Coles vs. Putnam in Kiwanis Bowl: Could it happen again?

There hasn’t been a good old-fashioned Kiwanis Bowl since 1978.

That was when Coles defeated Putnam 6-0 on a rainy night in Putnam Stadium to conclude a 27-year series that began in 1952. Ashland’s two junior highs would merge into Verity Middle School the following year.

Ashland and Russell freshmen teams filled the void and have played for the past 40 years. It’s been a huge game for both schools and stoked the Ashland-Russell football rivalry.

But it wasn’t the same as Coles vs. Putnam.

When it looked like the Russell-Ashland Kiwanis Bowl wasn’t going to be played because of smaller than normal freshmen classes, the idea of simulating in some form a Coles-Putnam Kiwanis Bowl was asked of me by Ashland Kiwanian Boo King.

I was intrigued. How could it be done? I let my imagination run wild and came up with a way (of course I did, right?).

Rosters would be made from Ashland Tomcat All-State (in any form) and those players were put on the junior highs they attended. It led to a powerhouse roster for both teams.

Imagine this: Nick Jordan at defensive tackle and Herb Conley behind him at linebacker. Anybody want to take on that Buccaneer combination?

Coles backfield could consist of Gary Thomas, Richard Gardner and Pierre Harshaw with Scott Crank at quarterback. And, oh yes, Terry Bell and Steve Justice will be blocking for them (among others).

Crank was the quarterback for Coles in the last Kiwanis Bowl and scored the game’s only touchdown on a 56-yard run down the sloppy sideline. Randy Cooper had him in his sights and grabbed his jersey – a tearaway jersey that Coles coach Jerry Mayes had purchased for his team – and Cooper was left with a handful of jersey.

Meanwhile, Crank pranced into the end zone with shoulder pads exposed and flapping.

Team captains for the simulated game: Putnam had Herb Conley and Greg Conley, who was quarterback for the Bucs as an eighth-grader in that 1978 game. Coles captains are Steve Curnutte and Mike Gothard, who left Ashland and made a mighty impression at Vanderbilt.

There were many great moments in Kiwanis Bowl history but not many high-scoring games. The biggest was when Putnam defeated Coles 28-16 in 1969. The Bucs won the series 12-11-4. Eleven games were decided by a touchdown or less along with the four ties.

The simulation game easily eclipses those 44 points. My game was played with 15-minute quarters to allow for more players to get into the game, which is a barnburner

If you want to know more, you’ll have to tune in to the Coach Jason Mays and Dicky Show on Wednesday at 8 p.m. when Dicky and myself will bring you the play-by-play account. . You will want to listen to the end.

The Ashland Kiwanis Club will be putting together a commemorative program of the simulated game complete with rosters, game story and box score. If you own a business, please be generous. This is the club’s biggest fundraiser of the year and they do so much for the community. This will clearly be a keepsake program and they will be selling copies in November. What a great Christmas gift that could be for the players who made the list. Call club president Mike Maynard at (606) 694-0504 to be part of it.

A story and full box score will be on my Facebook page after the game,

The Ashland-Russell Kiwanis Bowl will be played Thursday night with sophomores and freshmen players from both sides. I’m glad the tradition continues in some form.

But if you’re old school, this simulation game is for you.

Lots of Irish eyes on 1967 vs. 1980 Holy Family matchup

ASHLAND, Ky. – All week long the talk was of the battle between two of Holy Family’s best basketball teams.

Who would prevail between the Irish teams of 1967 and 1980?

They both had reputations to uphold and the attention was building before Game Day. Several area schools offered to let the Irish use their gymnasiums because of the anticipated crowd, but they kept it in the Irish bandbox anyway. People were wall to wall and the noise was unbearable.

“We wanted the popcorn money,” said Bill Bradley, an interested onlooker. “There was a lot at stake.”

Coaches Bill Carroll of the 67 Irish and Mike Sherman of the 80 Irish were going to have a hard time communicating with the players.

The game was a sellout the day before it was scheduled so a closed-circuit viewing party was going to be allowed at the Knights of Columbus. There may have been some blurred vision in there – from the closed circuit, I mean – and they had to lock the doors. The overflow venue was already overflowing.

Both teams were careful what they said before the game but it was clear they both wanted this one.

The 67 Irish came up firing and took a 16-8 advantage over the stunned 80 Irish, who seemed a little shaken by the crowd.

“I’ve never seen so many people in this gym,” said Art McCullough, the slick-shooting forward. “I mean they were right on the floor with us. It was hard to tell where the out-of-bounds line was because of people spilling onto the floor.”

It was going to be an uphill fight for the 80 Irish, who trailed 32-23 at halftime after the poor first quarter.

“I took two timeouts in the first quarter and they were either not listening to me or couldn’t hear me, I’m not sure which one,” Sherman said. “We needed some time to settle down and we did in the second half.”

The biggest deficit of the game came at 34-23 when John Layne drilled an 18-footer to begin the second half. But the game started to turn after that for the 80 Irish, who seemed to get their footing behind point guard David Layne, who finished with 12 points and six assists.

