ASHLAND, Ky. – The previous four CP-1 Ashland Baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies have a common denominator.
They are packed full of emotion tighter than an Army duffel bag full of baseball bats and balls.
Every year honorees are taken on an emotional roller-coaster ride as they wait their turn to briefly speak. These are grown men who played on the Central Park diamond decades ago, but the memories that rush back can sometimes overwhelm them.
It’s OK. That’s part of what makes this Saturday in August so special. Notable sluggers Jody Hamilton and Juan Thomas choked back tears. So did Phil Webb, father of Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb. As you can see, it happens to the best of them.
We may even have some eyes being wiped via Facebook Live. This year will be special for Gary Wright, who started the CP-1 movement 11 years ago with a sizable donation that turned the old diamond into a showplace complete with a grass infield and double-deck press box. The backstop is a lot closer than what these inductees will remember, too.
Wright will be watching the ceremony intently from his Florida home as his father T.R. Wright and brother, Robert, are inducted posthumously. His father was instrumental in getting many youth programs started, including the Ashland Babe Ruth League and the American Legion baseball program.
Besides being a father to his own children, he was a “father” to many of others in Ashland while grooming them to become better men. The press box dons T.R. Wright’s name as a permanent reminder of what he did for Ashland baseball. Now his name will also be on a plaque attached to the back of the press box wall, along with a class that includes son Robert – a tremendous all-around athlete who peers say was the most feared hitter of his day.
Since Gary Wright’s donation in 2008, much has happened. Dave Carter put together an award-winning film – “Ashland’s Field of Dreams” – that has aired every year on Kentucky Education Television and is also packed with emotion. Carter also produced a short film of the same subject that was played in Cooperstown, site of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a few years ago.
The first CP-1 Hall of Fame class came a few years later in 2015 with Carter and Wright spearheading the effort. The 10 inductees going in Saturday will bring the total to 60.
The 2019 inductees are: Herb Conley, Dick Fillmore, Mike Johnson, Frank Sloan, Darryl Smith, Ed Joseph, Robert Wright, T.R. Wright, Ed Radjunas and Tobey Tolbert.
The ceremony beside the big diamond begins at 1 p.m. Admission is free. Bring your own tissues.
Thee fifth class of the CP-1 Hall of Fame will have induction ceremonies Saturday in Central Park. Activities begin at 1 p.m. beside the big diamond.
The weather forecast looks spectacular and emotions will be running high so bring some tissues.
As I usually try to do, I’ve put together a lineup based on the 10 inductees and, like always, it’s a stunning group.
Some guys have to play out of position, but they were all so good, it shouldn’t be a problem. One of our honorees who is in for his coaching ability – Ashland’s Frank Sloan – played some professional baseball and was a catcher before he came here. So that’s where I put him. He can also take part in an incredible coaching staff – T.R Wright, Sloan and Mike Johnson. Nobody will outcoach this team. Guarantee it.
Johnson was a catcher for the Tomcats, but I know he can play outfield. He used to tell his Babe Ruth players: “Even girls can catch popups.” So, he won’t have any trouble patrolling right field.
Tobey Tolbert could probably take care of most of the outfield by himself with his speed. I put him in center field and led him off. Speedster Dick Fillmore bats behind him while the 3-5 hitters could bang it – the great Robert Wright, powerful Herb Conley and hard-hitting Ed Joseph. Who would want to face that murderer’s row?
Darryl Smith is a natural at first base and waiting to pitch if called upon. Ed Radjunas gets the honors at the hot corner, where we had three outstanding ones. I moved Joseph to second base despite being a stellar third baseman. Conley, another good third baseman, goes to the pitching mound. That left Radjunas in his familiar home at third base.
Be sure to come out Saturday and enjoy the festivities which should be completed around 3 p.m.
Donna Childers Suttle has reserved the downtown Giovanni’s back room that holds 40 starting at 5 p.m. Everybody is invited.
ASHLAND, Ky. – Eight former players and two coaches make up the 2019 CP-1 Ashland Baseball Hall of Fame class. The induction ceremony will be Aug. 24 at 1 p.m. in Central Park.
This will be the fifth class inducted, bringing the total to 60 former players, coaches and umpires in the CP-1 Hall of Fame. Four more 10-man classes will complete the honorees, which is comprised of players who accomplished playing feats on the big diamond in Central Park.
The 2019 class has a little bit of everything with great coaches and players who were good not only in baseball but any other sport they touched.
