Meet this baseball-loving 95-year-old — and Joey Votto’s biggest fan

Ernesta Szabo in 1943 after joining the Marines. CONTRIBUTED
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Ernesta Szabo in 1943 after joining the Marines. CONTRIBUTED

When Ernesta “Ernie” Szabo was born 95 years ago into a large Italian family in Canton, Ohio, the world was a very different place.

There were no microwaves, no computers and the invention of the television was still five years away. But growing up in a bustling household with six sisters and one brother, she soon discovered she shared a love of baseball with her father.

“Dad liked the Cleveland Indians,” said Ernie, who lives in Englewood. “And he would listen to the games (on the radio) when I was a little girl, and that’s when I first started liking baseball. I remember one time they had a double header and I was still up at 2 in the morning!”

According to Ernie’s grandson Tim Szabo, who lives nearby in Dayton, his grandmother remains a huge baseball fan today, and since moving to the Dayton area 60 years ago, she has been a Cincinnati Reds fan.

“I come over and Grandma is always watching the Reds and yelling at the TV,” Tim said. “She is amazing to still be doing so much at her age!”

Ernie has seen a lot of changes over the course of her long life, from watching the price of bread rise from 10 cents a loaf to the differences in the way children are raised.

“My father wouldn’t let us date at all,” Ernie said. “So I just joined the service. I only went through (school) to the 10th grade because I had to work when I was 16. I made airplane parts.”

Ernie joined the Marines in 1943 and decided to volunteer to be a cook so she “wouldn’t have to march.” She met her Hungarian husband, Charles “Chuck” Szabo, who was from Dayton, while she was in the Marines, and they were married two years later.

“We moved to Arcanum and lived there for 30 years and eventually moved to Dayton and lived there for 30 years,” Ernie said. “My husband and I both liked baseball. But Chuck always liked the Yankees!”

The couple raised a family of three children, Donna, Barb and Chuck. Though her husband had a stroke and passed away in 2009, Ernie continues to enjoy spending time with her large extended family of 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Over the years, Ernie continued to cook wonderful meals for family and friends. Tim said he remembers lasagnas and pasta dishes and desserts that made his mouth water. But today she says she has given that up and now enjoys going to the casinos, and of course, watching her beloved Reds and of course, Joey Votto.

And on July 17th, she celebrated her 95th birthday with about 50 of her family and friends.

“I didn’t know I had that many friends!” Ernie said. “It was a great surprise.”

As for Joey Votto’s “biggest fan?”

“I’ve been a fan of his since he started with the Reds,” Ernie said. “He’s a good first baseman and a real cutie. My granddaughter Emily got me a signed picture while he was in training in Florida.”

Would she love to meet him one day?

“I wouldn’t care to go to a game with all those people. But would I meet him if he’d come to me? Sure, I would!”