“We did a great job in the first half and a poor job in the second half,” Carroll said. “

John Layne put the 67 Irish in front 41-33 but eight straight points from David Layne tied the game at 41 halfway through the third quarter. It was going to be a tight affair the rest of the way and the crowd was getting rowdy.

The game was tied three more times at 45, 53 and 57. The 67 Irish built a 57-54 advantage before Dave Michalak connected on four consecutive free throws to put the 80 Irish in front 58-57.

“Clutch free throws from Dave,” Sherman said. “This game had a little bit of everything.”

Tom Davis answered for the 67 Irish with a putback, powering it in over Dan Phillips, to make it 59-58 with 43 seconds remaining. Davis finished with 17 points and eight rebounds.

The 80 Irish chose to run the clock down and did so with perfection. Dave Layne’s ballhandling was aided by McCullough, who would pop out when he got into trouble. They also used two timeouts to run the clock down to 10 seconds.

Following the last timeout, the strategy was set with McCullough, who had 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, primed to take the potential game-winner. He fired up a heavily contested shot from the wing that bounced high off the rim. It went up so high that several of the 67 Irish mistimed their jumps. Phillips snuck between Davis and Maynard Thomas and managed to get his left hand on the ball and tipped it in. The 80 Irish had pulled it off, 60-59, as fans poured onto the floor.

“Well, our last-second play didn’t work out like we planned but big Dan got the tip in there and made us a winner,” Sherman said.

Michalak had 13 points and five rebounds and Phillips eight points and eight rebounds for the 80 Irish. Thomas had 14 points and John Layne added 10 points, six rebounds and five assists for the 67 Irish.

“Disappointing loss because we led for nearly the whole game,” Carroll said. “Not sure how this simulation works, but my teams didn’t blow 11-point leads. You need to upgrade your computer. Our defense was good, not great, but that’s a good team. They had some firepower. That was a lucky bounce on Artie’s miss but give Phillips credit for hanging with it.”

Real life

Holy Family’s 1980 team was a special one, finishing 28-6 and reaching the 16th Region final for the 10th – and last time – in school history. The Irish fell to Ashland, 56-48. They had snapped the Tomcats’ four-and-a-half year winning streak against region competition with a victory in the 64th District final.

Holy Family’s 1967 team was a good one in a year when Ashland and Russell were both extra good. They stunned the Tomcats in the AIT but fell to them in the district finals by 27. The Irish finished 24-9.

1967 HOLY FAMILY (59) – J.Layne 4-10 2-2 10, Brislin 0-3 2-2 2, Morris 4-10 1-3 9, Davis 7-17 3-3 17, Thomas 6-8 2-4 14, Uhron 1-3 0-0 2, Borgerding 2-2 1-3 5. FG: 24-53. FT: 11-17. Rebounds: 26 (J.Layne 6, Brislin 1, Morris 3, Davis8, Thomas 4, Uhron 2, Borgerding 2). Assists: 14 (J.Layne 5, Brislin 4, Morris 3, Davis 1, Uhron 1). PF: 16. Turnovers: 11.

1980 HOLY FAMILY (60) – D.Layne 5-8 2-2 12, McCullough 7-10 2-2 16, Stewart 2-8 2-2 6, Michalak 3-7 7-8 13, Phillips 4-6 0-0 8, Bailey 1-3 0-0 2, Bauer 1-2 2-2 4, Bradley 0-1 0-0 0, Tussey 0-1 1-2 1. FG: 22-46. FT: 16-18. Rebounds: 33 (D.Layne 4, McCullough 4, Stewart 7, Michalak 5, Phillips 8, Bailey 2, Bauer 2, Bradley 1). Assists: 16 (D.Layne 6, McCullough 6, Stewart 3, Michalak 1). PF: 15. Turnovers: 11.

1967 HOLY FAMILY       16       16       13        14       –            59

1980 HOLY FAMILY        8        15      22        15        –           60


40 years ago this summer, Darryl Strawberry made his pro debut in Paintsville, and so did Jody Hamilton

It was 41 years ago this summer that George Steinbrenner put some Yankee pride into eastern Kentucky.

The former Yankee owner, who passed away in 2010, made the Paintsville Highlanders the Paintsville Yankees.

Paintsville’s pinstripes lived up to what The Boss wanted from his franchise. Paintsville won the Appalachian League championship in 1979, 1980 and 1981 and finished second in 1982.

That first season the Paintsville Yankees went 52-13 — an .800 winning percentage — and ran away with the Appalachian League title by 15 1/2 games over the Bluefield Orioles.

Paintsville’s own Boss was the late Paul Fyffe, who was more Bill Veeck than George Steinbrenner.

In other words, Fyffe knew how to draw a crowd.

But one July night in 1980, he almost went too far.

The Kingsport Mets were visiting Paintsville and top draft choice, 18-year-old Darryl Strawberry, was in the house.