The 1950s era is well represented with youth league coaching pioneer T.R. Wright, former Ashland Tomcats players Robert Wright (one of T.R.’s sons), Dick Fillmore and Herb Conley and former Fairview High standout Ed Joseph. Both T.R. and Robert Wright will be honored posthumously.
The 1960s era includes former Ashland Tomcat stars Ed Radjunas, Tobey Tolbert and Mike Johnson.
The 1970s era includes former Ashland Tomcat coach Frank Sloan and Tomcat pitching standout Darryl Smith.
This class is strong on third baseman with Joseph, Conley and Radjunas all superb in the era on the hot corner. Robert Wright was one of the best hitters to ever set foot in Central Park, according to his peers. Johnson was a standout catcher and Tolbert an outfielder who could hit and run. Fillmore was another who could move on the field at shortstop and also pitched. Smith was an outstanding pitcher and hitter.
If they couldn’t beat you with bats or pitching, then surely two of the best coaches in CP-1 history would find a way to get it done.
Congratulations to a sterling class:
2018 (14): H.F. Dixon, Ernie Daniels, Greg Swift, David Patton, Don Allen, Don Lentz, Fred Leibee, Mike Tackett, David Staten, Larry Castle, John Sieweke, Larry Stevens, Rick Reeves, Frank Wagner.
2017 (13): J.D. Browne, Bo Carter, Joe Conley, Tim Huff, Mike Smith, Steve Hemlepp, John Mullins, Kevin Gothard, Mike Gothard, Dale Griffith, Nard Pergrem, Jim Speaks, John Thomas.
2016 (11): Bob Lynch, Steve Rolen, “Big” Ed Hughes, Wayne Workman, Bill Workman, Chuck Dickison, Juan Thomas, Ellis Childers, Clyde Chinn, Marvin Hall, Dan Smith.
2015 (12): Brandon Webb, Don Gullett, Bill Lynch, Drew Hall, Charlie Reliford, Jody Hamilton, Dykes Potter, Squire Potter, Bob Simpson, Reecie Banks, Jim Host, Gene Bennett.
ASHLAND, Ky. – Steve Towler, an outstanding educator and a former Boyd County High School basketball great, will be the honoree Saturday night for the 45th annual Elks Sports Day.
Towler, who graduated in 1963, is one of the most prolific scorers in Boyd County High School history, holding the scoring record for years and is currently No. 3 all-time with 1,653 points. He averaged 18 points and nine rebounds as a junior and 22 points and 12 rebounds as a senior. He was honorable mention All-State for three consecutive seasons.
Towler played at the University of Tulsa for two years before finishing his collegiate career at Rio Grande University.
He served as superintendent of five school districts in his career and was also the Boyd County judge-executive from 2015-18 and led the United Way of Northeastern Kentucky as executive director from 1999 to 2013.
Tickets are $30 and the event begins with a reception at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m.
Here is a year-by-year listing of Sports Day honorees:
1975: Jimmy Anderson, legendary high school football and basketball coach at Ashland. Coached the 1928 national champions.
1976: Ernie Chattin, played and coached football and basketball at Ashland High School and was longtime YMCA director.
1977: Ellis Johnson, played on ’28 national champions and was Adolph Rupp’s first All-American.
1978: Al “Fonse” Atkins, famed pro golfer who won several championships.
1979: James “Bo” McMillen, former 3-year UK quarterback and local YMCA director for 27 years.
1980: Dr. Leo Dickison, All-state football Tomcat and helped develop penicillin during medical career.
1981: Raymond C. “Chigger” Adkins, multi-sport athlete and also local softball star and basketball official.
1982: Fred Rigsby, basketball and football player for Tomcats and served 40 years in AHS school system.
1983: George Conley, basketball player and coach at Ashland. SEC basketball official.
1984: George “Eck” Allen, played on ’28 national champions and All-State in football at Ashland. Played on 1930 state champs.
1985: Luster “Lus” Oxley, Basketball standout for Tomcats and Morehead State.
1986: Bob Wright, coached Tomcats to 1961 state title and 1962 runner-up. Played for Cam Henderson at Marshall.
1987: Dr. Marvin Keeton played basketball at Ashland and Vanderbilt.
1988: Bill Selbee, fast-pitch softball pitcher in area and played basketball and football at EKU.
1989: Charles “Buck” Pergrem, football and basketball player for Tomcats and Ashland Junior College.
1990: Ralph Felty, All-State football at Ashland and played for Duke in the 1942 Rose Bowl.
1991: Larry Conley, basketball star on ’61 champions and ’62 runners-up and went on to play for “Rupp’s Runts” at UK.
