it’s because I was really prepared for the fact that maybe I was going to die…That maybe my life was about over.”
And then in an terrible instant, the fates of both young men dramatically interchanged.
After a week of vacation, Isaac had to leave the other guys and return to his job at Home Depot in Columbus.
Thanks to a late-night internet search back in Dayton by his younger brother Ethan — a star volleyball player at CJ — Isaac was able to find a KOA campground near Lion Country Safari outside West Palm Beach for that first night.
About an hour after midnight, Isaac was on Highway 80, just a mile from the campground when his BMW was run-over from behind by a white pick-up truck.
The impact, Lillian said, knocked the front bumper off the truck and — from the white paint found on his helmet — apparently catapulted her son onto the hood of the pick-up for some 250 feet. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s investigators said the truck sped off with Isaac lying in the road.
Lillian said once daylight came, a vehicular homicide investigator was able to follow a trail of transmission fluid some two miles and found the suspected truck hidden behind a horse trailer where the vehicle owner lived. She said the guy — who had a suspended drivers license and no insurance — immediately lawyered up. Although he still has not been charged, the investigation is continuing.
Meanwhile, three hours after the crash — at 4 a.m. on May 16, 2008 — a Dayton police officer stepped onto the porch of the Klosterman’s home near the Dayton Art Institute and knocked.
“We all heard that dreaded ‘BAM…BAM…BAM,’” Lillian said quietly, tears streaming down her cheeks. “All the kids woke up and my husband went out first and talked to him. Then I went and it was like, ‘Oh my God…Oh no….Oh noooo.’”
GOD’S MISSION FOR ISAAC
Erik Compton was a budding nine-year-old Little League star when what was thought to be a persistent winter cold was diagnosed as congestive cardiomyopathy, a disease that enlarged his heart and hindered its ability to pump blood. Within two years, he was vomiting often and seeing spots.
After becoming the youngest heart transplant recipient in the history of Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital — when he got a heart from a 15-year-old girl killed by a drunk driver — he became the nation’s top-ranked junior golfer while at Miami’s Palmetto High, later appeared in the Walker Cup and then managed some international acclaim as a pro, including winning the King Hassan Trophy in the Rabat, Morocco in 2005.
Meanwhile Isaac was making his own sports name. After All City volleyball honors at CJ, he turned down an athletic offer to the University of Findlay and headed to UD, where volleyball is a club sport.
As for his heart, it wasn’t just sound, it was kind and always open.
He’d won a Dayton Peace Bridge Award for defusing a racially-tinged fight scene in downtown Dayton when he was a CJ ninth grader. He’d cared for his grandmother when she was dying and even on that trip to Florida, he showed his character after blowing a tire in North Florida and being befriended by a Gainesville motorcycling couple, who helped him with his bike, fed him, put him up in their home over night and then got him proper gear for the Florida heat.
“He was in black leather and they had meshy gear that allowed air flow ” Lillian said. “On the way back, they said he could stay with them again and exchange the gear back.”
When they wouldn’t accept payment, he left them a touching letter and $80. The woman was so moved, she was in tears when she called Lillian and said: “I can’t believe your son is so nice.”
Isaac never made it back to the couple. When the Klostermans got to Florida, they found he’d been unresponsive since the first medical personnel had arrived on the crash scene.
“The doctors were very open and told us he had extensive brain damage,” Lillian said. “Well, I had been with Isaac the day he put it on his driver’s license, so, as we all looked at each other around the table, I finally brought it up: ‘Do you guys agree that we’re not going to do surgery and we’ll honor his wishes to be an organ donor?’
“I tried to put myself in the other position — if I needed help for my children — and finally I told the doctors, ‘You can use every inch of him if you can.’
“It’s the only way I could make any sense of his untimely death. I thought this might have been God’s mission for him. He was put on this earth to help other people by being the organ donor he was.”
A 57-year-old man got Isaac’s liver. His lungs went to a 65-year-old year-old man in North Carolina. His kidneys to two boys, one 15, the other 11. His eyes were donated as was some of his skin and even his jawbone.