Fyffe didn’t want the moment to pass without some fans in the stands. He planted a strawberry patch in right field — where Darryl Strawberry would be playing — and sold nothing but strawberry drinks in the concession stand. Also, fans got free admission to the two-game series if they brought a strawberry with them. He dubbed it the “Strawberry Festival.”

(The story of strawberries being dropped from a helicopter was not true. Although, if Fyffe thought it might work within fan safety regulations, I wouldn’t have put it past him to try it).

Darryl Strawberry was the Mets’ No. 1 draft choice on June 3, 1980. Jody Hamilton (below) and Strawberry both made their professional debuts in Paintsville in July 1980.

Not only was Strawberry a rookie, but so was Ashland native Jody Hamilton, who went undrafted but earned a spot on the Yankees after a tryout. It was a mystery why Hamilton wasn’t drafted. He was taken in the 16th round by the Texas Rangers after his junior season at Morehead State University but chose to stay in school. He had knee surgery in the offseason and that may have been what scared them off.

Hamilton left MSU as the school’s all-time home run king, a Triple Crown champion and an Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year. He still ranks as one of the Eagles’ greatest hitters.

He proved he could hit on the professional level, too, going 14-for-30 (.467) with eight walks, two home runs and 10 RBIs in his first 10 games with the Yankees. Hamilton ended up hitting .306 with six home runs in his 47-game professional career.

Hamilton also outhit Strawberry in that two-game series with the Kingsport Mets. In one game, he belted a 330-foot home run over the right-field fence to give the Yankees an 11-10 victory in the series opener.

Hamilton, of course, quit playing baseball to start coaching it in high school. It was a good move. Jody was one of the giants in Kentucky high school baseball history with more than 900 career victories and state championships at Boyd County High School in 2001 and West Jessamine High School a couple of years ago.

The 1980 “Strawberry Festival” was a sellout and a fun time in Paintsville, which, remember, was the property of the Yankees.

And there was the rub.

When The Sporting News ran an article about how a Yankee team in the Appalachian League’s Rookie League had promoted a New York Met, Steinbrenner blew a gasket and threatened to take away the franchise.

“It was like a scene from ‘Seinfeld’ where Steinbrenner is screaming at George over something that happened in Paintsville, Ky.,” said Jason Blanton, who began working for the Paintsville Yankees as a 14-year-old clubbie who folded uniforms and towels — and whatever else was asked of him. “That was our claim to fame with Steinbrenner. That was the only time he threatened the franchise.”

Blanton, who now works for Morehead State University’s media department, closely followed professional baseball in Paintsville to its end in 1984.

“It was a great time, as I look back on it,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

The Yankees were good to Paintsville, including putting money into the high school field that they called home in the summer. It was a showplace.

“He (Steinbrenner) made sure they had anything they needed,” Blanton said. “I remember one of the first days at a Yankee practice they had a pamphlet called ‘The Yankee Way.’ It told you no facial hair, have the hair off the back of your collar, things like that. You did things their way. When I folded uniforms, it had to be a certain way.”

The sign on the Johnson County clubhouse door was the Yankee logo with “The pride starts here” written under it, Blanton said.

“That’s what it was all about,” he said. “They said it a thousand times a day: Do it the Yankee way. It started from the top and moved down.”

Steinbrenner, who had purchased the sagging New York Yankee franchise in 1973, was building from within (although he mostly built with a wide-open wallet). Of course, in 1979, the Yankees were coming off back-to-back World Series championships under Steinbrenner.

It wasn’t the same in Paintsville after the Brewers became the parent club in 1983 and 1984, Blanton said. The last game in Paintsville pro baseball history was a 4-0 loss to the Pikeville Cubs. The pitcher that night? None other than surefire Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux.

“Things were a lot different,” he said. “The best days were with the Yankees.”


Tomcat Shootout ready for quarterfinal round; 60-64 Tomcats draw bye

ASHLAND, Ky. – The inaugural Tomcat Shootout, a simulation tournament of teams comprised of great Ashland Tomcat basketball players going back to the 1950s, is set for the quarterfinal round.

Seven half-decade teams have emerged after winning best-of-3 series against same-decade teams.

A bye for the quarterfinal round to the semifinals was given to the 1960-1964 Tomcats through a blind draw. They will face the winner of 1970-74 and 1990-94.

“I love my 70’s guys but seems about right that the 1960-64 guys got the bye,” said super-fan Bill Bradley. “This is going to be some good basketball. Can’t wait to see how it ends up.”

The other half of the bracket has 1955-59 vs. 2015-20 and 2000-04 vs. 1980-84.

Games will be single elimination in the quarterfinals and semifinals and best-of-3 in the championship round.

The tournament will finish up about the same time “Tomcat Tales” is released. The book features the games from the simulated Sweet Sixteen and individual Tomcat teams going against each other in fantasy matchups.

Only 30 copies will be available in the first run, but more will be available soon after. Books will be $20 ($25 if shipped).