CP-1 Hall of Fame ceremony set for Aug. 21

ASHLAND, Ky. – It has been a long wait for the Ashland baseball CP-1 Hall of Fame class of 2020.

Last year’s ceremony was postponed because of COVID-19, but it’s back on for Aug. 21 beside the big diamond at Central Park.

For those wanting to make a weekend of it, the Ashland Tomcats open defense of their 2020 state football championship on Aug. 20 against Raceland.

On Saturday, Aug. 21, the inductees will have the stage in a ceremony that begins at 1 p.m. The class has memorable players and incredible coaches who have given so much to Ashland baseball.

It promises to be an emotional ceremony for the inductees and their families. Sadly, one of the inductees, Wilson Barrow, passed away last fall. He was considered one of the best athletes to ever play on the park field. His family will represent him.

The historic marker at Central Park. A CP-1 Hall of Fame ceremony will take place Aug. 21 at 1 p.m. with a 10-member class inducted..

Here is a closer look at the inductees:

-Wilson Barrow, who played in Ashland’s inaugural Little League season in 1955, could make the mitt pop like few others who ever played in the park. Barrow’s fastball was compared to how Bill Lynch and Don Gullett threw later in the decade.

-Scott Crank was one of Ashland’s best three-sport athletes. He starred in football (quarterback), basketball (point guard) and baseball (shortstop) for the Tomcats in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was a clutch hitter and slick-fielding shortstop for the Tomcats and Post 76.

-Mike Delaney is going in for his longtime coaching role with Post 76, basically keeping the program alive, but he was an outstanding player in his own rights as a middle infielder in the mid-1970s for the Ashland Tomcats and Post 76.

-Bryan Finkbone was the consummate leadoff hitter and the sparkplug for the Tomcats in the mid-1970s. His speed made him a pest for opposing pitchers who had a hard time keeping him off the bases. His all-out style made him a favorite with teammates.

-Bill Hammond has coached at CP-1 for many summers and continues as a co-coach with Delaney for Post 76. He was also a standout pitcher for the Tomcats and Post 76 in the mid-1970s and became an outstanding teacher of the pitching craft.

-French Harmon was a solid contributor as a player for the Tomcats in the late 1970s, but it was his coaching skills that make him a CP-1 Hall of Famer. He led a Connie Mack League resurgence in the late 1980s and early 1990s and taught baseball and life lessons to his players.

-Jon Hart’s smooth swing made him a feared hitter for the Tomcats, Post 76, Stan Musial and Marshall University. If he didn’t beat you with his bat, he’d do it with the glove. Hart was one of the top all-around players wherever he played in his career.

-Cabot Keesey spanned the late 1970s and early 1980s and was a pure hitter who swung the bat as well as anyone along with being a strong defensive player who played nearly everywhere durin g his playing career with the Tomcats, Post 76 and Stan Musial.

-Mark Moore played for the Tomcats and Post 76 and then another 10 years on the Stan Musial level, making him one of the all-time veterans of the park. He hit for power and played flawlessly at shortstop, making every team he played for better.

-Mike Tussey, who coached youth league baseball for 22 years and won a state championship in 1988 with the Stan Musial adult league where he won more than 200 games in 10 seasons, was also a cable television broadcaster who was in the booth for countless high school and American Legion games in the 1970s and 1980s.

Former Tomcat Paul Reliford remembered as outstanding educator, coach

The Ashland Tomcat football family has lost another star player from the 1950s era.

Paul Reliford, the father of Fairview High School football and a top-notch educator who served 35 years as superintendent and teacher in the Westwood school, died Saturday. He was 84.

The Eagles started playing football in 1970 when then Fairview Superintendent Denver Ball talked Paul Reliford into being his coach.

Reliford had played football for Ball as an Ashland Tomcat. He was an outstanding receiver, catching passes from Herb Thompson and “Buffalo” Bill Hopkins with regularity. He hauled in 30 passes for 629 yards and six touchdowns during a 4-5-1 season in 1954.

His best game came in the season opener when he had 138 yards receiving in a 14-6 win over Catlettsburg in Putnam Stadium.

Reliford, who was a truant officer in the Raceland-Worthington school system when Ball approached him, wasn’t sure what he was getting into by starting a new program at Fairview, but his high school coach meant so much to him he was willing to give it a try.

Reliford even turned down a more lucrative full-time job from the railroad that would have paid him “twice the salary.”

Tomcats players celebrate during a 1954 victory over Catlettsburg in the season opener. Paul Reliford was key player on that team.

He and his wife, Germaine, were bringing up two boys, Chris and Glenn, and the extra money would have helped, Reliford said in a 2012 interview.

He said it was tough early on to make ends meet. They used newspapers for drapes, he said.

“I loved Mr. Ball and I knew I’d be happy (coaching),” Reliford said. “I was also married with two kids so I knew it’d be a challenge.”