And his heart went to Erik.
He received it on May 20th last year and said one of his first memories afterward was watching the Memorial Tournament on television.
“I was lying there with staples all over my body,” he said. “I was 130 pounds and I couldn’t sleep, but I remember as I watched the Memorial, I was thinking — as unrealistic as it was then — ‘I’m going to play there next year.’”
NICKLAUS MOVED BY COMPTON
Compton is one of most amazing stories in all of sports. Not only because he’s healthy enough to play competitive golf just 12 months after his second transplant, but that he made the cut in the talent-laden Memorial field — when 63 other top golfers could not — and now is tied for 62nd at 5-over-par 221, 14 strokes behiond co leaders Matt Bettancourt and Mark Wilson.
This is Jack Nicklaus’ tournament and he wanted Compton here, not only for the medical moxie he’s shown, but for his extensive charity work.
Because Compton has not earned his PGA Tour card, he was invited here through a sponsor’s exemption and then last Sunday, May 31, Nicklaus fixed it so he’d play a practice round with him.
“Jack’s been great — he’s well aware of my situation,” Compton said. “He helped me out with my game this week He gave me some putting tips and that helped me make the cut.”
And what did Nicklaus learn from him?
Compton grinned: “How to have two transplants… and come back.”
And in the past year he’s done far more than return to golf. Last August he married Barbara Casko, the Argentinian-born woman he met in the laundry room of their Miami condo as he awaited a new heart.
“There’s probably not 1 percent of the people in the world who would stay with you like that when you have nothing,” he said. “I believe God had as huge hand in putting us together because we’re a perfect match.”
Barbara smiled and shrugged: “That’s what you do when you love somebody.”
She gave birth to their daughter Petra in late February and in March, Erik was invited to three tournaments, making the cut at the Honda Classic where he finished tied for 44th place at three-over par.
Every round he plays on the Tour now, he draws followers like Fred Girscht, the 52-year-old Columbus man who tromped along for the Memorial’s opening round, Thursday.
“I had a kidney and pancreas (transplant) a little over eight years ago and I know what I went through,” said Girscht, who wore a green Donate Life bracelet on his right wrist. “I’m sure he’s got to take a lot of drugs because I still do. It’s hard enough to play golf at a high level when you’re healthy. To do it when you’ve been through what he has — he is amazing.”
Following the round, Girscht introduced himself by simply saying, “Kidney, pancreas — eight years ago.”
“Taking your medicine?” Compton asked.
When Girscht nodded, the two men began to compared their dosages.
As he was leaving — after getting Compton to autograph his cap and add the date of his transplant — Girscht called out: “We’re all rooting for you.”
Later today, two people with an emotional rooting interest — Lillian and Jeff Klosterman — are coming from Dayton to Murfield to finally meet the man in whose chest their son’s heart still beats.
EVERY HEARTBEAT A BLESSING
Lillian said according to transplant foundation protocol, donors and the recipients must wait an extended period of time and trade a pair of anonymous letters before they can meet.
“But I’m a detective at heart,” Lillian said. “And when Erik wrote his first letter, it was descriptive, so I Googled the facts and his name popped up. And the timing of his transplant was right, so I pretty much knew.
“I couldn’t hold it in, so I finally told my husband and for a long time we protected that information.”
Erik said he was “very curious” about who his donor was and with his brother’s research help, he soon had a good idea, as well:
“I knew Isaac was an athlete and from what I can tell a good guy, too. And my take on his family is that they are very strong. A very spiritual family.”
Lillian said she finally messaged Erik on Facebook: “I think I said I was Isaac’s mom and asked if I could be his friend. He agreed, but never replied.”
Then this past Tuesday, Lillian said she got a letter from Compton: “He said he didn’t know where to start…that he was better with words in person and I understood.”
Letters from Erik’s family followed and that yielded the possibilities of a private meeting after the Memorial, where Erik hoped to play well as a way of honoring Isaac and his family.
