Ashland’s Alumni Gymnasium worthy of ‘Glory Road’ honor

Ashland’s rich basketball heritage was born in Alumni Gymnasium, the home to all four Tomcats’ state championship teams.

The 1928 Tomcats were one of only two undefeated state champions in Kentucky high school history and the 1961 Tomcats were 36-1 and regarded as one of the state’s greatest champions of all time after winning the Sweet Sixteen by an average margin of 18 points per game.

The Kentucky Basketball Hall of Fame has named Alumni one of its “Glory Road” sites with a ceremony to take place Feb. 15 with a heritage game between Ashland and West Carter, which was formerly known as Olive Hill, and the honoring at halftime of several players from the Alumni Gym era who will be in attendance.

Alumni Gym became a house of horrors for anyone who entered the doors not wearing a Tomcat jersey. Ashland compiled a 730-265-1 overall record from 1927 to 1962 for a 72.7 winning percentage during the Alumni gym era. Ashland won 13 regional championships during the Alumni Gym era (four prior to Alumni and 17 from Anderson gym). Alumni gym was the host for the regional tournament seven times with the Tomcats winning four of those.

In the last three years the Tomcats used the gym before moving to the Paul G. Blazer campus in the fall of 1962, they compiled a 50-1 home record.

This is the 60th season for the campus gym, which now carries the name of James A. Anderson, the wildly successful basketball and football coach for the Tomcats in the 1920s. It was Anderson who guided the 1928 team to a 37-0 record and the national championship in the first full season at Alumni Gym.

Ashland fell in love with the Tomcats in 1928 with more than 10,000 greeting the team at the train station after they defeated Canton, Ohio, 15-10 to win the national title in Chicago.

In the last two seasons at Alumni Gym, the Tomcats won the state title in 1961 and finished runner-up in 1962. The gym also was home to the school’s other state championship teams in 1928, 1933 and 1934. Ashland was the state runner-up in 1940 and 1926 (the year prior to Alumni opening).

Ashland’s girls’ basketball teams won five state titles in the 1920s but only the 1928 and 1929 teams came after Alumni was christened in 1927. The Kittens were also state champions in 1921, 1922 and 1924 during a dominating run under coach W.B. Jackson.

The first games in Alumni were from the district and regional tournaments in 1927. Ernie Chattin, who later in life left his imprint on Ashland sports through coaching and mentoring as the YMCA director, was captain of that team.

The Tomcats’ first game in the gym was against Catlettsburg on March 4, 1927, a 23-12 win in the district tournament. They followed that with wins over Grayson and Morehead. The regional, which was also played in Ashland, saw the Tomcats defeat Pikeville, Brooksville and Minerva to win the 6th Region and advance to the state tournament in Lexington.

The 95th anniversary of the first game ever played at Alumni will be March 4, 2022.

The Tomcats defeated Owensboro before falling to Covington Holmes 15-13 in the second round of the state tournament, but it set the stage for the undefeated season the following year.

It’s fitting that Ashland is playing West Carter on Tuesday night in the heritage game, complete with throwback uniforms, because the rivalry between the Tomcats and Comets was a good one during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Ashland was 49-9 all-time vs. Olive Hill and 23-2 in the old gym with losses coming in 1957 and 1959. Olive Hill’s legendary coach Jack Fultz loved matching wits with the Tomcats’ great coaches, including George Conley and Bob Wright.

Wilson Barrow, the first black player to wear a Tomcat uniform, scored a career-high 28 points against Olive Hill in Alumni gym in December 1961. It was a short-lived career for Barrow, who as a sophomore was dismissed from the team because of academics in January and never played again. He came to Ashland after being an outstanding player for Booker T. Washington School, Ashland’s black school that closed after the 1962 school year.

One of the most famous Ashland-Olive Hill games in the old gym came in February 1954 when Olive Hill held the ball on the fast-breaking Tomcats. Ashland avoided the freeze out and eventually won 25-19 in a low-scoring game.

CARROLL SINGES THE NETS

The most points a Tomcat ever scored in a game at Alumni came from sharpshooting George Carroll, who scored 40 vs. Ironton on Jan. 24, 1956. He scored 52, 39 and 35 that season as well but those games came in the Ashland Armory. Bill Gray scored 48 in 1954 but it was also on the road in the district tournament against Wurtland.