Deward Davis had already started the football rolling with the Westwood Boys Club league and Scott Davidson was an outstanding assistant coach. So the pieces for success were in place.

It turned out quite well for Fairview and Reliford, who went on to become the school superintendent after a successful stint as football coach. Both of his sons also played for the Eagles.

Paul Reliford was a former Sports Day honoree and an outstanding football player at Ashland High School.

“This community has been good to me,” said Reliford, who lost his wife in 2012. “This community has always supported the school and supported me. I’ll always be an Ashland guy though.”

Reliford is a former Elks Sports Day honoree.

One of his best friends for a lifetime was George Stout, the longtime chairman of Sports Day and a supporter of all Fairview sports.

He also made a lifelong friend in Rex Cooksey, his next-door neighbor and a former Eagle player for him. “Rex is not only a good friend, but he was a good football coach,” Reliford said in 2012. The two coached together for several seasons.

“Paul was my teacher, coach and mentor but most of all my best friend,” Cooksey said. “I owe him everything because he believed in me and made a 22-year-old kid head football coach in 1978. We had a lot of great memories together.”

Fairview went 5-3 in its first season in 1970.

Ashland native part of huge golf project in Texas

Ashland native Stephen Limpach has moved to Frisco, Texas, to be a part of a transformational move for the PGA of America, called PGA Frisco. The $500 million project on 600 acres includes two golf courses, a 10-hole short course, practice areas, headquarters campus, clubhouse, Omni resort and conference center, retail village, parks, and walking trails.

Limpach, a graduate of Paul G. Blazer in 2008, has come a long way from his small-town roots. He went on to study Sport Management in an accredited PGA Golf Management program, at N.C. State University in Raleigh, N.C. and thereafter became a Certified PGA Professional. He chose the route of business and administration versus working the traditional path of a golf course club professional.

“One of my biggest inspirations growing up was Jeff Bostic,” Limpach said. Bostic is the long-time PGA Professional and General Manager at Bellefonte Country Club. “He wrote a letter of recommendation for me in high school when I applied to colleges.”

Stephen Limpach of Ashland is part of a big golf project in Texas. He gives much credit to his Ashland roots.

“Other than Jeff, I didn’t know anyone in the golf industry, but was so drawn to it,” Limpach added.

Limpach worked five internships in golf before eventually landing an entry-level position at the PGA in 2013. “I stayed patient because I love the game and industry.” He is now approaching 8 years as a full-time staff member with the PGA and more passionate than ever.

He traces that passion and dedication to his family and the resilient community that raised him. “Ashland embodies some of the hardest working and humble people you will ever meet. It is such a strong community with incredible families who support one another.” His father, a carpenter by trade, worked at FCI Ashland for 25 years and his mother worked at KDMC for over 30 years.

“Growing up, I never dreamed of being a part of something like this (PGA Frisco),” Limpach explained. “I hope our youth can simply hear my story and pursue work they are passionate about. I’d be happy to speak with anyone who is interested in a career in golf or sports.”

An accomplished junior golfer, Limpach lettered 5 times at Blazer including 8th grade while still in middle school.

“I owe a thank you to a lot of people but especially Mr. Tom Cooksey, who opened so many doors for junior golfers in eastern Kentucky. Without those opportunities, I would have never started playing tournament golf or developed a passion for the game.” Cooksey, a member of the Kentucky Golf Hall of Fame, helped create the Tri-State Jr. Golf Association and AJGA Bluegrass Junior Tournament decades ago. “Those local programs and tournaments were how I got started which eventually lead to a career,” Limpach explained.

According to Limpach, the golf industry is growing and evolving in many aspects.
Recreational golf has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic all throughout the country, as golf courses have become a refuge for mental health and a safe place to enjoy the outdoors. Folks from all walks of life are trying the game for the very first time.

“I would encourage everyone to try golf and simply have fun,” Limpach explained, “don’t worry about the rules, etiquette, or dress code. Play three holes after work, turn on music, hit a small bucket of balls with a friend, laugh, play a golf video game, bring your kids and let them play in the sand. At the PGA, we emphasize that there are so many different ways to experience golf other than a traditional 18-hole round.”

If you’re looking for an outlet this summer, some wonderful golf courses in the area include Diamond Links, Sandy Creek, Bellefonte, Yatesville Lake, Hidden Cove, and Sugarwood.

If you’re ever in Texas and want to tee it up, contact your fellow Kentuckian, Stephen. (slimpach@pga.com)

Family ties: Radjunas boys honored to accept for Ellis Johnson at HOF ceremony

The late Ellis Johnson, a former Ashland High School four-sport great and a member of the fabulous 1928 national champion basketball team, will be inducted into the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday.

He will be getting an assist from a couple of other former Tomcats in Ed and John Radjunas. They are longtime family friends, both when he was a coach at Morehead State and as a businessman in Ashland.