1992: Marvin Meredith, basketball star at Catlettsburg High School and longtime coach at Russell with more than 700 wins.
1993: J.C. Kennard, All-State football player at Ashland and played for Bear Bryant at UK.
1994: John Caine, basketball and baseball player at Ashland and coach and AD at several colleges.
1995: Norman “Dutch” Berry, football and basketball player at Ashland and longtime city commissioner.
1996: Herb Conley, 3-sport star at Ashland and starred on ’58 undefeated team. Tomcat head coach from 1968-1976 including 14-1 season in ’75.
1997: Earl “Brother” Adkins, standout basketball player for Tomcats voted state’s top player in 1953. Played on UK’s ’58 national champions.
1998: Darryle “Sam” Kouns, former Tomcat who led Army to its first consecutive winning basketball seasons in more than 50 years with 21.6 ppg career average.
1999: Megan Neyer, winningest diver in NCAA history and 1980 Olympic team diving member.
2000: W. James “Jim” Host, pitched for Tomcats and professional in White Sox organization. Began public relations/consulting firm that is synonymous with college sports.
2001: J.D. Ison, starred in football for Tomcats and was All-American tight end at Baylor. His nickname was “The Hand.”
2002: Ernest “Nard” Pergrem, great athlete who starred in baseball and basketball. He was first Tomcat to score 300 in a season.
2003: Gerald “Jerry” Henderson, 4-sport athlete who did them all well at Ashland. Played basketball at Florida and averaged 12 ppg as senior.
2004: Fred “Freddie” Simpson, prolific scorer with more than 2,000 points at Holy Family and also played for both Marshall and Morehead.
2005: Paul Reliford, football and basketball standout at Ashland and longtime teacher, coach and administrator at Fairview High School.
2006: Eugene “Jeep” Clark, All-State basketball player for Tomcats who had extensive coaching career that included developing Boyd County into 16th Region powerhouse.
2007: Jack Fultz, longtime Olive Hill coach who recorded 396 victories and four regional titles. Also played for the Comets, leading team to first region crown in 1944.
2008: Charlie Reliford, former major league umpire who called World Series in 2000 and 2004. Began umpiring career in Central Park.
2009: Bobby Lynch, basketball and baseball star for Tomcats who was part of all three of Ashland’s state baseball crowns from 1966-68. Played basketball at Alabama for C.M. Newton.
2010: Nick Jordan, football, baseball and track & field star who played college football for Michigan State and participated in “Game of the Century” in 1966 with Notre Dame.
2011: Maj. Gen. Chuck Anderson, former Tomcat football player who was quarterback-middle linebacker on 75 JAWS team. He went on to Army and rose to rank of major general.
2012: Steve Gilmore, outstanding basketball player at Holy Family and former Ashland Tomcat basketball coach who was a lifelong educator. He also has served as mayor of Ashland for several years.
2013: Vic Marsh, Tomcat football coach who led Ashland to 1990 state championship and is the winningest coach in school history with 112 victories.
2014: Don Gullett, perhaps the greatest athlete in northeastern Kentucky history. He played everything at McKell High School but his blazing fastball took him to the major leagues with the Cincinnati Reds. He played on four consecutive World Series champions from 1975-1978.
2015: Buffalo Bill Hopkins, played football and basketball for Tomcats and has been a longtime mayor in Russell.
2016: Bill Lynch, southpaw pitcher who had 27-2 career record with 303 strikeouts. He guided Tomcats to first state baseball title in 1966 and was drafted into pro ball by the Indians before being sidelined with injury.
2017: Tom Cooksey, spent a lifetime contributing to golf in the area and co-founded the prestigious AJGA Bluegrass Junior. He is a Kentucky Golf Hall of Fame member.
2018: Mark Maynard, Ashland sports historian who worked 30 years as a sportswriter/sports editor of the Ashland Daily Independent, and has authored six books about the area. He is one of only four writers in the Kentucky Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
2019: Steve Towler, outstanding basketball player and one of the most prolific scorers in Boyd County High School history, made his career mark in education where he served as superintendent of five schools, including Ashland. He also was a judge-executive for Boyd County.
“Patience, passion and dedication comes easily only when you love what you do.” – Author unknown
I was a young man, a kid really, when I started my journalism career at the then Ashland Daily Independent in 1975.
My world was surrounded by some great journalists – Mike Reliford, Stan Champer, George Wolfford and Paul Sierer come immediately to mind. They were in their 30s and 40s and were ready to take on the world. I was 17 and just learning.
