Baseball, Basketball 2005
Hit .446 in college baseball and they will come and find you. That was the case for Paul Brownlee in 1977 when he batted his way to the Big Stick Award as a shortstop for the Fairmont State Falcons. The award was presented by Rawlings Sporting Goods in recognition of the highest batting average in a nationwide, seven region area. The .446 was not a big surprise. The year before Brownlee had hit .359. Brownlee only played two years of college baseball, ’76 and ’77. He was All-West Virginia Conference both years and was an All-American NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) in 1977. He was the second all-time hitter in the Falcons history. Baseball was almost a second thought in college. Brownlee went to Fairmont State on a basketball scholarship. He played four years for the Falcons, was all-conference in ’76 and ’78 and ranks 27th on the Fairmont State all-time scoring list with 1,453 points. In Brownlee’s four-year stay at Fairmont State the Falcons had a record of 107-18 and won four West Virginia Conference championships. The ’75-’76 team was the top team in the nation in the final Associated Press small college basketball poll. Scouts for the Chicago Cubs found their way to West Virginia and signed the former Tallmadge standout. Brownlee was in the Cubs system for two years before deciding he would make use of his economics and accounting degree rather than pursue his baseball career. He became an auditor at Firestone and later managed one of the company’s stores. But he kept his hand in baseball by coaching young people from Little League to sandlot teams. He continues working with young people at his Brownlee Baseball Academy. Brownlee is a member of the Tallmadge High Hall of Fame, Greater Akron Hall of Fame and was recently voted in to the Fairmount State Hall of Fame.
If longevity means success, Auten would rank number one as his coaching career spans 43 years at Ellet High School. He served as the Orangemen’s head track coach from 1958 to 1993. While Ellet was in the Metro League, his teams won two championships. His teams were always competitive and his 1983 squad won the Akron City Series track championship. In 1968, Auten inaugurated the Orange Bowl Relays which have been run annually since then. He was honored by the Akron Track Officials for his long tenure in the sport. Auten also coached the Ellet cross country team for eight years. But George was not content to just concentrate on track and cross country---he served as an assistant football coach under five different head coaches---Ed Kirkpatrick, Joe Burks, Ray Baker, Bill McClain and Joe Yost--with his service spanning 35 years. Coach Yost had these words to say about Auten. “George is truly a man of extreme kindness and sincerity. He’s committed to kids, whether it’s a first string All-City player or a kid who is a fourth stringer and never gets an opportunity to play.” He finally retired from coaching after the 1999 football season---yet George was not done with athletics as he retained his athletic director position, a post he held since 1982 and still holds currently. To show the respect the Ellet community has for Auten, the track that surrounds the football field is named The George E. Auten Track & Field and this fall the entire sport’s facilities were named The George E. Auten Sport’s Complex, a tribute to Auten’s long service to the Ellet Orangemen. In 1992, the Buchtel High and University of Akron graduate received the prestigious Clem Caraboolad Award, presented to an outstanding teacher, coach and citizen of our community. George and his wife reside in Akron.
Injuries cut short the college football career of Barberton’s Freddie Johnson, but for two years, as a freshman and sophomore, at Miami University (the original one at Oxford, Ohio) Johnson left a mark on Redhawks gridiron history. As a freshman, Johnson made 27 of 28 extra points and was four of 15 in field goal attempts. That season the Redhawks went 11-1, including a 20-7 victory over South Carolina in the Tangerine Bowl at Orlando, Florida. In that game Johnson contributed field goals of 33 and 47 yards. For a while Johnson thought he had the Tangerine Bowl record for the longest field goal in perpetuity since the Tangerine Bowl disappeared for 19 years. But, the bowl has been resurrected a few years ago. While Johnson remembers the kick he made in the Tangerine Bowl, he also recalled a 63-yard miss against Purdue in his freshman year. “It was wide right by the smallest of margins,” he said and” I had never seen that many people in the stands,” he added. For his career at Miami, Johnson was 43 of 51 in PATs and nine of 28 field goals. Besides kicking, Johnson was a wide receiver for four seasons at Oxford. The injury jinx got him his last two seasons. Johnson was a three-sport star at Barberton. He averaged 19.8 points a game in basketball and was named to the All-Ohio team. Johnson finished sixth in the high jump in the state track meet in Columbus. His deep kickoffs and field goals helped the Magics to 8-1, 9-1 and 8-2 seasons and led to an All-Summit county selection and to his scholarship at Miami. Johnson is a professional marketing educator, teacher, counselor at Rancho High School in North Las Vegas. He has also been a coach, but in a sport that was foreign to him---soccer, leading the Rancho team to zone playoffs in his first season. He no longer coaches.
