Author: Mark Maynard

Towler, educator and basketball star, to receive Elks Sports Day honor

Towler, educator and basketball star, to receive Elks Sports Day honor

Steve Towler is the 2019 Elks Sports Day honoree.

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.


Putnam Stadium taking orders for bricks, Donor Wall

Putnam Stadium taking orders for bricks, Donor Wall

ASHLAND, Ky. – The window is open until June 1 for purchasing a place in the Ashland Tomcat Donor Wall and Donor Corner at Putnam Stadium that will be ready for the start of the 2019 season.

Hundreds have already put down commemorative bricks with names of families, individuals or businesses who have connections to the Tomcats.

It’s not all about football either.

There are band members, cheerleaders, or even being a longtime fan that needs to be honored or memorialized. It makes for a perfect Christmas gift too that will surprise the fan in your life.

Businesses or classes can put their name on the beautiful Donor Wall that sits in the corner of Putnam Stadium behind the statue of Coach Herb Conley.

Proceeds from the donations go toward the continued refurbishing of Putnam Stadium. The next phase in the rebuilding is for new lights.

Putnam Stadium has been an iconic place in Ashland since 1937 and remains one of the top high school football stadiums in Kentucky.

For a donation of at least $500 you can place that family information on the Donor Wall in one of four categories for large donors as listed below:

TOMCAT TOUCHDOWN CLUB:                               $10,000 OR MORE

TOMCAT MAROON AND WHITE CLUB:                  $5,000 – $9,999

TOMCAT PAWS CLUB:                                             $1,000 – $4,999

TOMCAT PRIDE CLUB:                                             $500 – $999

For a donation of $100 or $175 you can have a brick placed in the Donor’s Corner with an inscription that you choose (name or family name, etc.):

4×8 brick:         $100            3 lines/20 characters each line (this includes spacing and punctuation)

8×8 brick:         $175            6 lines/20 characters each line (this includes spacing and punctuation)

Order forms are available at the South Ashland Greenhouse off 29th Street.  Complete the form with inscription and contact information, then send the form and check to:

The Putnam Stadium Restoration Foundation P.O. Box 3000 Ashland, KY 41105-3000 or deliver it to Donna Childers Suttle at the South Ashland Greenhouse.


Former ADI photographer did life well

Former ADI photographer did life well

“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.

2019 CP-1 Ashland Baseball Hall of Fame class selected

2019 CP-1 Ashland Baseball Hall of Fame class selected

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.

1940s Tomcat great ‘Doc’ Rice dies at 93

1940s Tomcat great ‘Doc’ Rice dies at 93

ASHLAND, Ky. – Rupert “Doc” Rice, who put his stamp on Ashland football way back in 1942 as a no-fear running back who bashed opponents with a relentless running style, died on Friday in Lexington.

Rice was the oldest living Tomcat at 93 years of age.

Those 1942 Tomcats were a grand bunch, finishing a 10-0 season with a 70-0 victory over Russell in five-year-old Putnam Stadium. But it was a game the previous week against Manual, a 7-6 road victory for Ashland, that clinched the mythical championship, at least in the mind of the Tomcats.

The only touchdown came when J.C. Kennard returned the second half kickoff for a score, zigging and zagging all the way down the field, remembered Paul DeHart Sr. in a 2013 interview. Jim Stith kicked the extra point.

Rice had a long run to the Manual 5-yard line late in the game to seal the hard-fought victory.

A young man named Charles Ramey was the coach of the Tomcats and he was named Kentucky Coach of the Year in 1942 by the Courier Journal.

The coach of Manual that year was none other than former Ashland Tomcat coach Paul Jenkins, Ramey’s former high school coach in 1933 and dear friend who would later become his son’s godfather.

Ramey left Ashland because of a call to duty with the Marines where he was in World War II battles from 1943 to 1945. Second Lt. Charles Ramey piloted a battalion of armored amtracks and knocked out Japanese battalions who had secretly infiltrated the island of Peleliu.

Rice was one of several members from the 1930s and 1940s classes at Ashland High School – Dick Patrick, Bun Wilson, Jack Nuckols, Rudy Gute and Ralph Felty were some of the others -who fought in the Battle of Okinawa. More than 100,000 Japanese combatants died in that battle, one of the last of World War II.

Doc Rice was a corporal in the Marines. His nickname of “Doc” came because his father was a doctor and it stuck with him for a lifetime.

Back in those days, there weren’t playoff games but Ashland and Glasgow were the only undefeated teams remaining that season. Both put dibs in on the state title.

Doc Rice, who broke three ribs and his nose that season, was one of the reasons why the Tomcats held that status. He was joined in the backfield by Kennard and Spencer Heaton and Ashland dominated opponents with a punishing single-wing attack.

Only three games were even close — 12-7 over Charleston High, 19-6 over Ironton and the win over Manual. Ashland never allowed more than a touchdown in a game and had five shutouts on the way to outscoring foes 341-31.

Doc and Jackie Rice were my neighbors when my family first moved to Grandview Drive in the 1960s. It was sad to hear about Doc’s passing but his Tomcat legacy will live on.

Getting to the core of it

Getting to the core of it

The apple has always been one of my favorite fruits, not to mention a part of my childhood.

I just never knew I was eating it the wrong way all these years.

More on that later.

Apples and I really do go back quite a bit. I’m sure, even as a baby, some of the mushed food prepared for me was apples.

