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.

Don Frailie’s life was so well-lived

Don Frailie’s life was so well-lived

When we came home from my in-laws on Christmas Day last year, there was a Brooks Robinson autographed baseball in a plastic case sitting on my porch.

No card and no message. Just the baseball in its plastic case.

My grandson, who was born in April 2017, is named Brooks Wyatt. His mother and father named him after Brooks Robinson, the Hall of Fame third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles.

Even though this gift didn’t have tag on it, the fingerprints were obvious to us.

We knew it was Don Frailie. That was just his style of doing things. I never found out for sure, because he’d never admit to it if asked, but I knew.

On Wednesday night around 11:30, Ashland became a sadder place because Don Frailie’s big heart stopped beating. What a sad, sad day.

Don’s passing hurts anyone who ever met this kind and caring man and many of you who never even knew him but were probably impacted. His life was always about helping others and never shining the light on himself.

I count myself incredibly blessed to have known him, to witness the light inside him that came bursting out when he saw a need, to watch him be that silent helping hand. He was the humblest man you’d ever meet.

Counting Don Frailie as a friend made you warm inside. I wish everyone could have experienced it. Maybe that’s why his death hurts so much.

In a lot of instances, he was your friend and you may never have known it. That’s how Don Frailie rolled in life, a trail of pure goodness sprinkled behind him. With his country ways, he could have easily been a character on “The Andy Griffith Show,” but there was no acting with him. He was genuine, a true friend and a giant in this town.

He was an attorney and a teacher and brilliant in both professions and even coached some of Ashland’s greatest athletes during a stint at Coles Jr. High. He was a husband and a father and he loved his late wife Karen and his daughter Mary Beth more than anything this world had to offer.

Behind them, the man adored baseball. He was a walking baseball encyclopedia. Don was Google for baseball before there was Google. He loved his Braves, Milwaukee and Atlanta, and when he was a little guy playing in the first year of Little League in Ashland, Don played first base for the Giants. He rolled up his sleeves like Ted Kluszewski, the muscular first baseman for the Reds who liked to show off his biceps.

Don was always that behind-the-scenes person who made sure things got done but never wanted any credit for it. He helped me on more than one occasion with the costs associated with our CP-1 Hall of Fame ceremony.

His wife Karen was one of the best English teachers that Ashland and Rose Hill ever witnessed. She was the epitome of perfect grammar and a beautiful individual. When she lost her life to cancer, a piece of Don went with her. He was devastated as any of us would be. He visited her grave at the Ashland Cemetery every day where he told her about what was going on in his life. He never stopped loving her with all his being.

Don immediately began a trust, the Karen Frailie Christian Education Fund, that provided teachers with the tools they needed. Each teacher at Rose Hill Christian School had $300 to spend on their class each year. And, by the way, if they needed more, all they had to do was ask.

His gracious life has impacted so many.

Two years ago, he made sure every unmarked grave in the “Baby Section” of the Ashland Cemetery had a marker. All at his expense. All because of his love.

I can only imagine his entry into heaven on Wednesday night being reunited with Karen, the love of his life, and having so many of these unnamed babies rushing to hug him. The long line of those he helped over the years who wanted to thank him probably stretched for miles on those golden streets.

When we all get to heaven. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

A day of loss for us but what a day of victory for him.


Rotary event in Ashland focused on polio survivors, eradicating disease

Rotary event in Ashland focused on polio survivors, eradicating disease

Iron Lungs were used to help polio victims breathe.

ASHLAND, Ky. – Blanche Allen is 87 years older, enjoyed a 35-year career as a nurse and runs her own household.

But 55 years ago, her every breath was produced through an apparatus called an Iron Lung.

Allen is a polio survivor who as a young nurse and mother of two in the early 1960s depended on the Iron Lung to breathe for a month of her life after learning she had contracted polio despite taking the vaccine.

“I was paralyzed,” she said. “They took me to the ER. I was in terrible shape. My sister checked on me before she turned in for the night. It was 11:30 or 12 at night and it felt like there was a 100-pound weight on my neck.”

Allen, who was paralyzed from the neck down, was only the fourth from Boyd County to have contracted the disease at that time. She was one of the first to use an Iron Lung, a machine that resembles a hot water heater.

Polio patients were put inside the machine with only their head sticking out and it mechanically put breath in their lungs.

Allen said she was in and out of it and doesn’t remember much about her time inside the Iron Lung. She was fed through tubes. Her children, girls ages 5 and 11, never saw their mother inside the machine.