UNBEATEN AT HOME

Several years the Tomcats were undefeated on their home floor – 1928 (23-0), 1933 (15-0), 1960 (14-0) and 1961 (18-0).

SUSPENDED SEASON

The 1934-35 basketball season was suspended because the football team used an ineligible player in 1934. Even though Ashland couldn’t compete officially the Tomcats fielded a team and played independent teams in the area. Those records, however, aren’t included in the official statistics.

Ashland was coming off of a 30-2 state championship season.

1,000-POINT SCORERS AT ALUMNI

                                          Years        G     Points      Avg.                                 High game

Conley, Larry               1960-62    103       1473      14.3                              34-Olive Hill

Adkins, Earl                 1951-53      88       1386      15.8                                 36-Ironton

Carroll, George           1954-56      76       1225      16.1                            52-Carr Creek

Sargent, Harold          1960-61      71       1015      14.3                                 31-Smyrna

Eggleston, John           1950-52      69       1008      14.6                              31-Olive Hill

TOP SCORING AVERAGES AT ALUMNI

1956 George Carroll 706 24.3

1959 Larry Castle 700 23.3

1955 Bill Kazee 656 21.2

1954 Bill Gray 715 21.0

1953 Earl Adkins 668 20.9

1962 Larry Conley 766 20.7

1957 Howard Humphreys 543 20.1

1952 John Eggleston 620 20.0

TEAM’S LEADING SCORER YEAR-BY-YEAR

Year   Player                 Points     Avg

1927   Ernest Chattin        221       7.9

1928   Gene Strother        279       7.5

1929   Darrell Darby          312       9.5

1930   Jim Barney              143       5.7

1931   Jack Magann          221       7.1

1932   Rex Caudill              204       7.8

1933   Jim Riffe                  209       7.0

1934   Bob O’Mara            272       8.5

1935   On Suspension       —–       –.-

1936   Clyde Johnson        133       5.8

1937   Charles Pergrem    216       9.8

1938   Edgar Peters           179       7.4

1939   Ray Brumfield        172       6.6

1940   Bob Hilton              247       8.8

1941   Jack Sieweke          185       7.4

1942   Jim Rive                   237     10.3

1943   Bernard Pergrem   112       5.1

1944   Bernard Pergrem   305     11.7

1945   Randall Stevens      285     10.2

1946   George Weggener 309     10.7

1947   Fred Anson             335     15.2

1948   Eugene Clark          349     12.9

1949   Eugene Clark          386     12.5

1950   Bob Lowe                332     13.8

1951   John Eggleston       388     12.1

1952   John Eggleston       620     20.0

1953   Earl Adkins              668     20.9

1954   Bill Gray                  715     21.0

1955   Bill Kazee                656     21.2

1956   George Carroll        706     24.3

1957   Howard Humphreys 543  20.1

1958   David Patton          282     11.3

1959   Larry Castle             700     23.3

1960   David Sparks           545     16.0

1961   Bob Hilton              592     16.0

1962   Larry Conley           766     20.7

2022 CP-1 Hall of Fame class has ‘a little bit of everything’

ASHLAND, Ky. – Outstanding pitchers, three Little League state champions, a legendary Babe Ruth coach and some of the most versatile and athletic players in Ashland baseball history make up the 10-member class for the 2022 CP-1 Ashland Hall of Fame.

This latest class will bring the CP-1 Hall of Fame total to 80 with 20 more players/coaches to come in the next two years on the way to naming the top 100. The 2022 event will be Saturday, Aug. 27, at 1 p.m. in front of the big diamond – CP-1 – in Central Park.

“This class has a little bit of everything,” said CP-1 Hall of Fame President Mark Maynard. “Great pitchers, Little League champions, a coaching icon and some of the greatest all-around players to ever stop a ground ball on that field. Anybody who has come to one of these events always comes back because of the raw emotion on display. This is a very deserving bunch. You’ll know the names.”

Here is a list of the 2022 induction class:

–David Cox, a valuable outfielder for the state champion Tomcats of 1968 who also played center field for the 1969 Tomcats state runner-up team.

–Scott Crawford, a power hitter from Little League through American Legion during his career. He was a member of the Ashland American Little League state champions and starred for the Tomcats and Post 76.

–Steve Hall, a standout player for the Tomcats who graduated in 1972 and later coached the Ashland baseball team in the 1980s. An outstanding catcher, he played collegiately at Morris Harvey in Charleston, W.Va.