“I want us to get to know each other,” Compton said.
In Lillian, he’ll find a woman who not only is glad he’s getting to live the kind of life — as a husband and new father — that her son envisioned, but that’s he’s also keeping a part of Isaac alive for them. And he’s doing it with that same kind and open heart that her son once did.
“From all the suffering and pain, I went through, it’s given me a great deal of maturity and understanding,” Compton said. “I have a great wife, we have a beautiful child. I’m playing on the Tour. I realize how lucky I am. I know every heartbeat is a blessing. And because of it, I’m trying to live my life as best I can and make a difference.”
Thanks to Isaac Klosterman, Erik Compton is now living life to the fullest.
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DUBLIN — The first round of the Memorial Tournament is far from over, but already one guy is running away from the field at Muirfield.
Thanks to his tweets — not his birdies — Stewart Cink is the undisputed king here this week.
As in the rest of the world, Twittering is the new toy of the sports world and several PGA players already have their own Twitter sites to communicate with anyone who is interested in them.
Thursday, the PGA put up its leader board and its top tweet man is Cink. According to latest tour statistics, Cink has 256,533 followers.
Although it’s not quite the same as Arnie’s Army, it is a pro tour phenomenon.
Cink — who as a press room interview was a nice guy, but a pretty bland quote — suddenly has a Tiger-like presence about him in cyberspace.
The next most active Twitter account on the PGA Tour belongs to John Daly, who had 6,762 followers. Davis Love was next with 2,923, followed by Parker McLachlin, 1,483 and Chris DiMarco, 1442. In all, 13 players were listed with Spencer Levin 13th at 108.
On the PGA Tour, Cink has five career victories, has been part of four Ryder Cup teams and won over $25 million. But most people know him now not for that resume, but simply by his Twitter account tag: stewartcink
He first heard about Twittering while watching the ESPN show Pardon the Interruption, where the 140-character meanderings of the Toronto Raptors’ Chris Bosh were being debated.
He’d never heard about it before, but his sons explained it to him and helped him open an account and then he ran with it.
“I’m pretty liberal with what I put out there. I run the gamut,” Cink told USA Today recently. “I share some insight about golf and sometimes I talk about my life. I want people to see that I’m a regular guy who just plays golf for a living.
“I’m just trying to make a direct, unfiltered connection to people and let my personality come through with my messages. I have a harder time doing that through TV cameras and newspapers and magazines and the radio.”
And so what are people finding out about the 36-year-old pro from his tweets?
Folks know that he likes the Atlanta Thrashers and the Double Double at In-N-Out Burger and loves snowboarding and, like the rest of his family, watching American Idol.
During a practice round at the Masters — players are not allowed to use cell phones during tournament play — he sent out tweets about changes to the course and even took pictures of the Back 9 and posted them with his tweets.
Here in Columbus late Wednesday, he wrote:
“Remarkable dinner at Chipolte! Heard not one but two fave songs on radio while there. Beck (Sing It Again) Pixies (Wave of Mutilation)
A while back he tweeted that he’d left the sunroof open on his car and rain had soaked his iPod.
Among the responses he got, someone told him to put the iPod in a bag of rice, seal it up and let it go for a few days.
Cink did just that, went on a ski trip, came back and found his iPod was working perfectly.
He promptly sent out a tweet on the songs he was listening to.Tweet
As the Los Angles Lakers and Orlando now commandeer the NBA stage, folks left sifting through the flotsam of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season that was so convincingly ended by the Magic are left to debate:
Was this just the latest chapter in the curse of Cleveland sports teams — Red-Right 88, The Fumble, The Drive, The Shot, The Choke and the rest of the much-hyped, famously-named list of searing, sometimes inconceivable losses — that now encompasses 45 years without the city claiming a major sports title?
Or, is it something else?
One Ohio sports columnist — a good pal of mine who knows this state and it’s teams as well as anyone in the business — tried deflating the whole curse concept in a Sunday column.