“They could hear it (from the hallway) but never saw me in it,” Allen said.

Allen was in the Our Lady of Bellefonte hospital in Greenup County and her doctor, Clarence Haberle, had the Iron Lung sent from King’s Daughters in Ashland.

“I remember they brought it over in a pickup truck,” Allen said.

She said. the day they let her come home, the doctor wheeled her to the car. “He said ‘I never thought I’d see the day you’d go home and go to church every Sunday. He let you live to raise the girls.”

Allen returned to her job as a nurse in the hospital where she was sick and the Iron Lung was in the basement.

“I never went to see it,” she said.

Allen’s family has a history of long lives. Her grandmother lived to be 103 and her sister was 18 days shy of 100.

“Without that Iron Lung, I’d be gone,” she said.

One of the missions of Rotary International is to eradicate polio from the world. A coalition of nine Rotary clubs in the Tri-State area near Ashland will come together Sunday, Oct. 28, for a special day at the Paramount Arts Center.

The film “Breathe,” the true life story of a polio survivor, will be shown on the historic theater’s big screen at 3 p.m. The movie was released in 2017 and tells the story of Robin Cavendish, who contracted polio at 28 and was given only months to live. He survived with the help of his wife and inventor Teddy Hall to escape the hospital ward and devote the rest of his life to helping fellow patients and the disabled.

Polio survivors will be on hand as will Iron Lungs that were for children and adults. Allen plans on coming to the event which also includes a short film called “Polio Survivor Stories” produced by Randy Yohe, a former local news television reporter, and his wife Vickie.

He interviews several polio survivors who tell their story in the film. Ashland residents Trish Hall and Don Setterman and Ann Bryant of Catlettsburg are among those in the video.

Tickets are $10 and proceeds benefit Rotary International’s PolioPlus Fund and be matched 2 to 1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has pledged $450 million to right polio from 2017-2019.

Polio has been eradicated from the United States since 1979. The global fight continues. In 2018, a total of 20 cases was reported in the world. A country must go without a case for three years to be declared polio-free.

Wednesday was World Polio Day.

Tomcat tradition on full display with Larry Conley

Tomcat tradition on full display with Larry Conley

Jason Mays, the new Ashland Tomcat basketball coach, is smart enough to understand the role that tradition plays in the community and the program itself.

It was with that in mind that he set up a celebration night with perhaps the greatest Tomcat of them all.

Larry Conley, who was part of the memorable ’61 Tomcats that won a state championship and then practically willed the ’62 Tomcats back to the championship game, was back in front of today’s players Thursday night in an event that Mays hopes can stir the echoes.

Do they remember Larry Conley? Probably not, but their parents and grandparents – not to mention countless other fans who were among more than 100 in attendance – sure did.

For those who don’t remember him as a player surely remembered him as a college basketball television analyst that had an illustrious 42-year broadcasting career. He estimated covering 1,800 basketball games and 600 baseball games and most of those involved SEC teams.

Conley is 73 and still has that slender body that made him a basketball dynamo. The ’61 Tomcats are still remembered as one of Kentucky’s greatest state champions by those who have seen many of them, including former Herald-Leader columnist Billy Reed and former Herald-Leader sportswriter Mike Fields.

You can learn more about that team in my book called “Teamwork” (shameless promotion).

Conley talked about being a gym rat from an early age since his father, George, was the fiery coach of the Tomcats from 1949-54, guiding some of Ashland’s greatest teams and players, including the 1953 team that was ranked No. 1 but upset in the state tournament’s opening round.

Jim Host, a manager on that team, is still convinced the ’53 team was the best of all time. But those in ’61 beg to differ and they have the big trophy as proof that the 36-1 Tomcats team holds that distinction.

Nevertheless, that’s an argument for another day. Both are part of a Tomcat tradition that has few equals.

Conley said he learned his first lesson of discipline during a practice session when as a little tyke he picked up a basketball and began dribbling it when his father was addressing the team. Bad idea, he quickly learned, when his father turned to find out who was interrupting him.

“I learned that day to be quiet whenever the coach is talking,” he said.

Conley was cordial and affable, encouraging the young players to respect what their teammates could do, improve their weakness and take care of business in the classroom. It was great advice.

He also showed reverence for his coaches and none anymore than the late Bob Wright, his coach with the Tomcats who molded these talented players into a team for the ages. Conley talked about the amazing Harold Sargent, who could do anything with a basketball, and how this team was built to win. The top seven players all received Division I scholarships. Six of the seven are still living. Bob Hilton passed away many years ago.

