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Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

A treasure trove of local sports memories

By Robb Hemmelgarn

In over 30 years of covering sports, longtime Daily Standard sports writer Mark. . .

One of the first sporting events I ever covered for The Daily Standard was a volleyball match in Houston in August of 2001.
I had just made my way to my seat and within a few moments I noticed my co-worker, Mark Ruschau, settled in directly across the gym with his program folded open and a pen and notepad in his hand.
I immediately fell into panic-mode wondering if he was covering this game, where the heck was I supposed to be?
I speed-walked over to Mark and he calmly assured me that he was there only as a spectator. He wasn't scheduled to work that night and went on to explain that for fun he and his wife, Theresa, usually tried to catch games on his off-nights.
That same scenario repeated itself innumerable times over the next 12 or 13 years, and although I knew better, seeing Mark at a game I was covering never failed to engulf me with the initial sense that I had messed up and that he was actually there to cover the game.
I couldn't fathom at the time how many games Mark and Theresa attended through the years both as spectators and when Mark was on the clock, but unfortunately, it wouldn't be long before I had a rather accurate idea.
Sadly, Mark passed on Jan. 5, 2014 and seeing him at games decked out in his black and purple Northwestern University jacket was an aspect that I missed almost immediately.
A couple of months ago, Gary Rasberry shot me an email explaining that Theresa was organizing her basement and she had some souvenir programs to donate, and Gary felt I may be interested.
I've been collecting - hoarding - local sports memorabilia for decades but figured it couldn't hurt to reach out to Theresa to see what she and Mark had also taken in over the years.
I eventually spoke with Theresa and told her I would be glad to stop by and take anything off of her hands that she no longer needed. When she asked exactly how big my truck was, I knew right then it was going to be a very interesting trip.
Upon venturing into the basement, I couldn't believe what was waiting down the stairs and around the corner. Piled up over a sizable portion of the room were boxes upon boxes of programs, game notes, rosters and scorebooks dating back more than 30 years.
By the time we shuttled everything into two truckloads, I had to figure out what I planned to do with the treasure trove.
It didn't take long to realize that Mark and Theresa attended more than just local high school games. The boxes were loaded with programs galore from countless college, semi-professional and professional events, as well as obscure games ranging from state CYO tournaments to midget football, as well as booklets representing many former programs such as Ohio City and Mendon-Union. Programs for the Cheryl Ann Bobcats were found as well.
For me personally, Mark's collection was the proverbial gold mine. After cataloging and storing the items which I felt would be most beneficial to my various avenues of research, I contacted local athletic directors and offered them all of the duplicates from their respective schools as well as countless programs from a variety of state tournaments in Ohio and Indiana.
Nestled between the covers of many of the older programs are hilariously incriminating pictures in terms of hair and uniform style of many local head coaches, athletic directors and sports writers which I am looking forward to using in future renditions of 'Throwback Thursdays' on Twitter. It was also cool to see how far technology has come through the decades as far as the artwork of the booklets. Long gone are the days of two-tone, dot matrix words and pictures.
I spoke with Theresa shortly after the trip to her basement and we laughed at the obscurity of some of the teams Mark had watched over the years, but we agreed they were a major part of who he was.
It's been more than a year and it is still strange not seeing Mark pacing the sidelines of a Fort Recovery football game or sitting midway up the bleachers at the Hangar in Maria Stein for a girls' varsity contest, but those types of events were just the tip of the iceberg to what our friend and colleague at the Daily Standard was all about. If you don't believe me, I have a mountain of boxes to prove it.
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