Johnson’s son, Kenn, lives in Mount Sterling but is in poor health and is unable to attend the ceremony. He called Ed to ask if he would represent the Johnson family.

“I told him that of course I’d do that, I wouldn’t even hesitate,” Ed said. “Ellis was like a second father to me.”

Ed was given the details of the ceremony from organizer Ken Trivette, who said they would pay for his hotel expenses. Ed asked him instead for a favor. He wanted to have his brother, John, who lives in Lexington, come with him for the ceremony. “He said, ‘I know John and would be glad to have you both come and do that.’ So that’s what we’re doing,” Ed said.

The Radjunas-Johnson family connection began in the 1930s when Johnson recruited Stan Radjunas – Ed and John’s father – out of Connecticut to play football at Morehead State. However, Stan had already been in contact with Kentucky’s coach about coming to Lexington. Stan told Johnson he was going to try UK. “Ellis told him, ‘If you ever need something, call me.’ Dad enrolled in classes and didn’t like it, so he called Ellis. He said, ‘I made a mistake, I want to come to Morehead,’’’ Ed Radjunas said. “He told him not to play, fake an injury if he had to, to keep his eligibility. He stayed the fall semester, but never played, and transferred to Morehead.”

Stan Radjunas played for Morehead and later coached eight seasons on Johnson’s staff there. The two men had families with similar aged children, so they became close.

When Stan Radjunas decided to leave coaching and move the family to Ashland, it wasn’t long until Johnson came to Ashland in 1953 to get into the insurance business before taking another coaching job at Marshall in 1963. The families lived near each other in Ashland on Elliott and Lawrence Avenues, which are about a block away. During that decade before taking the Marshall job he was one of several men who were instrumental in starting Little League baseball in Ashland in 1955.

Johnson retired from coaching for good in 1969 and was involved in cable television promotion in Huntington where he was a bowtie-wearing analyst for Herd games. He died in 1990 at age 79 in Huntington. He was posthumously put into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006. He was an inaugural member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and is also in the Ashland Daily Independent Sports Hall of Fame and the Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame. He was also an early Ashland Elks Sports Day honoree.

Kenn Johnson reminded Ed that he and John were with the Johnson family at the state basketball tournament when it was announced that Ellis would be a member of the first class of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame. He said they even had their photograph taken with Johnson and put in the Courier Journal.

In 1933, Johnson became Adolph Rupp’s first All-American at Kentucky. He was the first athlete at UK to letter in four sports — basketball, football, baseball and track — in the same season.

Before his career at Kentucky, Johnson led Ashland High School to the 1928 state basketball championship and then the 1928 national championship. He also quarterbacked three undefeated Ashland teams that won or shared state championships. Johnson was a two-time All-American and an All-State performer in basketball and football for the Tomcats. He is largely regarded as the greatest athlete of that era in Kentucky.

He was named to the All-State team after the Tomcats won the state basketball title in 1928 and also took home the sportsmanship award. He was called for only two fouls the entire season!

Johnson became Morehead Teacher College’s director of physical education in 1936 and maintained that position through 1953. During that time, he coached basketball, football, baseball and track. MSU’s gymnasium, Ellis T. Johnson Arena, was named in his honor.

Johnson led the Eagles football team to a record of 54-44-10, and the 1941 baseball team to a 5-2 record. Johnson’s basketball squads went 176-158. His best year as the football coach came in 1937 when the Eagles went 7-1. His best basketball season was in 1937-38 when the Eagles finished 16-8.

Johnson coached at Marshall from 1963-69, compiling a 68-80 record. Johnson led the Thundering Herd to a 20-8 record and second-place finish in the Mid-American Conference in 1966-67 and a 17-8 mark and runner-up finish in the MAC in 1967-68.

Marshall’s 1966-67 basketball team was his best. Besides finishing the school’s best season in 11 years, the Thundering Herd grabbed 10 victories in 12 MAC games leading to Marshall’s first appearance in the National Invitation Tournament in Madison Square Garden. The NIT trip was exciting as the Herd defeated Villanova and Nebraska before losing in the semifinals to Marquette in a triple-overtime heartbreaker and then to Rutgers in the consolation game.

Being inducted into the Kentucky Basketball Hall of Fame with him are: Coy Creason of Brewers, Wesley Cox of Louisville Male, Clarence Glover of Caverna, Joe Hamilton of Lexington Dunbar, Ronnie Lyons of Mason County, Rudy Macklin of Shawnee, Todd Tackett of Paintsville, Connie Goins of Western Hills, Kim Denkins of Nicholas County, Bill Mike Runyon of Paintsville, Bob Tripure of Lexington Henry Clay and Lexington Catholic, and Patrick Payne of Hazard.

Ellis Johnson joins former Tomcat greats Larry Conley and Harold Sergent in the Kentucky Basketball Hall of Fame. Conley and Sargent played on the 1961 championship team and Conley came back the next year and took the Tomcats to a second-place finish. Kenn Johnson was also on that team.