Friday, April 29, 2016

Norwalk, Ohio residents remember baseball legend 'Lefty' Grove (feature)

NORWALK, Ohio — The long-time commissioner of the Lefty Grove Baseball League said the Hall of Famer’s name brings credibility and stature to the 60-year program.

Created in 1956 by the Norwalk Junior Chamber of Commerce, the pre-teen league was named after Robert M. “Lefty” Grove on May 8, 1962. Grove retired in Norwalk in 1961, living in the Maple City until his death in 1975.

Scott Ford, the league commissioner for 18 years, was asked what the program means to the Norwalk-area community.

Scott Ford has been the commissioner
of the Lefty Grove Baseball League in
Norwalk, Ohio for 18 years.
“I hope they see it as a recreational baseball program that (for) the kids I hope (creates) very good memories of their summers,” he said. “The first year I was on the board was 1977.”

Ford didn’t get a chance to meet Grove.

“He used to hang out with George Schild. They used to play cars in the back of the store,” Ford said, referring Schild’s IGA. “His best friend was George Schild.”

Don Hohler befriended Grove, whom he interviewed three or four times for the NORWALK REFLECTOR newspaper.

“I met him and we hit up a pretty good friendship,” said Hohler, a longtime sports writer.

“He never got along really well the press,” he said. “Maybe for once in his life, (Grove) found a guy who didn’t badger him. I had a job to do and interviewed him. I think he appreciated that.”

Robert "Lefty" Grove
Hohler said Grove was quite a character, but he made time for youngsters.

“He was very cordial with the kids,” Hohler said.

There’s no doubt Schild and Grove talked baseball since both were pitchers. Hohler said Schild “could have made the minors and possibly the majors.”

“He was a helluva pitcher. He was one of the best amateur pitchers in leagues around here,” Hohler continued. “He was dominant in the leagues.”

One day, Grove called Hohler and requested they get together at his home. Grove then gave the sports writer one of his baseball cards from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Inducted in 1947, Grove made it on the first ballot.

“He signed it for me. That card is treasured now,” said Hohler, who gave the autographed card to his son. “I’m sure it’s worth a lot more than the memories I have of it.”

Hohler never saw Grove play baseball.

Don Hohler
“I would loved to have been around to see him pitch,” said Hohler, estimating the left-handed pitcher stood between 6-foot-2-inches and 6-foot-4-inches tall in spikes.

During Grove’s 17-year Major League Baseball career, he led the American League in wins during four different seasons and strikeouts seven years in a row. For nine years, he had the lowest earned run average (aka ERA) in the A.L.

(For more of Grove's stats, follow this link for and for more about his life and career, go his Wikipedia page.) 

“If (his pitching) was anything compared to him in retirement, that would have been the price of admission,” Hohler said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This feature ran in Monday's (April 25) issue of the NORWALK REFLECTOR. It ran as a sidebar to the front page story about the memorial statue being built for the Lefty Grove Park, which will be in downtown Lonaconing, Md., where Grove was born and raised. Cary's Comics Craze blogger/webmaster Cary Ashby wrote both stories. 

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