“It’s time to stop revisiting the failures, time to get over the obsession with Cleveland’s championship drought,” Bob Hunter wrote in the Columbus Dispatch. “It’s also time to stop pretending that city’s sports fans have a monopoly on suffering.”
They might not have a monopoly, but they do own a lot of prime real estate along the cursed coast, which, by the way, should not be confused with the banks of the infamous Cuyahoga. The river hasn’t burned in 40 years and folks in Cleveland know that old visual is cliche.
But the curse talk — no matter how some dismiss it — is still embraced by a lot of Cleveland folks, it seems.
A couple of poplar blogs in Cleveland are entitled: “WaitingForNextYear” and “World’s Most Tortured Fans.”
In 2005, Tim Long — Cleveland native, graduate of St. Ed’s, John Carroll University and Cleveland State — published the book: “Curses! Why Cleveland Sports Fans Deserve to Be Miserable: A Lifetime of Tough Breaks, Bad Luck, Dumb Moves, Goofs, Gaffes, And Blunders.”
In 2004, ESPN named Cleveland the most tortured sports city in the nation and certainly the 2007 Indians — who blew a 3-1 lead in the American League Championship Series — and now the Cavs have done nothing to lesson that.
But is this really part of a curse?
The Cavs won an NBA-best 66 games during the season, romped through the first two rounds of the play-offs with eight straight victories, had the league MVP in LeBron James, one of the best defenses in the NBA and the NBA Coach of the Year in Mike Brown.
The Cavs certainly were a good team, but not a great one. And that’s why they’re were done in by the Magic. They weren’t curse victims so much as they were beaten by a better team. A team that beat them six of nine games this season. A team that would have swept this series had James not thrown in a prayer in Game Two.
The myopic masses may have seen a Kobe-LeBron Final, but they over-looked and under-estimated the Magic, who have a more complete team than Cleveland.
They have their own bona fide superman in Dwight Howard, are quicker, have a more well-rounded starting five, a deeper bench and in this series they were much better coached.
This Cleveland team wasn’t done in by a bone-headed move that screams jinx. No Earnest Byner fumble on the three. No Brian Sipe ignoring Coach Sam Rutigliano’s charge to throw it in Lake Erie if no one was open and instead trying to force a pass to Ozzie Newsome and getting picked in the final minute versus Oakland.
The Cavs simply were out-manned by the Magic.
In the off-season, Cavs general manager Danny Ferry needs to jettison a good chunk of his bench and get James some help before he makes the decision after next season whether to re-up in Cleveland or bolt to New York, whoever is promising not only big bucks and bright lights, but a legitimate title contender.
Fail to do that and there will be plenty of curses around Cleveland.Tweet
The horse was called Gentle Annie and if there ever was a case of false advertizing that was it.
Annie was a rank bucking bronc whom the cowboys in the Colorado Athletic Carnival at Denver’s Overland Park wanted no part of that August day in 1917.
Marquerite “Maggie” Doane — who usually competed under her married name, Mrs. Edward Wright — was entered in the rodeo, as well.
A pioneer in women’s sports. she was a 22-year-old cowgirl who rode the rough stock events. Just a week earlier, she had been named the Ladies Champion at the Cheyenne Frontier Days and now a movie crew was on hand to film her.
She debated getting on Gentle Annie and, legend has it, some of the cowboys began teasing her about being afraid. That got her into the saddle and rocketing into the arena aboard the snorting bronc, who bucked for several seconds, then suddenly bolted for the far end of the arena, crashing through a wire fence, stumbling and falling atop Maggie.
According to David Kingman, who researched the book “The Shrines of Woodland,” the horse got up, stepped on Maggie’s head and crushed her skull, though she remained conscious long enough to look up at the comforting cowboys and whisper “Well, I rode her.”
She died that day — August 4, 1917 — but rather than bury her near their Wyoming ranch, her new husband, also a rodeo cowboy, brought her body to Dayton, where her mother lived.