We had two photographers during those early days and one was Jim Donithan, a veteran who witnessed Ashland through the lens of his camera like few others for at least years before I came along. Donithan, who passed away last week at 91, and the late Ben McCullough, were the pioneers of the photography department at the ADI. They brought the newspaper’s pages to life, giving our readers a visual image to go with the news and sports stories.
By the time I came around in the mid-1970s as a baby sportswriter, Donithan had taken a lifetime of photos. He snapped news and sports photos, fires and other tragedies, and wins and losses on the sports field. He was there to give the readers of the ADI the rest of the story in photographic form. Jim took pride in his photography and was around for some terrific and some horrific events. He was there when dignitary arrived like President Nixon, he was there for economic news at Armco and Ashland Oil, and he was there for some great basketball and football teams playing for glory.
He was there when the great Mickey Mantle paid us a visit and took memorable photographs when Ashland’s 1975 JAWS football team boarded a bus to go play for the state championship. He had an eye for what people wanted to see.
In those days, the police department didn’t have their own camera and they utilized the ADI photographers for grizzly crash and crime scene photos that never made the newspaper. Many of them involved images that had to be difficult to see, let alone photograph, but it was part of the job in those days.
He taught me a lot about how the dark room worked. The dark room was where the magic happened for photographers as film became photos before your very eyes in a room that was infrared. It’s a lost art that’s no longer necessary but an art form just the same.
“Flashbulb,” as some called him, was good at what he did and his demeanor with me was almost grandfatherly. I saw him get upset a few times – and he could throw a fit – but I can’t remember him ever being mad at me. Most of the time when he saw me at a game, he’d twist his ear and stick out his tongue. He could be a prankster.
Jim also loved to bowl, if I’m remembering correctly, and he was good at that as well.
He was good at whatever he did and that included being a husband to Bobbie, father and grandfather. He will be missed by so many.
ASHLAND, Ky. – Ten players and coaches have been selected for enshrinement in the 2019 CP-1 Ashland Baseball Hall of Fame next summer.
Eight players and two coaches make up the fifth class that will be part of the Aug. 24, 2019 ceremony in Central Park.
The 1950s era is well represented with youth league coach T.R. Wright, former Ashland Tomcats players Robert Wright, Dick Fillmore and Herb Conley and former Fairview High standout Ed Joseph.
The 1960s era includes former Ashland Tomcat stars Ed Radjunas, Tobey Tolbert and Mike Johnson.
The 1970s era includes former Ashland Tomcat coach Frank Sloan and Tomcat standout Darryl Smith.
The 10-man class will bring the total to 60 former players, coaches and umpires in the CP-1 Ashland Baseball Hall of Fame that started in 2015. Four more 10-man classes will complete the CP-1 Hall of Fame.
Here’s a closer look at each 2019 inductee:
-T.R. Wright was one of the pioneer youth league coaches, a father figure to many of those players, and was instrumental in establishing the first Babe Ruth League and the first American Legion team in Ashland.
-Robert Wright was a late-1950s all-around athlete who was one of the best hitters and overall players of his era. Former teammates raved about his raw hitting ability.
-Dick Fillmore was a crafty Tomcat shortstop and pitcher and another great all-around athlete in the late 1950s who handled himself well with quickness and quick hands.
-Herb Conley, known more in Tomcat country for football as a player and coach, was also a sturdy third baseman and pitcher in the late 1950s who, of course, hit with power.
-Ed Joseph was a star catcher and hitter for Fairview High School who went on to Eastern Kentucky University where he enjoyed all-league status.
-Ed Radjunas threw the first pitcher in Ashland Little League history in 1955, was a three-year starter at third base for the Tomcats from 1961 to 1963, coached two years of Post 76 American Legion in 1968 and 1969 and also played at Marshall.
-Tobey Tolbert, a state champion hurdler, was a baseball star in his youth league days in Little League and Babe Ruth. He played only his senior season for the Tomcats in 1967 but he was the perfect addition on the second of the three state champions.
-Mike Johnson played on the 1963 Ashland American Little League state champions and was on the 1969 Tomcat state runners-up. He also coached many successful seasons in Ashland Babe Ruth.
-Frank Sloan was an outstanding coach for the Tomcats in several sports, including baseball where he directed two regional championship teams. He also was an All-Area coach in soccer and girls basketball.
-Darryl Smith was an excellent left-handed pitcher for the Tomcats who also carried himself well at the plate in the late 1970s at Ashland before going on to a career at Cumberland College. He joins his brother, Dan, in the CP-1 Hall of Fame.