Archdeacon: Bucky and the Governor bring a scrapbook to life

This is about the old scrapbook finally coming to life.

When Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was growing up on N. Winter Street in Yellow Springs in the 1950s, he was a huge University of Dayton basketball fan.

“My dad got me interested in the Flyers,” DeWine said. “That was one of the things he and I would do together. We’d listen to every game on the radio.

“For a number of years, we couldn’t really get tickets for the games because they were playing in the old Fieldhouse and that held what? Like 5,500 or something?

“But we’d listen to Charlie Hinkle, he was the announcer. Schoenling Beer was the sponsor and Vic Cassano always did his ‘Fans in the Stands’ pregame show.

“Then every Sunday we’d be up at my grandmother and grandfather’s for dinner. That would be followed by my dad and me watching the Tom Blackburn Show on TV. I think it used to come on about 12:30 and then at 1 o’clock was the Cleveland Browns game.”

Mike was the only child of Dick and Jean DeWine. His dad ran the seed store in town and shared his sports allegiances — the Cincinnati Reds, Ohio State football, UD basketball — with his son.

“Every year I knew the names of all the Flyers players and when you’re eight years old, they’re all your heroes,” DeWine said.

“One of my best friends — his name was Tommy Carlisle —his dad owned a grocery store in downtown Yellow Springs, and every year he put up one of the Schoenling Beer posters that had the Flyers schedule on it and pictures of all the players.

“I’d always go talk to the family and say, ‘Hey, at the end of the year when you’re done with the poster, can I have it?’

“I’ve still got 3 or 4 of those posters from different years back then.”

He also has the scrapbook he made of the 1955-56 Flyers.

He was eight when the season started, and the Flyers captured his imagination — and most of the rest of the Miami Valley’s — as they spent much of that year ranked No. 2 in the nation.

The stars of that team were: Bill Uhl, the 7-foot center who was the grandfather of current Flyer Brady Uhl, Jim Paxson Sr., Jim Powers, and Arlen “Bucky” Bockhorn. That season the Flyers won the prestigious University of Kentucky Invitational by edging third-ranked Utah and then romping past Adolph Rupp’s ninth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, 89-74.

UD would finish the season as the NIT runners-up with a 25-4 record and a No. 3 national ranking.

Every day that season, DeWine would scour the Dayton Daily News and the Journal Herald and clip out the stories Si Burick and Ritter Collett and anybody else had written about the Flyers. He went through rolls of scotch tape, affixing each article to the pages of his scrapbook.

Since his Uncle Jerry was a student at UK back then, DeWine’s parents took him to the Kentucky Invitational and today he still refers to it as “one of my great all-time thrills for sports.”

He has the game program and his family’s ticket stubs all pasted in the scrapbook. Other pages bear the little-boy penmanship he used to print the names of all the Flyers that season and then designate the starters.

The scrapbook is brittle and falling apart now, but the memories it holds not only have remained intact, they were enhanced when he shared his keepsake with Bockhorn and his wife Peggy during a visit to their Bellbrook home nine days ago.

DeWine has long felt a special connection to the now 90-year-old Bockhorn.

He followed Bucky’s stellar career as a UD player and then with the Cincinnati Royals, where he was the 6-foot-4, take-no-guff backcourt mate of Oscar Robertson.

After that, DeWine often listened to the courtside commentary Bockhorn provided during 50 years of broadcasting Flyers’ games.

When he would find time to juke step away from his political work — which took him to Washington D.C, as a member of the House of Representatives and then the Senate; and then to Columbus as Ohio’s Attorney General and for the past 4 ½ years as the governor — the 77-year-old DeWine and his wife Fran would return to UD Arena for a game and that includes a visit this 21-5 season.

“A lot of times over the years I’d wave to Bucky or sometimes I’d walk by when he was getting ready to broadcast and just say hello,” DeWine remembered.

When back surgery finally sidelined Bockhorn during the 2019-20 season, he said DeWine sent him a touching card.

Although Bockhorn remains connected to the Flyers — thanks especially to the daily phone calls of his old broadcast partner and good friend, Larry Hansgen; and through the game notes and stat sheets that UD sports information director Doug Hauschild sends him each week — he has not returned to the microphone since his surgery and some of the complications that followed.

DeWine misses that connection and that’s when he decided to visit Bockhorn and give him a high-resolution copy of his scrapbook.

“I couldn’t bear parting with the original,” he admitted in a quiet aside.

When DeWine’s aide — lawyer Michael Murry, who has UD season tickets that go back to his grandfather — called and said the governor wanted to visit two Fridays past (Feb. 16), Bockhorn momentarily hesitated.

