By Steve Joos
There used to be a telephone ad on television where an old reporter files his last story, on an unspecified athletic event and then takes one last look around an empty stadium before going home.
I knew I should have hung around the football field at Mount Vernon a little longer after the Wildcats’ home opener.
When the late Jim Kohlmeyer called me at my office in West Salem at the end of July, 1989, little did I know what I was getting into.
After putting him off for two months, I finally moved into Poseyville in November with the intention of staying just long enough until the right opportunity opened up closer to home (Peoria, Ill.).
Unfortunately, that opportunity has opened up, after nearly 23 years.
This is the last week I’ll be working with the News, as mostly health issues have forced me to step aside from my duties as sports editor.
And in a lot of ways, I do mean forced.
I knew this day was going to come, but who wants it come early?
And if leaving my previous job was tough, then how much more so would be leaving a place where one has fit into all these years?
I guess that’s the biggest thing that I’m thankful for.
That everybody here (even with some of the things that I wrote about New Harmony) have put up with the sometimes late and inaccurate (if I’d had that eye problem when I first started, I might not have called one kid on the South Terrace sixth grade boys’ basketball team “Paula” Esche) things I’ve sometimes done while writing sports for the Posey County News.
To say that the people were the best thing anyone remembers about a project is something of a cliché, but that is just about the way I feel.
There are just so many memorable people that I have met in this position, many of them from day one.
There are times when I still see Brady Gottman on the wrestling mat—the intense kid with the Bart Simpson haircut.
Or Mandy Crowe speeding down the lanes of the pool, her strokes so fast, one thinks they’re watching stop-action photography.
Another grappler, Andy Schneider. Look up; he’s squaring off with his opponent. Look down, upgrade the bracket, look back up “The Bear” has his opponent on his back.
Chris Sapp coming off the football field for the last time in the Sectional semifinals as a senior after twice coming up a game shy of the Dome.
I could probably devote a month’s worth of special issues just to listing names.
They used to do personality profiles in Courier and Press’ Westside supplement and one of the questions was “Favorite Team and Athlete.”
Nobody asked, but here goes.
Favorite team? The Bradley Braves men’s basketball team.
Favorite athletes? Jamie Grabert, Brady Gottman, Mandy Crowe, Caryn Koch, Jill Reynolds, Tim Kahle, Jeff Maricle, Whitney Espenlaub, Sarah Seib, Jennifer Donner, Chace Akers, Jared Baehl—OH HECK! Every high school athlete from Posey County since the fall of 1989!
That’s Chace Akers, right.
I have something to say to every sportswriter who got the name to the 1994 Indiana state wrestling champion at 160 pounds wrong.
I did it when he was a seventh-grader.
Oh and we can’t forget the coaches, each one of whom have or had their own styles, personalities and quirks.
Dave Bell and Peanut Titzer both seemed to walk out of a major league dugout; Joe Gengelbach was like one of those old mentors that everybody looks up to, while Rick Johnson seemed to have come with New Harmony.
I can’t forget their catchphrases, either.
Larry Zoller always talks about “our awesome swims,” Vicki Rueger always talked about “the guys” and Liz Castle wanted everyone to remember that the soccer Lady Wildcats “were not just MV anymore.”
Lora Osborne, who coached girls’ basketball at Hew Harmony briefly before “Mr. Kahle” took it over, like to talked about how strong her team was.
Sorry to overlook the obvious ones, like Greg Meyers, Brian Smith, Doug Hamm, Larry Kahle, Tom Heckman, Kyle Jones, Jeff May, Franzy Fleck, Steve Mitchell, Leigh Ann Latshaw, Kim Merrick, Jeff Crabtree, Mary Heldt, Mike Kuhn, Paul Rynkiewich, Bill Christianson, Rick LaGrange, Gary Gentil, Eda Jung, Don Sellers, Paul Maier, Jackie Maier, Doug Blair, the list goes on and on. There are too many to mention here and just mentioning their names says nothing of how much they’ve meant these past 23 years.
I think I’m going to miss razzing coach Jung and the rest of the North Posey guidance department as well as the office staff more than anything.
I would never forgive myself if I failed to give a shout out to Rick Wilgus, who often used my tendency to spend too much time in the office as an example of dedication to duty, and whose family was as much fun to be around as it was to watch his teams play basketball.
And of course, “The Mair of Owensville.”
Talk about unforgettable characters. I would, but I can’t print that.
And some of the memories I’m taking with me back to Illinois.
Traveling to the Dome with the 2005 Viking football team was another highlight, as was going to the state baseball finals three times (what a road trip: Wilgus, J.R. Seymour, Mel Redman and Mike Swartzentruber stopping Vincennes and Terre Haute en route to Indy).
Going to North Montgomery with the Viking football team in the mid 1990’s, then traveling with them to Lawrenceburg and Indy in 2005. That same year, the baseball team passed North Montgomery going to and from West Lafayette, the second time with the Class 2A state championship trophy.
Talking to Kevin Wassmer after winning the Evansville City Men’s Golf Championship and then as North Posey’s girls’ coach.
Going to Forest Park with the North Posey softball team, watching them battle for four hours to win a Sectional, then going to Indy twice; once, for a heartbreaking loss and then coming up a game short of a state title.
Virgil Ferguson (whom I don’t do a very believable impression of, for obvious reasons), Chuck Valier, Gary Redman (thanks for keeping tabs on my notebooks), Tom Kopatich, John Wood, Bill Powell, Steve Riordan, Jerry Funkhouser (Kyle was his pup), Steve Britt, Jackson Higgins, Tom McNamara, Scott Mitchell, Jimmy Key, Jerry Rutledge, the Werry’s, the Schmitt’s, just too many to mention.
Ed Cooper, Jr., who I covered as he sent his piston-engine powerboat out on the river at Thunder on the Ohio and had varying degrees of success against the big guys, winning it one year.
I had the privilege of knowing these people?
Not bad, I guess.
Not bad at all.
I’ve never been to any of my high school class reunions. My own high school days weren’t pleasant and I always felt closer to the schools I covered anyway, but I always liked going to the Mount Vernon M-Club Hall of Fame banquet, because over the years, that became a time to see some of the kids “The Juice” covered and catch up with them.
When Max Dieterle Jr. and the 1999 Football Sectional champs were among the honorees, was probably my favorite.
They were all hard-working kids.
I just hoped I worked as hard in covering them.
Thanks for the memories.
Forgive me if I didn’t mention your name or team. You were all special.
Time for me to leave the sidelines.
By Steve Joos
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