When he graduated from the University of Akron, Rick Minier had already established himself as a top bowler in the area. He was named Akron Bowler of the Year in the 1972-73 season. He followed that up in ’74-75 by being crowned the Ohio Bowlers Association, Bowler of the Year. In 1976 he captured the Akron City Doubles and All-Events crowns. He was the number one bowler on the UA team before he graduated in 1983 and headed for the Pacific Northwest. He immediately made an impact, winning the Oregon State Doubles title. He joined the Professional Bowlers Association and began racking up regional titles. He was named Northwest PBA Bowler of the Year for 1984 and ’85. He won 12 Regional PBA titles and nine Oregon Bowlers Association crowns before moving on to Texas. The change of climate didn’t slow down Rick as he captured the 1995 Texas State Doubles title. In 2002, his first year in competing in senior all-star tournaments, at the age of 52, he was named Senior All-Star Bowling Association Rookie of the Year. He went on to capture four other SASBA titles before becoming a member of the 2004 team that won the Texas State crown. In the prestigious American Bowling Congress (ABC) tournaments, Rick has also shown his mastery of the lanes. In May of this year, in the ABC Senior Masters tourney in Las Vegas with more than 400 competitors, Rick earned a fifth place overall finish. In another ABC tournament this year in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Minier won the Bowlers Journal Senior Singles title. His top score was higher than the younger title winner. Rick has bowled 41 sanctioned perfect games and 22 series over 800. He and his wife make their home in Houston.
Harry "Butch" Reynolds
Track & Field 2005
Called the “World’s Fastest Human” for over eleven years, Butch Reynolds was the world record holder in the 400 meter dash from 1988 to 1999. The Akron-born Reynolds displayed his superior talents first at Archbishop Hoban High School. Although he was an outstanding trackster at Hoban, his prep career gave little hint as to how successful Butch would be in the collegiate ranks and in world class competition. After graduating from Hoban in 1983, he attended Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas earning an Associate Degree in Science, Business and Marketing, while honing his track skills. He then enrolled at Ohio State in 1985. It took him a few years to peak but in 1988 he set the 400 meter record of 44.10. Reynolds record setting run earned him the “Performance of the Decade" title in the Big Ten. Reynolds dominated the conference, becoming a five-time Big Ten champion in the 400 meters and the 400meter relay. He also added to his list of accomplishments by winning the NCAA title in the 400. Butch then set his sights on the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea where he was the favorite to capture the 400 meter dash. Although running a great race he was edged by Steve Lewis of the USA finishing second. In addition to Korea, Reynolds competed in two other Olympics— ’92 in Barcelona, Spain and ’96 in Atlanta. In all, he won two gold medals in the 400mx4 relay and one silver in the 400 meter dash. He didn’t limit his running skills to only the Olympics, competing in four World Championship competitions from 1987 to 1997. He dominated the fields at these events, winning five gold medals, three silver and one bronze. He was inducted into the Hoban Hall of Fame, the Ohio State Hall of Fame and the Drake Relay’s Hall of Fame.
Ed Toth must have played larger than he actually was. Toth was a 6-1, 210-pound defensive and offensive lineman when he graduated from St. Vincent-St-Mary High School in 1955 and enrolled in the University of Akron. Toth’s size would have made him a rather large football player 50 years ago. But a look at the UA’s preseason depth chart shows the largest offensive lineman is 6-5, 315-pound Justin Hein and the largest defensive lineman is 6-2, 300-pound Kiki Gonzalez. Each would have dwarfed Toth. But size then and now is relative. It’s the heart of the players that matters. Toth had played bantam football and starred for the Irish, then quickly asserted himself once in a Zips uniform. In fact Toth, a Barberton native and 1981 UA Hall of Famer, became a four-year starter on both sides of the ball. Head coach Joe McMullen installed Toth at left offensive guard and at right defensive tackle, and Toth responded so well that he earned the Zips Most Outstanding Freshman award that year. In his junior year, Toth was leader of an offensive line that helped the 1957 Zips to a 7-1-1 record, a season during which he earned the team’s Most Outstanding Junior award. It was in his senior season, however, that Toth turned in his finest all-around performance. With Toth at right tackle on both sides of the ball, the 1958 Zips went 6-2-1 and predictably honors came Toth’s way He earned UA’s Most Outstanding Lineman award, was named first- team All-Ohio Conference, and finished second to Dave Adolph in balloting for the OC’s Mike Gregory Award, which was presented to the conference’s most outstanding lineman. In his four year collegiate career, Toth started 35 games consecutively, with the Zips posting a 22-10-3 record. Toth was selected to play in the 1958 Gem Bowl All-Star Game, and helped the West defeat the East.
When Claude Virden was inducted into the Murray State Hall of Fame in 2002, the program lauded the former Central High All-City performer, ranking him as one of the all-time Murray State basketball greats. Playing for the Racers from 1967-70, Virden was a first-team All-Ohio Valley Conference and Player of the Year selection in 1969 and repeated All-OVC honors in 1970. During his career Virden scored 1,490 total points to rank 4th on the MSU all-time scoring list. Virden was part of two OVC championships (1968 and 1969) under head coach Cal Luther. In 1968-69 he led all Racers in scoring with 23.5 points per game and then averaged 20.4 in 1969-70. He is also ninth on the career rebounds list with 778 and second all-time in career field goals with 275. Virden served in the service for two years (1970-71) most of the time at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. He then went on to play the 1972-73 season with the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association. The Colonels compiled a 56-28 record, finishing second in the Eastern Division with the likes of Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel and Rick Mount on the squad. In the playoffs, the Colonels downed the Virginia Squires and the Carolina Cougars before losing the ABA championship to the Indiana Pacers in seven games. Virden only played 30 games for the Colonels during the season because a knee injury not only cut short his season, but ended his basketball career. The 6’-5” standout averaged nine points and six rebounds during his short professional career. Virden and his wife Gail have five adult children and adopted his 12 year-old nephew who currently lives at the family home in Akron. He works for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in the circulation department.
