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Here's what was happening in Norwalk in June 1959

By Don Hohler • Feb 21, 2019 at 7:00 PM

I was quick to find out that people still do read the paper. The response to my first “Remember When” column was overwhelming.

Even a couple on the Bobby Jones Golf Trail down in Alabama (they don’t play golf) sent me an email. Another reader said she ready every word — twice. So, just maybe the boss (Joe Centers) will publish my second installment, this news coming from papers the first couple weeks of June 1959.

Tim Sommer fans 16

Tim Sommer and I have stayed in touch ever since he played Legion ball. Thank God, he got into Norwalk’s Hall of Fame last year. Anybody who would scare the hell out of this writer like he did one afternoon at McGuan Park, deserves to have his name up in lights. Plus, Sommer played in the Baltimore organization for a number of years and even has the book he wrote about he and his buddy Boog Powell on display in Cooperstown.

Let’s just start by asking you jocks if you ever caught a 95 mph fastball? I did and I thank the man above that I had some talent in flagging down knuckle balls from my older brother, Jim.

I really thought I was a decent catcher in catching him when he was pitching for the Shamrock Tavern team back in the early 1950s. No problem, I figured when Tim asked me if I wanted to “catch a few.” My entire life flashed in front of me after I flagged down that first pitch. I was too proud to say one was enough. I caught a half-dozen that had flame out of the back-side. That was more than enough.

Oh, the 16-strikeout game as labeled above. Tim lost that one, 3-2 to Bellevue. The story says he fanned 10 in a row. Jim Lonz had three hits while Don Lippert, Alex Koslow and Dick Parish had one in the losing cause.

One other thing on this catching business. I have always said that Doug Dendinger from South Central and Ohio State fame was the best athlete — by far — I have ever had the pleasure of writing about. As a catcher, I saw him as a phenom. He flagged down fast balls like they were 40 mph slow curves and he threw people out at second-base — from the crouch. Plus Dendinger hit upwards of .450 for a career, started at quarterback and at point guard as a freshman and truly earned the maximum 12 letters. (He seldom left the field or the court.) Sadly, they put him in right field at Ohio State. What a waste of talent.

Bleile’s campaign new stocker

As written in the first column, stock car racing was huge back in the late 1950s.

The story reads that brothers Don and Bob Bleile built a second sportsman car that was sponsored by Paul E. Bleile Landscaping, their father. It was powered by a GMC engine and was driven by Bobby Guenther. The pit crew included Jack Weisenberger and Bob Landoll.

Their first build was also GMC-powered and driven by Don Bleile. It was the real deal right off the trailer because the team debuted it at Attica Speedway and Bleile set the track record that stood for over a year. The story says the Bleile’s sold that one and built one even faster.

A story on the same page described how modified car driver, Morris VanVlerah, also from Norwalk, won the $4,000 Memorial Day race at Sandusky Speedway. At one time or another, VanVlerah owned five track records. He had no peers on dirt and if owners could keep a car under him (no mechanical problems), he was just about as unbeatable on asphalt.

Pony League opens

Then-Norwalk Mayor Louis Frey threw out the first pitch at McGuan No. 1 for Norwalk’s newest baseball league, one for 13- and 14-year-olds. It was called the Pony League.

The story only gives the batteries for the four teams, Juris Kangars and Bill Brutsche for the Eagles, Tom Seitz and Ken Pheiffer for the VFW, Dave Battles and Bruce Chapin for Co. G and Bob Perkins and Jerry Rospert for Grant’s.

Elmer dials on mound

Ever hear of Elmer Dials?

You knew all about him if you were a fast-pitch softball fan back in the 1950s. He could throw with the best of them. Fans packed McGuan Park to witness his games against Gib Smith and the Willard Elks.

Not sure if Saturday, June 6, 1959 was near the twilight of his career. The story explains that he was pitching in the City League for Schild’s IGA against DeLucas Cafe and Irish Forney. Dials fanned just two while allowing five hits in losing 3-2.

Two nights later, the IGA team rallied from a two-run deficit against Brooker Brothers, scoring seven runs in the sixth. The rally was highlighted by a bases-clearing triple by their manager, John Schaffer. Chuck Robison got the win while Allen Beach absorbed the loss in a game that saw him walk 17. Joe Andrews and Jim Witter led the Brooker Bros. attack.

‘Don’t knock the rock’

Remember that chant at the old stadium? Probably not.

Rocky Colavito did swing and miss a lot, many times with the game on the line.

But there was no negative chants on Wednesday, June 10, 1959.

This is how it played out. A fan threw beer on Colavito in the fourth inning when he was playing right-field. He came to the plate in the home half of the fourth inning and knocked one out. Colavito then added home runs in the sixth, seventh and ninth to become only the second major league hitter in modern times to hit four in a row. Lou Gehrig was the other one in 1932.

Fadley Is NHS valedictorian

The picture identifications were of Norwalk High’s top three scholars in 1959. Chuck Fadley topped the three with a four-year grade-point average of 97.5. Patricia Bowers was the salutatorian and Anne Lowe placed third. The announcement was made by Principal James N. Ross.

Schaffers celebrate No. 50

The society page included a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Schaffer, life-long parishioners of St. Alphonsus in Peru. The Rev. Arnold Schaffer was home from his mission field assignment in Lincoln, Calif. to celebrate the anniversary Mass. The entire wedding party and 10 of the 11 children were present including Arnold, Peter, Fred, Sr. Mary Leonarda, SND, Mrs. Chester Wasiniak, Leonard, Sr. Francis Marie SND, Alex, Joseph, Bernard and John. One daughter, Ophelia Storme, is deceased. Thirty grandchildren were also in attendance.

And finally …

This is a lot more recent story and one I immediately had to tell when I heard it.

Jerry Anderson, the long-time anchor at one of the Toledo television stations, recently retired after near 50 years with the station. He was a true professional in every sense of the word … smooth.

Well, the station interviewed him in retirement last week. It seems like he had a hard time working them into his schedule.

Anderson is now the voice of Bowling Green basketball on the public address system at the Stroh Center for every home game. That’s his night job. During the day, he has a daily elementary-age school bus driving route for Toledo Public Schools.

“Why not,” Anderson said. “The Falcons are my pride and joy. Would be there part of the time anyhow. Now I am there all the time and get in free.

“The bus driving gets me up in the morning. I am off on holiday, Christmas and Easter breaks and the entire summer so I can play golf.”

Now you know why I still do what I do.


Don Hohler is a longtime writer for the Norwalk Reflector.

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