–The late Omar Henry was an outstanding all-around athlete and dominating pitcher in Little League, high school with the Tomcats and he pitcher for UK. He was a member of the 1990 Ashland American Little League state championship team.

–Greg Jackson, an athletic third baseman who used his speed and strong hitting at the top of the Tomcats’ lineup from 1974-76.

–Charlie McDowell, one of the giants in youth coaching in Ashland. His Babe Ruth teams routinely collected championships and the rosters of those who played for him reads like an Ashland who’s who.

–Jason Stein, a second baseman who starred for the Ashland American 1986 Little League state champions and then later with the Tomcats. He went on to be the head coach at Eastern Kentucky University and is currently the hitting coach for Duke University.

–Mark Swift, an all-around athlete who went to college on a basketball scholarship was a slick-fielding shortstop and clutch hitter during his days with the Tomcats from 1975-77.

–Herb Wamsley, a versatile athlete who starred behind the plate and at second base for the Tomcats during his career. He graduated in 1977.

–Rick Wenning, a hard-throwing pitcher for the Tomcats who graduated in 1973. He later pitched collegiately for David Lipscomb and the University of Kentucky. He was one of the best pitchers in the park during the 1970s.

PREVIOUS CP-1 HALL OF FAME SELECTIONS

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.

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.

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.

2018: (14): Don Lentz, Fred Leibee, John Sieweke, Dave Staten, Larry Stevens, Mike Tackett, H.F. Dixon, Ernie Daniels, Larry Castle, David Patton, Greg Swift, Don Allen, Rick Reeves, Frank Wagner. 

2019 (10): T.R. Wright, Robert Wright, Dick Fillmore, Herb Conley, Ed Joseph, Ed Radjunas, Tobey Tolbert, Mike Johnson, Frank Sloan, Darryl Smith

2020: No ceremony because of COVID

2021 (10): Wilson Barrow, Scott Crank, Mike Delaney, Bryan Finkbone, Bill Hammond, French Harmon, Jon Hart, Cabot Keesey, Mark Moore, Mike Tussey.

The historic marker at Central Park in front of the big diamond, affectionally known as CP-1.

A love letter to Ashland

Dear Ashland,

We’ve been through a bunch in 64 years – ups and downs, wins and losses, cheers and tears. We’ve stood together through shutdowns and letdowns, had some memorable moments and some disappointing ones.

I know you about as well as anybody. I’ve made it my business to know, as a journalist with a passion for sports, to carrying some well-earned institutional knowledge from being around a long, long time. I’ve raved about your past and crowed about your future.

You don’t have a bigger fan than me.

I’ve written about your people too, those great, great people – and even some of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the fields where we play. But, wow, do you ever have incredible people off the field, too.

Tradition has always been important to Ashland, whether it be in sports or business. We like to win whether it’s at Putnam Stadium or the local pickleball court. Sometimes we get hit hard but, you know what, Ashland? You always get back up.

For 42 years, from a wet-behind-the ears sportswriter to the editor’s seat, I worked for the Ashland Daily Independent. Most days didn’t even seem like work. I’ve been part of the Kentucky Baptist Convention for the past five years, helping tell the story of the 2,500 Baptist churches in the state and how their people work together in cooperative effort for the sake of the gospel. It has been an incredible experience. Who works two jobs that they absolutely love? This guy. My “office” has been my home, right here in Ashland, my hometown.

I was born at King’s Daughters, went to school at Charles Russell, Coles and Ashland. My wife (also born at King’s Daughters, attended Oakview, then Putnam and Ashland) and I have lived in Ashland all our 64 years, aside from our stays in college.  We’ve been fortunate to have a church family that is truly family, where friends come to your aid, where we try to live what the Bible teaches. I’ve sat under incredible pastors at Unity Baptist Church. Come and visit if you don’t have a church home. Our new pastor is indescribably good and will be a blessing to Ashland for years to come.

My wife’s parents have impacted my life more than they will ever know and the same goes for the families of my wife’s two sisters, all of whom live in Ashland. They are salt-of-the-earth people who would do anything for you. I’m blessed to have them in my life. They define family.

You’ve watched me be an ambassador for Ashland, which has part of my heart forever. I even made it to the dance floor for the Highlands Museum for goodness sakes! Nobody will forget the Gorilla being so light on his feet (yeah right). That alone should prove how far I’d go for Ashland because dancing is not part of my skill set. Far from it.