Conley, of course, played for Adolph Rupp but he said that Rupp never saw him until he signed him to play for the Wildcats. Recruitment was different in those days, he said. “If you were a good player in Kentucky it was a given that you were going to Kentucky,” he said.

Wright kept the players letters from colleges until after the season and Conley said he gave him four boxes of letters when his senior season ended.

Conley said he did make a visit to Duke, drawing a groan from the crowd.

He remembered a time when Rupp came up to him and asked a question. “Conley, who is the better coach, me or your high school coach?” Conley said while imitating Rupp’s high-pitched voice. While Conley answered “correctly,” he said it was the “hesitation that got me in trouble.”

“Conley, you son of a gun, you’ve got a lot to learn,” he said was Rupp’s reply, Conley said, mimicking his southern drawl.

He also talked about his broadcasting career and some of the most memorable games, including the 1992 battle between Arkansas and Kentucky in the SEC Tournament. He said Rick Pitino was one of the two or three best coaches he was ever around, that he actually liked Bruce Pearl (more groans) and disliked Dale Brown. He said he eventually got to appreciate Nolan Richardson because of how hard the Razorbacks played for him.

It was a good night with one of the Tomcats finest ambassadors and best-ever players who told the team and audience that he’d try to make it back to watch them play in the Ashland Invitational Tournament.

Kudos to Coach Mays for putting tradition on display by reaching out to Conley for the event. Part of his job, as I’m sure he sees it, is to restore some of that tradition. The Tomcats are currently in the longest stretch between 16th Region championships. They last raised a banner in 2002.




CP-1 HOF ceremony: Emotion, never-before-told stories and (amazingly) no rain

ASHLAND, Ky. – The fourth annual Ashland Baseball CP-1 Hall of Fame ceremony had a little bit of everything.

-Emotional speeches. Several inductees had to collect themselves while offering up heartfelt speeches that included their parents, family and teammates.

-Untold stories. David Patton, a 1950s era Tomcat, brought out the entire arsenal of never-before-heard stories about his playing days. What a treat!

-Divine intervention. There’s no other explanation as to why it did not rain. The forecast kept getting worse day by day and on Friday was calling for a 90 percent chance of thunderstorms – and we made the call to have the ceremony in the park anyway Saturday morning.

Guess what? It didn’t rain.

It all added up to what will be remembered for a long time for the 14 inductees and their families.

It was also one of the bigger crowds in the history of the CP-1 Hall of Fame with 80 to 100 in attendance. Some laughed, some cried, and everybody enjoyed.

The common denominators were a love for Central Park and thank you wishes to deceased parents, to siblings, to teammates and to organizers.

Larry Stevens, a hard-throwing pitcher during the early days of the Tomcat Dynasty Era in the 1960s, came in a wheelchair because he is suffering from a disease that has also taken away his ability to communicate.

Yet Stevens broke off the line of the day when in his broken sentences was able to clearly get out: “I got a hit off Bill.”

That was in reference to good friend Bill Lynch, the flame-throwing lefthander who was in the inaugural CP-1 Hall of Fame class.

The crowd roared with laughter from Stevens’ short sentence to his friend. His wife later took over the rest of the speaking.

From stars in the 1950s to the 1970s, the crowd listened intently for two hours as one by one the inductees shared a bit of their stories. Nobody was too long and nobody was too short and everybody who came walked away feeling a little better about either living in Ashland or having the joy to play in Central Park.

Greg Swift, Don Allen and co-coaches Rick Reeves and Frank Wagner represented the 1970s. Reeves said it would be much better if Wagner, who died a dozen years ago, could have stood there with him.

Ernie Daniels not only shared his baseball life but also his faith in a heartfelt speech. He played from 1961 to 1963 for the Tomcats and shared a story how he won the American Legion Chuck Dickison Award as a 16-year-old shortstop.

He said he was waiting for the Dickison ceremony, not knowing who was going to win, and he saw his mother and father get out of a car. Daniels choked up a little before continuing, saying he still didn’t know he was going to be the award winner and then his name was announced.

Six members of the Tomcat Dynasty Era between 1965-69 also were inducted: John Sieweke, David Staten, Stevens, Mike Tackett, Fred Leibee and Don Lentz.

Three players from the 1950s, Patton, H.F. Dixon and Larry Castle rounded out with speeches that came from deep inside.

Inductees came out of state from Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and from Lexington and Lawrenburg in state.

They came to be inducted but were reminded they left their heart in Central Park.