Amy Weisberger, a 5-foot 2-inch woman, made her unlikely choice of an athletic pursuit when she began powerlifting in 1988. Initially, she had simply considered doing some weightlifting. “I had messed around with weights in the gym for about a year before that,” Weisberger told Jacob Mendlovic of Fast Forward magazine. “I thought I wanted to go into bodybuilding and some people told me to do a power-lifting type of workout so I could get a little thicker. I enjoyed that so I picked a contest to go to because I thought it would keep me motivated for the workout,” she explained. Power-lifting consists of the bench press, the squat and the dead-lift. In 2000 as a competitor in the 56kg weight class, Weisberger set world records by squatting 450 pounds, by bench pressing 280 pounds, and following that effort by dead-lifting 450 pounds. Her total (1,180 pounds) surpassed the world record for male lifters at that time by 34 pounds. A week later, she set two more world marks. Shortly thereafter, B’Nai B’Rith’s National Jewish Monthly included Weisberger in an article citing the exploits and successes of Jewish athletes in various national and international sports, including baseball’s Hank Greenberg. In June 2001, she was inducted into the Akron Jewish Hall of Fame along with University of Akron men’s basketball coach, Keith Dambrot. Mike Lambert, editor and publisher of Powerlifting USA magazine, said of Weisberger. “She’s been very consistent and made steady gains and certainly is one of the top-ranked people in the world.” Weisberger, 40, who makes her home in Columbus, Ohio, said she wants to compete into her 60’s. “I’d like to bench press 300, squat and dead-lift 500, but I don’t know what weight class I’d be in,” she said. Weisberger graduated from Firestone High in 1983 and Ohio University in 1987 with a degree in sociology. She works as a massage therapist for injured people.
A pioneer in local girls’ fast-pitch circles, Windhorst coached for more than 30 years and compiled a 252-101 won-lost record in that span---a winning percentage of slightly less than 70 percent. She originated the girls’ program at Our Lady of the Elms in 1967. She was living a religious life as Sister Bryant when she received permission to start a girls’ softball program. She started the program at the Elms before leaving to start a similar softball program at St. Vincent-St. Mary High, where she remained for 25 years. In time, Windhorst returned to the Elms as an assistant to Tony Ninni, went back to St. V-M to serve as an assistant in that program, then retired from coaching. Windhorst guided the Fighting Irish to Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Class AAA (now Div. I ) region and state titles in 1979 and 1984, won five district crowns, and sent many players to collegiate programs. “When I started those softball programs at the Elms and ST V-M, there were only four high school teams playing fast-pitch in the Akron area’” she said “We played each other several times, and that was our season.” The National Association of Softball Coaches in 1985 named Windhorst Coach of the Year and the OHSAA presented her with a commemorative award after her 200th coaching victory. She won Dapper Dan awards in the mid ‘80’s and was inducted into the St V-M Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. Since retiring from coaching (she continues to teach at St V-M ), Windhorst, 60, an avid sports fan, enjoyed watching her daughter Kristin play softball for Wright State, and follows her son Brian’s exploits as a Beacon Journal sportswriter. She says she has on occasion considered returning to coaching but changes in the game have kept her from doing so.
At 6-8, Paul Heuerman was the ‘80’s era big man for the University of Michigan basketball teams. The Firestone high grad got into 25 games as a freshman and averaged less than two points and two rebounds a game. But, by the time he graduated, Heuerman left his mark on Wolverine hoops. As he told the Wolverine Magazine a few years back, “What happened was my sophomore year, Phil Hubbard got hurt and they needed some size, so I got the opportunity to play much more.” Along with Marty Bodnar (another UM grad and Summit County Sports Hall of Fame member) Heuerman got to play against highly-ranked Notre Dame in the last game of the ’78-79 season. It was a nationally televised game and it was the best game of Heuerman’s young career. He scored 12 points in the Wolverine’s three-point victory over the Irish before 50,000 in the Pontiac Silverdome, one of the largest crowds ever for a college basketball game. Heuerman was named the Wolverines most improved player that year. He was also named best defensive player two years in succession. He led the team in free throw percentage his junior and senior years, was the most improved player his second year, and was third-team All-Big Ten in 1980-81, the same year he was the squad’s co-captain. Heuerman was Academic All-Big Ten and second team Academic All-American in 1981. Drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the fifth round, Heuerman was one of the last two players cut. While on break from law school at the University of Florida, he worked out with the Indiana Pacers before deciding to give his law career full attention. Today, he is a member of one of the country’s prestigious law firms. In retrospect Heuerman told the Wolverine Magazine of his experience up north, “Even today, I look back and can’t believe I was so fortunate.”