1980 inductees

  • Richard Wells
    Coach 1980

Richard "Dick" Wells has been involved in swimming over half of his life. This Akron native who prepped at Akron East High and earned his degree from Florida State, organized and coached the Akron, Rubber City and Fairlawn Swim Clubs - all age group swim teams. From 1963 to '70 he served as head swim coach at Firestone High School - guiding his mermen to 153 wins and only 11 losses. His teams captured the state championship in 1966 and '69 and won the District Championships in 1966, '67, '69 and '70. He became Ohio's first Coach of the Year in '67. Since 1973, Wells has been the director of athletics and swimming coach at Indian River Community College in Fort Pierce, Florida where his success has continued. His men's teams captured the 1975 and '76 National Junior College (NJC) Swimming Championships and the '76 women's team did likewise.

  • Joni Wright
    Bowling 1980

She began bowling in the mid 1960s as a family recreation and then joined a couple of ladies classic leagues where she enjoyed almost instant success. Since that time, Joni has won numerous statewide honors in the Ohio Women's Bowling Association (OWBA). She was a member of the OWBA winning team in 1966 and '69 and was the Ohio State singles match game tournament winner in 1968. That same year, Joni was selected the Beacon Journal's Bowler of the Year. She was a member of the Beacon Journal All-Star Team every year from 1965-70. Her career high game and series is a 269 and 720, respectively. While bowling in the Holland Oil Classic League in 1972, Joni compiled her highest average - 196.

  • Eddie Elias
    Basketball 1980

Those who have tried to keep tabs on the mercurial career of Eddie Elias have found their task a difficult one. While attending Western Reserve Law school, from whence he graduated in 1955, the Akron native worked at WAKR and WEWS. An interview with bowlers Don Carter and Dick Hoover, in which they bemoaned the lack of professional bowling organization, led to the birth of the Professional Bowlers' Association (PBA), Under Elias' initial guidance, the PBA, headquartered in Akron, enjoyed an unprecedented growth - from three tournaments in 1959 to nearly 2,000 members who compete in 35 tournaments worth over $3,750,000. He was instrumental in bringing bowling's first $100,000 tournament, the Firestone Tournament of Champions to Akron. Elias has certainly helped make Akron the center for pro bowling and it is little wonder why he is referred to as the "father of pro bowling".

  • Harold Frye
    Football, Track & Field, Basketball 1980

One can't mention the success of Akron U athletics in the 1930s without mentioning Harold Frye. Although only 5-8, and weighing 150 pounds, the diminutive athlete excelled in football, basketball, baseball, and track between 1928 and 1931. Frye was at the controls of the Howard "Red" Blair-coached 1929-30 teams that won 16 and lost only two, the best two-year record in UA history. Despite his size, Frye played forward in basketball, outfield in baseball and tossed the javelin and shot put in track. He earned three letters each in football, basketball and track and one in baseball. What is amazing is that the diminutive Frye owned the Akron U javelin record for 52 years - 198'.

  • John Mackovic
    Coach 1980

Add the name John Mackovic to the already lengthy list of Barberton natives who have distinguished themselves in the field of athletics. Mackovic, who in 1978 became the 28th head football coach at Wake Forest University, guided his 1979 club to an 8-3 record and a berth in the Tangerine Bowl. The 8-3 record was the school's best since 1944 and it was Wake Forest's first bowl trip in 31 seasons. For his effort, Mackovic earned Football Coach of the Year honors from both the Sporting News and the Walter Camp Foundation. Mackovic began his coaching career after his 1965 graduation from Wake Forest, where he played quarterback from 1962-64. He's had coaching stints at Miami of Ohio, Army, San Jose State, Arizona, Purdue, the Dallas Cowboys, the Kansas City Chiefs, Illinois and Texas.

  • John S. Knight
    Horse Racing 1980

He was inducted shortly before his 86th birthday. It was a surprise to many to learn that the editor emeritus of the Akron Beacon Journal, the boss of the Knight newspaper organization, was a sportsman. Not many remember Knight as an end on the 1913 Akron Central High School state football championship team. There are still a few individuals around who can attest to his prowess on the golf course. Six times he won the Portage Country Club's championship - 1929, '32, '34, '35, '36, and '37. However, Knight was honored as owner of Fourth Estate Stable and for his long involvement in thoroughbred horse racing. In its heyday in the late '50s and early '60s, Fourth Estate raced Editorialist, a multiple stakes winner and one of the fastest sprinters in the world; a filly named Times Two, which won in excess of $250,000; War Censor, winner of the 1966 Ohio Derby; and Times Roman. From 1961 to his death this year, Knight was a member of the prestigious Jockey Club, racing's governing body and the highest honor a racing sportsman can attain in any lifetime.