Maggie is now buried in the northern corner of Woodland Cemetery, Section 119, beneath a gray tombstone erected, it says, by “her Western friends” and forever proclaiming her the “Champion Lady Rough Rider of the World.”
I saw the cowgirl’s tombstone by chance one day when I was walking my dog, Leo, through the cemetery. He and I go there regularly. It’s my favorite spot in Dayton — 200 acres of magnificent trees, hills, flowers, birds and a fascinating assortment of grave markers, several of which stand as totems to the colorful tales buried beneath.
Coming in the back gate off Waldo Ave., I usually park by the grave of legendary Dayton Flyers basketball coach Tom Blackburn.
For 40 years — after dying from cancer in 1964 — he lay beneath a flat military stone that identified him only as a lieutenant in the US Naval Reserve who served in World War II.
There was no mention of his coaching days and how — with 352 victories and the 1962 National Invitational Tournament title — he had launched UD onto the big-time stage of college basketball.
Flyers great Junior Norris, captain of the 1951-52 team, set out to change that and with the permission of Blackburn’s widow Libby, who lives in South Carolina, he got the ball rolling among other former players. In 2004, a new stone — with “I didn’t want anything but the best for you and of you,” engraved at the bottom — was dedicated.
Always stopping at the Blackburn’s marker — and then discovering the cowgirl’s resting place — I began to look for a few more sports graves to give me some interesting stopping points in my Woodland circuits.
I found some.
Al Tucker Sr. and Al Jr. — whose basketball careers were as colorful as any father-and-son combo in this city — are buried in Section 111 near the front gate.
Al. Sr. — Slick Al as he was known on the court — was 82 and wrestling with the onset of Alzheimer’s when I visited he and his wife Geraldine in 1997. While he had trouble remembering what had happened an hour earlier, he lit up when he talked of the past.
And what a past it was.
Growing up poor along West Third at Conover Street, his first hoop was a bushel basket nailed to a pole in an alley, Because no one owned a basketball, he and his friends played with a tennis ball.
In 1932, he tried out for the Roosevelt High team, which to that point had had no blacks, he said. Although he was cut, he made the team the following year as a junior and led the Teddies to the state’s Class B. crown. He then played for Alabama State and later was signed off of a Dayton AAU team by Harlem Globetrotters’ owner Abe Saperstein.
“Back then we took on all comers,” Slick Al said. “We played in straight until right at the end. That’s when we’d start jukin’.”
He and Geraldine married after his two Globetrotter seasons. Their son Gerald was a good basketball player and 6-foot-8 Al Jr. was great. He led Oklahoma Baptist to national ( NAIA) title and won first-team All-America honors alongside Lew Alcindor, Elvin Hayes, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Wes Unseld, and UD’s Donnie May.
A first-round draft pick of the Seattle SuperSonics in 1967, he made the NBA All-Rookie team and played six seasons in the NBA and the old ABA. He was 58 when he died from an aneurysm in 2001. His dad died a year later.
While Al Jr.’s tombstone includes a basketball picture and mention of his NBA career, Al Sr.’s marker celebrates his long marriage to Geraldine, but makes no basketball reference.
For that, I remember the way his eyes had twinkled when I asked him how he got his nickname:
“I had a special basketball move. It was a little deal where I’d come down just beyond the foul line and when the defense moved in on me, I’d give a fake and kind of swing over and slip away from ‘em.
“It worked so much they tried to make a rule ‘round here. Said I was traveling. Truth is, I was just running in the air. It was something they weren’t used to seeing and they said ‘Al, you are pretty slick.’”
Johnny Shackleford is buried in a clump of oak trees not far from Stewart Street. His flat stone bears the dates of his life — 1913-1948 — a picture of a sprint car and the epithet “Race on to rest forever won.”
Two weeks after being a relief driver in the 1948 Indianapolis 500, Shackleford — the AAA Midwestern sprint car champ the year before — was one of six Indy drivers in a race at Dayton Speedway that drew 11,000 spectators.
