Memories of Woody: The man

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Last updated: 02/19/2013 4:01 AM
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Memories of Woody:  The Man
By Tony Gerdeman

It's amazing to think that every passing encounter that Woody Hayes had with the public would be burned into the mind of those whom he came into contact with, no matter how mundane the encounter.

Woody always knew his place, knew what he represented, and responded appropriately. Or at least what he viewed to be appropriate.

There are a lot of stories about Woody Hayes that might seem rather banal to outsiders, but they still provide a glimpse into the man that he was, though not always the man that we remember.

I met Woody twice. My father had played football at New Philadelphia when Woody was on the coaching staff. The last time I shook WWH's hand was in 1980 when he was a keynoter at a state conference. He remembered my father.

The first time I shook his hand was in 1958 at a Cleveland Indians game. Dad and I would use an uncle's tickets several times each season. The tickets were in the box seats just to the outfield side of the Indians' first base dugout.

The Indians' first baseman was Vic Power, a slick fielding guy who was an early adopter of the one-handed catch, which is the norm today.

After an inning or so we began hearing someone riding Power as he returned from the field to the dugout. Power was being called out for his show-off one-handed catches.

"Quit showing off, just catch the ball!" "Showboat!"

After a few innings of this, Power comes to the corner of the dugout and tried to get into the stands to get at the heckler. He challenged the heckler to meet him in the parking lot after the game.

It was then that dad recognized that Woody was the heckler and took me over for an introduction and hand shake. Woody remembered him, which impressed me.

Years later when dad was hospitalized someone had sent him Paul Hornung's (Columbus Dispatch Sports Editor) bio on Woody. I read it during long stays with my father. We both had a chuckle reading Hornung's description of the incident.

The Indians brass were upset since they had offered Hayes free tickets. However, Woody had insisted on paying for them so he did not feel beholden to the Tribe. As Hornung relates, Woody was in the parking lot after the game. Power didn't show.

"George Bland"

I went to school in the NWOAL from the 7th-9th grade (all of my family went to NWOAL schools, both sides.)

Woody came to speak at one of our sport banquets and our football coach introduced me as a future kicker for Ohio State. Woody just said something about keeping good grades.

The good part of his speech was when he spoke about signing Dave Purdy just so Bo couldn't have him. I think he said something about how he never intended on playing him, and got a big laugh from the audience.

He also told a story about that school up north finishing a weight room, or something football related, and it was bigger than Ohio State's similar building. He said he had the wall knocked down and expanded to make it bigger than that state up north's.

Nothing big really, but at age 15 I remember being in awe.

I had him autograph my seating place card...and I lost the damn thing in high school. What I wouldn't give to still have that.


Stradley Hall, 1971. I rode the elevator with him as he admonished my buddy for the cigarette in his hand


A friend's Woody story. As student and employee of OSU, a friend of mine’s son had access to Woody’s office. He was accepted into medical college and couldn’t wait to tell his parents, and used Woody’s phone to tell them.

As he was leaving the office, Woody was coming down the hall and said “Congratulations”. Amazed that Woody knew he was accepted into medical college, he asked him how he knew.

Woody said "Congratulations for turning out the lights, no one does that around here."

"Carmen Ohio II"

The real Woody Hayes. It occurred at the Fall banquet in Cleveland following the 1976 Michigan game. (A humbling, humiliating defeat, as we were shut out at home 22-0.)

During dinner numerous people approached the dais as he was eating requesting his autograph. Tacky I thought. Even worse they were using the restaurant's linen napkins. Woody graciously honored every request.

During his speech he brought it up. He noted that the napkins were expensive, and restaurant property. He said: "I kept count of every napkin I signed and intend to write a check to reimburse the restaurant for each one."

Didn't make a big deal of it; just mentioned it in passing. That was the real Woody Hayes.


There is a story about a father-son banquet in Dover. Woody was the after-dinner speaker. Folks were getting nervous because Woody was quite late arriving.

When he finally got there he ushered in an elderly woman. He was late because he had stopped in Newcomerstown and picked up one of his high school teachers whom he admired.

"George Bland"

I was in Stradley Hall in 1971 and watched him chew out a player in the lobby after he had been arrested the night before for a bar fight at the old North Berg.

It was pretty cool - Hayes standing in front of this kid, backed up against the wall, giving him 15 shades of Heck while jabbing him with his finger. All the while the lobby filled up with kids.


Handball vs. Woody. We were part of the NROTC unit and in the early 1960s the unit's offices were in the old natatorium (since demolished) adjacent to the handball/squash courts.

Woody had become friends with the Marine gunny (who looked like John Wayne) and the two of them would play doubles against us students. I twice had the privilege of getting roughed up and pushed around by them.

Both were lefties and that added to our woes. At the time I was about 170 lbs on a 6'2" frame, and fared no match for them. But we all looked forward to being asked to play, and hearing Woody's stories after the game. As everyone knows he loved the Navy and all who wore the uniform.


Part 1 of this series

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