But my real introduction to apples came in our back yard on Grandview Drive. A lot of that area was at one time an apple orchard and many of the apple trees were still fruit bearing and healthy when we moved there, including four or five in our back yard.

That all sounds well and good. You could always find a fresh apple to eat and didn’t have to go to the market or grocery store to purchase it. Just step into the back yard and pluck one off the tree.

We did that often, too, and many times Mom would fry up a mess of those apples. Wow! That was some good eating.

But the worst part about apple trees is all those apples don’t stay on the tree. Remember, we had healthy apple trees and when the clumps got too big for the branches, they fell to the ground.

Have you ever tried to mow the lawn around a bunch of apple trees, where apples have fallen to the ground? Take my advice. Don’t try it. You’ll have smoother rides on a Pogo stick.

And there’s nothing that attracts bees more than a bunch of rotten apples. Those beautiful green apples turned a hideous brown within a few days of hitting the ground.

Before we mowed the lawn, we had to pick up apples. Hundreds of apples. Maybe thousands (OK, hundreds).

We would have garbage bags full of rotten apples by the time we were finished. And then we had to cut the grass where they once laid. It was a monumental task for me and my brother most of the time.

Besides having them at my disposal to eat whenever I wished, that cleanup experience kind of, uh, soured me and my brother on the whole apple experience.

Rotten to the core? Some of them were.

Oh, I still liked them and wouldn’t usually turn down a big Red Delicious or Granny Smith if offered.

I still like them, even if those memories of picking up apples off the ground with a million Yellowjackets buzzing around kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies.

We used to have apple fights in the neighborhood, too. The only thing worse than getting stung by a Yellowjacket sitting inside a rotten apple was getting plunked by one from somebody throwing them at you from about 30 feet. We used garbage can lids as shields, but it was never totally protective (“If you can dodge an apple, you can dodge a ball,” to paraphrase the crazy coach from the “Dodgeball” movie.)

Of course, dodging apples improved my dexterity and firing these apples back maybe enhanced my arm strength and control for pitching in baseball. So there was an upside.

So me and apples, even though we have a history, we’ve been mostly good for each other.

But it wasn’t until this week that I was shown the secret (via the Facebook and the Internet) to how you correctly eat an apple.

Do you eat your apple from the side, like corn on the cob, and throw away the core?

If so, you’re eating it the wrong way.

Go from bottom to top, or top to bottom, and you’ll waste practically nothing but a few seeds. The core of the apple seemingly disappears while you’re eating. I’m not kidding.

I tried it on Monday and it was like solving the Rubik Cube. I ate my apple from bottom to top and, aside from a few seeds (And, relax, it’s not like an apple tree is going to grow in your belly), gulped down the whole piece of fruit. The core was never seen.

I’ve told people this treasure for years and they all are looking at me like I’ve eaten an apple filled with worms.

But I’m telling you, try it.

The average person, when eating an apple the wrong way, throws away roughly 30 percent of the apple. There is no waste, save for a couple of seeds, if you eat it the right way.

Bottoms up — or tops down if you prefer — the next time you bite into a Red Delicious.

Russell Turkey Trot’s mission has not changed over years

Russell Turkey Trot’s mission has not changed over years

Since the mid-1980s or so, the Turkey Trot in Russell has brought together friends and family for a brisk jog on Thanksgiving morning.

It was started by retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Hood and a few other friends who decided to go for a morning run on the holiday and provide some non-perishable foods for the hungry in the process. It was all in good fun.

My how it’s grown over the last three decades and much of that has been because of Ruthie Lynd’s leadership with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Russell High School, who has cared for the run like it’s her own baby for years. Ruthie and husband John are tireless FCA leaders whose hearts are bigger than a 50-pound turkey.

The run has been for fun and fellowship, but it also helped fill the food pantry for Helping Hands in Greenup County. The only entry fee was to bring some food and people turned out by the hundreds to participate in the unofficially timed race.

It was no frills and no guaranteed t-shirt, but it was the biggest 5K in northeastern Kentucky. At its peak, there were more than 800 runners. Last year about 500 braved some cold rain. It became a place for runners to have reunions and families came to watch, run or walk no matter the weather.

The Turkey Trot will go on again Thursday morning but as an official race. There’s a $25 race-day entry fee and Alan Osuch, the guru of 5Ks in this area, will be organizing. You’ll get a t-shirt and the race will be expertly run, timed and insured and there will, of course, be food and trophies like at all Osuch events.

Ruthie learned last year that these downtown runs needed insurance and that costs money, too. The best answer was for an organization that puts on 5Ks to take over running the race. It was the right call.

Some may be upset that it’s no longer a “free event” but any profit that comes from the race still goes to Helping Hands – and runners can still bring cans of food if they want.

Even though it was a “free event,” a lot of time and effort was put into the race by the Lynds and others on the holiday. They did it because they loved it and she will still be front and center, cheering every runner across the finish line like she always did.

It’s understandable that entire families won’t be able to participate because of the entry fee and the numbers may not ever reach the incredible totals of recent years. But hopefully the tradition will continue because it’s a good one and one that has benefited Helping Hands in Greenup County for years, not to mention bringing families to a fun event.

The area should be thankful to have a Turkey Trot for those runners who want to do something cool before the big meal is served later in the day. It showcases downtown Russell and can still be a reunion highlight on Thanksgiving.

A nice run, quality t-shirt and the good feeling of doing something for Helping Hands should trump that entry fee on a day where most of us have more to be thankful for than we deserve.