  • Thurman Munson
    Baseball 1980

Born in Akron, raised in Canton, Thurman Munson was a natural athlete destined for stardom. He chose the sport of baseball to excel and excel he did. He parlayed an outstanding collegiate career at Kent State University, where he earned All-American honors, into a professional baseball contract. Upon breaking into the New York Yankees organization as a catcher in 1970, Munson promptly earned Rookie of the Year distinction. Before a tragic plane crash in August, 1979 ended his 10-year pro career, Munson had earned numerous other honors. He was named on the American League All-Star squad in 1971, '73, '74, '75, '76 and '77. The Yankee captain was the American League's Most Valuable Player and the Sporting News' Player of the Year in 1976. He played in the 1977 and '78 World Series, set four records and tied six others.

  • Leroy Thompson
    Basketball 1980

One of Kent State University's all-time great basketball players. Although a native of Sharon, Pa., Leroy prepped at Akron Ellet High School, where as a senior he led the Orangemen to a 22-3 record, including the Ohio Class B Championship in 1944. He enrolled at Kent State in 1946 after serving in the US Army. Before he finished his college career, Leroy had lettered all four seasons and established numerous records, including a career scoring mark of 1120 points. He established a new single game scoring mark when he hit for 35 points during the 1949-50 campaign. Two seasons before, as a sophomore, Leroy had grabbed the single season scoring standard with 436 points. After KSU, he continued to play until 1954 with the Goodyear Wingfoots under Chuck Bloedorn and with Hand Vaughn and Bobby Walker, all Hall of Famers.

  • Ned Novell
    Coach 1980

During his tenure at Mogadore High School (1951-58), he coached football, basketball, track and baseball and enjoyed markedly good success in all of them. However, it was football, a sport he excelled in at the University of Akron, that was Novell's favorite. In seven year, he never had a losing season. To the contrary - from 1953 to 1956, his Wildcat teams compiled the longest winning streak in Ohio with 30 consecutive victories. During that string of victories, his teams captured the Northeast Ohio Class B Championship in 1953(8-0) the Ohio Class B mythical championship in 1954 (10-0) and Summit County Championships in 1955, '56, and '57. Novell possessed a rare quality of creativity which was often demonstrated in his coaching. On one occasion, he played the entire game with only 10 players and still was victorious, and on another occasion, he had his team pass on every offensive play.

  • John Verdon
    Football 1980

A native Akronite who prepped at Buchtel High School, Verdon went on to star at The University of Akron (1952-55) in football and track. However, it was in football that Verdon, an end, achieved the greater amount of success. One of his receptions was an 85 yarder from Marion Rossi in the 1953 Mt. Union game that still stands as the record in the Rubber Bowl. Yet, it was his senior campaign of 1954 that Verdon came into his own. He established two school records when he hauled down 30 passes for 458 yards to lead the Ohio Conference in pass receiving. For his effort he was selected first team All-OC and became the school's first bona fide All-American - earning honorable mention from the Associated Press.

  • Russ Pastuck
    Coach 1980

Russ Pastuck's coaching record speaks for itself as to the lasting mark he has made in sports history at Springfield High School. His 25 years in football, 11 years in basketball, 12 years in baseball and 14 years in golf all have been spent at Springfield High School. How he ever found time to devote six years of this time to assist Tony Laterza in basketball at Akron U (1962-67) is a mystery. There is not many coaches who would undertake being head coach in three sports as Russ did from 1944 through 1955 and enjoy the success he did. His football teams compiled a 132-68-10 record, including six Metro League titles. His basketball teams captured 132 victories in 215 games, winning two Metro titles, and he also coached teams to four Metro baseball championships. In 1953, he guided the Spartans to an undefeated 9-0 record in football and was promptly voted Summit County Coach of the Year.