He doesn’t like it when the spotlight is focused on him and Peggy, his wife of 66 years, worried about straightening up the house for their prestigious visitor.

But Bockhorn’s three grandchildren — Emma, Brad, and Laura — all wanted to meet the governor and, as it turned out, all the angst was for naught:

“It was great,” Bockhorn said. “The governor is just a good man. I was greatly impressed.”

DeWine felt the same abought him:

“Bucky’s an amazing guy. He’s an institution. He means so much to this community. He’s linked generations to the Flyers; he’s been their connection to the team.

“And more than that, spending a little time with him was just fun. His ability to tell a great story has not been impacted by his age. It was great hearing some of the stories about that team I loved so long ago.

“And I liked it when he shared some of his story on how he got to UD.”

‘Nothing quite like’ UD Arena

One of Elvin and Hulda Bockhorn’s 10 kids, Bucky grew up on the family’s hardscrabble farm in southern Illinois in the 1940s.

His dad was a coal miner, and the family was poor. Some of the older children were farmed out to live with other families so everyone could get enough to eat.

Several of the boys joined the military and two were killed in wars: Junior at Guadalcanal in World War II and Gene in Korea eight years later.

When he was a kid, Bucky was doing a man’s job in the fields. But he managed one diversion: a hoop he tacked to a chicken coop.

Basketball eventually took him from the barnyard to stardom at the local high school and then to the previously unimaginable world of University of Dayton — he had never been on a Greyhound bus, a plane, or a train when he got to UD — where he played on the freshman team and then left for two years of military service.

When he returned, his Flyers’ teams went 69-17 in his last three seasons and twice finished as NIT runners-up.

During his senior season he was joined on the team by his brothers: Terry and Harold. They became the only trio of brothers to play together on the same D-I team for 50 years.

Next came seven NBA seasons and since then Bockhorn has been duly honored: He’s a member of the Flyers’ All-Century team and is enshrined in both the UD Hall of Fame and the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame.

Bockhorn began his UD broadcasting career in 1970, partnering first with former Flyers player Chris Harris and then, for some four decades with Hansgen.

In the process he became one of the most beloved figures ever associated with UD basketball, a point which used to be underscored at every game when every Flyers’ player would come to him during pregame warm-ups and give him a fist bump of respect.

As for DeWine, he and his dad eventually did get access to UD tickets at the Fieldhouse.

“My dad finally found a Catholic priest up around Greenville who had season tickets,” DeWine said. “There were 15 home games then and the priest would keep four — always Xavier and three others — and we took the rest.”

He admitted once he got to high school, he was “more interested” in his girlfriend, Fran Struewing, who he‘d met in the first grade and gone with on his first date — bowling — in seventh grade.

“We went to a few UD games at the Fieldhouse, but I was focused on her,” DeWine laughed. “When she decided to go to Miami University, I followed her, and we went to every Miami game at Withrow Court back then.”

They married while they were at Miami and would go on to have eight children.

But even through the demands of his ever-growing family and an ascending political career, DeWine followed the Flyers as much as he could and said he looked forward to the times he could join the Arena crowd in person:

“Sports brings communities together and when you go over to UD Arena, there’s just nothing quite like it as far as the enthusiasm. We’re very, very fortunate. I mean think about it. There are 13,500 people or whatever in a community this size and it’s sold out every game.

“And then you have the crowds at the First Four games every year. I don’t know of anyplace else in the country that could do that.

“It’s just a great, great thing and it’s an awful lot of fun.”

Still ‘engaged’ with the Flyers

Hansgen misses having Bucky — who took him under his wing during their early days and has since become his “mentor, father figure and great friend” — at his side on the broadcast table, but he said they talk after every game.

He said Bucky watches the games on TV, but doesn’t listen to the radio broadcasts, where former UD players like Keith Waleskowski and Josh Postorino now provide the color commentary:

“He doesn’t want to be critiquing anybody, but he’s really engaged with what’s happening with the team and he has opinions on what’s going on and who’s playing well and who is not.”

When we spoke the other day Bockhorn praised the coaching job Anthony Grant was doing this year, but worried that the Flyers might not have enough muscle on the boards against the most physical teams they could meet.

DeWine said he wants to catch another game in person this year:

“I’m hoping when they get into the NCAA Tournament, if we’re lucky, they’ll be in driving distance.

“I want to see them because they’re a very, very exciting team.”

And after that, Bockhorn said the governor reached out to him about a return get-together, this time for lunch.

It’s not about the food, it’s about DeWine’s appetite for Flyers hoops, present and especially past.

It’s about bringing that old scrapbook back to life once again.

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