I’m honored that Ashland has considered me a favorite son and recognized me more than I deserved. I’ve enjoyed making time for conversation with so many of you in the grocery store aisles over the years, even if it made a 10-minute trip a little longer. My wife just shrugs. She knows how it goes.

But for the past almost five years, my wife and I have only been able to do some highlight visits with our grandson in northern Kentucky. And now our daughter is expecting a second child and our second grandchild in April. My daughter and her husband live in Union, Kentucky, and my son and his wife live in Middletown, Ohio. I’m sure you see what’s coming.

As much as I love Ashland – and anybody who knows me can give a hearty amen to that – my children and soon to be two grandchildren are loved even more. We’re not going to miss any more time with them because, even as much as Ashland offers us that family feeling, my children and grandchildren are my family. And we’re not getting any younger. Blink and your kids are in college, blink again and they’re having babies, blink again and their children are graduating high school. I can’t let another blink get away from me.

So, we’ve sold our home of 30 years and we’re packing our bags for a new adventure in northern Kentucky. It will be one that will include important time with the grandchildren – going to Little League games, tea parties, swimming lessons, cheerleading competitions, and ballet recitals or whatever else their little hands touch. Between my wife’s parents and mine, we are well-versed in what it takes to be all-world grandparents. They taught us well. We watched and learned. Three-week-old milk isn’t the only thing that’s going to be spoiled.

This journey will also include a new church home where we will continue to serve God with all our might because that’s what our Savior deserves. Life wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t. We look forward to what may transpire there as well. God is calling us away from Ashland and that just means something great is around the corner – make that several corners – in northern Kentucky.

You will continue to see me on Facebook with a lot more photos of my grandchildren (if that’s possible). And we’re less than three hours away, so we won’t be strangers. We will be making trips to Ashland and, don’t worry, it will include the August staples of the CP-1 Baseball Hall of Fame and the Amy For Africa Wiffleball Tournament. My role with the Amy For Africa ministry will continue as well. Do yourself a favor and see what God is doing in Uganda through this great organization.

I’ll be watching you too Tomcats (thanks MyTown TV) and writing about you from my new press row seat in northern Kentucky when the mood strikes me (which, as you know, is quite often).

I’ll be watching you too Ashland. My hometown has some great days ahead. Make us proud with decisions that benefit growth for our children’s futures. They matter the most.

I love you Ashland and always will.

So why leave you ask? It’s simple and can be explained in one word: Family.

Tomcats won 56 consecutive games against regional competition from 1959-63

ASHLAND, Ky. – What do Joe DiMaggio and the Ashland Tomcats basketball program have in common?

They both have 56-game streaks.

DiMaggio has the unbreakable 56-game hitting streak for the New York Yankees from 1941 that remains one of the most elusive records in sports. Meanwhile, the 1959-63 Ashland Tomcat teams put together a remarkable 56-game winning streak against regional competition that remains the best mark in region history.

They have a challenger in the current run of Tomcats, who have a 41-game winning streak against 16th Region competition that ranks as the third-best mark in region history. Ashland has the potential of 10 region games remaining, including district and regional tournaments.

The 1962 Tomcats were state runners-up and part of a 56-game 16th Region winning streak from 1959-1963 that still ranks No. 1.

Should they win all those games, including if the Russell game is rescheduled, the Tomcats’ streak that started in February 2019 would reach 51 and be tied for second in region history. Ashland started a streak in the 1975-76 season that lasted until the district tournament in 1980 when Holy Family defeated the Tomcats, 69-64, to snap it at 51.

The 1959-60 Tomcats started the 56-game streak with the first game of that season. Ashland didn’t lose again until Jan. 29, 1963, when Russell downed the Tomcats 55-52 in the Red Devils’ gym.

Ashland has recorded eight streaks of 20 or more, including 39 (1927-30) that ties for fourth.

Boyd County had streaks of 26 (1994-96) and 24 (1980-82) and Clark County owned streaks of 39 (1947-50) and 28 (1956-58). Elliott County had a 30-game streak (2008-09), Olive Hill recorded 24 (1958-59) and Fleming County 21 (2013-14).

Ashland has been undefeated against region competition in the 2019-20 and 1920-21 seasons, going 19-0 and 15-0 respectively, under coach Jason Mays. The Tomcats are 4-0 so far this season. The current streak includes three wins from the regional tournament in March 2019.

Kudos to area sports historian Curtis Crye who tabulated these statistics.