Driving the Iddings Offenhauser that had finished seventh in the 500, he was in second place, when his car skidded in the south turn, slammed through the wall and rolled down a 40-foot embankment. He died of internal injuries at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
“Johnny was real husky,” Clarence “Mutt” Anderson, the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame car owner, mechanic and official from Xenia once told me. “He had a set of shoulders on him, probably would have been a good prizefighter. He was rough and tumble — a little different than the average guy who goes to church on Sunday.”
And that’s when Anderson chuckled: “Wait a minute. I seem to remember he used to play the violin in church, so yeah, he was real different.”
Earl H. Kiser — who is buried in Section 101 along with the Wright Brothers and Paul Laurence Dunbar — has two Dayton Streets named after him: Earl and Herbert.
Racing for the Dayton Bicycle Club and the Stearns Yellow Fellow team, the 5-foot-6 Kiser was known as “The Little Dayton Demon” and became a two-time world cycling champion competing all across Europe in the late 1890s.
By the turn of the century, he also was one of the world’s top race car drivers. He was driving a Winton Bullet No 3. at a race in Cleveland on Aug. 12, 1905 when his car crashed into a fence and caught on fire. Fans pulled him from the burning wreckage.
His badly mangled left leg was amputated at the hospital and the next day the New York Times ran a prominent headline: “Earl Kiser Loses A Leg.”
A Dayton Herald headline a couple of days later proclaimed “Earl Kiser desires severed member Interred in local cemetery where he himself will rest.”
Although he would go on to be a successful Dayton auto dealer and then develop real estate and own a Miami Beach hotel, Kiser and his “member” were finally reunited at Woodland in 1936.
While he spent much of his life with just one good leg, few Dayton athletes ever stood taller than Kiser when he gave vocal support of Major Taylor, the black cyclist who was barred from most national races because of his skin color.
Kiser petitioned to have him included and Taylor became the world sprint champ in 1899, just the second African American ever to win a world title in any sport.
In the south part of Woodland Cemetery — across Stewart Street in Section 300 — Dave Albritton is buried beneath a small stone that tells you he won an Olympic silver medal in the high jump at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, was a member of the Ohio General Assembly and was a coach and educator.
He was all that and so much more .
A lifetime friend of Jesse Owens — from their days as kids in Alabama, through Cleveland East Tech, Ohio State and the Olympics — he later coached Dunbar High to three state track titles.
When he died in 1994, he was laid out in the Dunbar auditorium in a flower-draped casket about the shade of his silver medal.
As the hundreds of people — many of them former athletes and students whose lives he had buoyed — paid their respects, I remember sitting with Albritton’s pal, Mal Whitfield, the great Olympic quarter and half miler, who had spent three decades working for the U.S. government.
“The guy had magic,” Whitfield said with a smile and then a story: “I was working with the U.S. State Department in Iran when the Shah was in power. He needed a sports and youth consultant and Dave came over and decided to get baseball going.
“But in Iran back then, baseball was meaningless so Dave just changed the name from baseball to Shah Ball and suddenly it was all the rage. Thousands of people showed up at the national stadium in Tehran. The game was a real hit and I remember thinking, ‘Old Dave has done it again.”
From that same memorial service, Tony Clay, a powerfully built guy from Akron who had cared for Albritton in the final months, pulled me aside.
“I’m a recovering addict, a real junkie,” he said. “Everyone who had cared about me, I had smoked up. And that’s when God gave me Mr. Albritton.
“My job was to take care of him, but instead he took care of me. He gave me my pride back and taught me to be a man again.
“But when he died, I got scared. All I could think of was ‘God don’t take him now. I need him.’ But now it’s become clear. I see all these people he’s touched and I know what he’s done for me and realize one thing. Mr. Albritton might be up there in the casket, but he’s not really gone. He’s in every heart, every mind and every backbone here. His spirit is alive across Dayton.”
And at Woodland Cemetery — if you know where to look — you’ll find a remembrance of that spirit and those of so many other legends from Dayton’s sports past.Tweet