An old friend I never knew


When the office telephone rang one day last week, Paul Edwin Maple’s 1964 book, “A History of the South Central Ohio High School Athletic League” was resting on my desk. When I picked up the phone the voice on the other end said, “Hi, this is John Maple.”

John told me that his father, Paul Edwin, had passed away and he wanted to place an obituary in The Times-Gazette.

I was immediately both sad and excited.

I never met Paul Maple. But from the time I started as a sports reporter at this newspaper in 1983 his book has served as an invaluable reference for me. That’s why it was resting on my desk when John called.

Just two days before, Mark Huber, a longtime colleague in this business from our sister paper, the Wilmington News Journal, had contacted me asking if I had a list of past South Central Ohio League team champions in various sports. I have my own list of SCOL football champions that runs from the league’s first season in 1923 to 1991, when the league disbanded, and my own list of wrestling team champions from 1971 (when the SCOL wrestling championships started) to 1991.

But for lists of SCOL basketball and track and field team champions, I turned to the pages of Paul Maple’s book once again.

Paul’s book is actually a bound copy of a seminar paper he presented to the faculty of the Graduate College of Ohio University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a master’s of education degree.

The first time I saw the book it grabbed my attention because I was already somewhat steeped in the history of the SCOL since my father, my siblings and I all competed in it, and I had watched countless SCOL games growing up. But as I turned the pages of the book I quickly learned I did not know all that much.

In the years since, the book has become like a trusted old friend.

It tells the story of organized high school athletics in this area as far back as 1901 and how they led to the formation of the SCOL. It tells of the formation of an athletic booster club in Hillsboro in 1912. It tells of Hillsboro’s Richard F. Evans dying of an injury he sustained in a Wooster College football game in 1907 and how Hillsboro banned football for 10 years afterward.

It tells of the SCOL’s first day of competition on Oct. 5, 1923 when three football games were contested. For the record, the scores were Chillicothe 50, Hillsboro 0; Washington C.H. 13, Greenfield 0; and Wilmington 38, Circleville 0.

It tells of Greenfield’s swim team originating in 1928, of McClain All-Ohio basketball player Gerald “Red” Armstrong returning to his alma mater in 1929 as coach and athletic director then going on to tutor three more All-Ohioans, and the story of the SCOL first disbanding from 1931-35.

Check back here next week for all the interesting details.

As we talked, John told me of his father coaching at Greenfield with Paul Orr and Bob Watts, two upstanding gentlemen who have helped me with stories for this newspaper on many, many occasions.

John told of Jim Knowles playing for Ara Parseghian – who would go on to coach football at Notre Dame – at Northwestern University. John said Knowles could kick the football a mile. He said one time Northwestern was playing Oklahoma and Parseghian told Knowles to kick one deep, but Knowles decided an onside kick was in order. Knowles never kicked for Parseghian again.

John said Parseghian told Knowles, “If I wanted you to coach I would have asked you!”

When Paul was 78 years old, John said there was an all-class reunion in Greenfield. He said Fred Raike kept asking Paul who the guy talking to Orr and Watts was that looked so familiar, and that Raike even had his picture taken with the three. The photo came out in the Greenfield paper saying the four had 149 years of coaching experience between them.

The guy Raike didn’t recognize was Parseghain, who married a girl from Greenfield.

John said that after his dad’s book came out, Paul gave one to every school in the SCOL and they were all supposed to pay for them. Everyone paid except Washington C.H., which John said was funny because the two schools were big rivals in those days.

It’s too bad I had to talk to John on such on occasion. It’s too bad I never met his dad. But Paul lived to the age of 90 and when I talked to his son it was like talking to an old friend. Because I assume Paul Edwin Maple was somewhat similar to Mr. Orr and Mr. Watts, two men I hold in high reghard, it is reasonable to believe that he lived a good life.

So when I turn the pages of his book from now on, I will feel like I at least know him somewhat, and it will be with all the more reverence.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

Jeff Gilliland Staff Columnist Gilliland Staff Columnist

By Jeff Gilliland

[email protected]

No posts to display