Woody Hayes and politics

by Marc Katz

So I’m in the sports office at a ridiculous time of the morning–1:45 a.m.–and, of course, I can’t remember what I was doing there, but I didn’t and still don’t drink or do drugs, so I wasn’t lost.

This was pre-computer/cellphone days, which was a time when dinosaurs still roamed the land–not those big boney ones you see in museums. The smaller ones that also don’t exist anymore, but you knew they were dinosaurs.

This was also pre-cable, so the three choices you had were CBS, NBC, and ABC and by midnight, most of the shows were over.

In just a few weeks, the Democratic National Convention will be held in Philadelphia, just a few days after the Republican National Convention finishes in Cleveland.

I couldn’t be more excited. In my world, reality TV is games and matches, not contests for seeing how many people can yell at the
same time.

I guess, though, what happens this July will not be unprecedented.

In 1972, the Democrats–it took a little research to remember–had themselves quite a week’s full of all-night discourse, which I was drawn into for a few moments of
my time.

Remember television in 1972? Yeah, three networks and maybe a local station and everybody signing off at midnight ‘cause there was noting left to say.

Let me inject an aside here: hello, CNN? Networks shut down at midnight because there was nothing left to say.

But on July 11, 1972, the cameras stayed on the action. Eventually, the convention would nominate George McGovern for president and Thomas Eagleton for vice president.

I guess I’d heard the names before, but the only presidents I really knew about were Washington and Lincoln, not because they were the fathers of our country and so honest, but because their pictures were on the $1 bill and $5 bill, about the largest currency sizes in my wallet at any one time.

One more digression: Eagleton had to drop off the ticket due to some previous mental disability. Sargent Shriver replaced him.

Anyway, I wasn’t going to be watching much of this, but I was aware of a roll call and how every time it came to Ohio, the head of the Buckeye delegation was not ready.

He kept passing.

Don’t get ahead of me here. I know what you’re thinking.

And the roll call goes on and on.

Walter Cronkite is in the anchor chair for CBS and he can’t resist the jibe.

“Ohio makes more adding machines than any place in the country, the great NCR is located there,” Cronkite said, unaware that several years later, NCR would skip out on the town that nourished its youth. “But apparently no one from there is in the [Ohio] delegation.”

So this is going on and I’m doing some work, and the telephone rings. For you kids out there, a telephone was a bulky black paperweight that sat on a desk with a white faceplate with black numbers that did not light up.

Nobody was due in the office until about 6 a.m. (the Dayton Daily News was an afternoon paper then, so putting it out in the morning was how the operation started).

Nobody called at 1:45 a.m., unless television extended its broadcast to accommodate the Democratic National Convention.

But one guy did call. Startled, I answered the phone, and he wanted Si Burick, our legendary sports editor, who usually came in the office about 10 a.m.

The call was well worth answering as it had real entertainment value.

I copied down everything the guy said, leaving the note on Burick’s typewriter. On Friday, July 14, 1972, Burick shared the note with
his readers.

“From the odds and ends zone…

The phone rang in the sports department in the wee hours of Tuesday. Marc Katz of our staff was in the office and he took a message, which he passed on to the sports editor, who, happy to report, wasn’t there at
the time.

Guy called for you at 1:45 a.m., no less. Said his name was [is] Herb Gray and he’d been watching the Democratic convention on TV. [That was the night Ohio’s spokesman never was quite ready when the states
were polled.]

“I was watching Ohio keep passing in the roll call, and I was wondering why we don’t send Woody Hayes down there. He doesn’t like to pass,’ Mr. Gray said.

‘That, so help me, was what your pal said.’”

As you may, or may not, know, Hayes was the four yards and a cloud of dust guy coaching Ohio State’s Buckeyes. He was busy that July diagramming a 9-2 season that included losses only to Michigan State [19-12 and hotly contested by Hayes] and USC in the Rose Bowl, 42-17.

Greg Hare, the OSU quarterback at the time, completed 55 of only 111 passes on the season for 815 yards. He actually ran nearly as many times as he passed, 87.

At least Hayes was going to Rose Bowls. It was his third of four in consecutive seasons.The guys on the Republican ticket that summer? Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. They both ended up resigning before their terms were over.

Years later, I actually saw Nixon at Hayes’ funeral. Hayes was a Nixon supporter.

I didn’t get close enough to tell Nixon about the caller who wanted Hayes to help out the Democrats. I’ll bet he would have
laughed, though.

Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at katzcopsnsports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@daytoncitypaper.com.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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