Robert Fink: Teacher, coach and AD at Northridge for 36 years; assistant/head football coach from '63 through '93; member of the DePauw University Athletic Hall of Fame.
HARRISON TWP. (Montgomery Co.) — Alexander, Iowa — pop. 90 — may be a four-corner country crossroads hamlet, but it happens to be where Kentucky basketball great Walt Hirsch hangs his hat.
Despite a 50-inch winter total snowfall that chilled his hometown, Hirsch, the proud product of the Adolph Rupp era, still managed to make it back to his old alma mater — Northridge High School — for the school’s first-ever athletic Hall of Fame fete.
As a member of the Polar Bears’ state ‘B’ basketball championship run in 1945, Hirsch was one of the inductees in what could have been labeled a reunion of Northridge royalty.
The inductees, which included that 28-1 team as one induction, showcased eight state champions, including members of the state 3,200-meter relay foursome of 1989.
Also enshrined were the renowned Pollard brothers, Bobby and Jimmy; football great Matt MacPherson, three-sport ace James Donnelly, tennis standout Larry Pedicord, veteran coach C.J “Zeke” Szekley, wrestler Shawn Brightman and longtime athletic director Bob Fink.
Hirsch, who played alongside older brother, Bob, on that ‘Ridge hoop title team, was joined by another ’45 survivor, Sam Armstrong, at the banquet.
According to Hirsch, the only other survivor is Jack Springfield of Lodi, Calif.
The 80-year-old Hirsch, a star of four NCAA championship teams at UK when it was known as “The Blue Nation” — fondly recalled his great career at UK — and the quirk that kept him out of the ’51 NCAA title showdown.
“The NCAA let freshman play then because of the war, but they came back in my senior year and said I could not play in the post-season — and I was team captain,” Hirsch said.
“So, they defeated Kansas in the final, without me.”
Hirsch, married to his wife, Vicky, for 50 years, played with an older brother, Bob Hirsch, who was a senior and the team’s top pointmaker that championship 1944-45 season. Walt was a sophomore.
“It was so touching getting back to the old school,” said Hirsch. “We won 43 straight in one stretch of my career there — it’s still a school record.”
Another inductee making it big on a national level after a colorful NHS career is Bobby Pollard, (’75) a pop-rock artist from Clayton who heads up the group Boston Spaceship, previously known as Guided By Voices.
And he was joined on this historic Hall presentation by his brother, high-scoring ’Ridge basketball whiz Jimmy (’80) — the sons of Bob Pollard of Harrison Twp.
Both were three-sport stars (basketball, baseball, football) and Bobby’s claim to fame was pitching the first no-hitter in Wright State history in ’78. He was the Bears’ quarterback on the gridiron.
Jimmy, a Dayton resident, was SWBL Player of the Year twice in both basketball and football and was Agonis Club and Dayton Daily News Athlete of the Year in ’80. Also in 1979-80 he led the state in scoring his senior hoop season with a 36.1 average and was first team all-state.
Donnelly (’49) of Huber Heights was also a three-sport hero who later played football at the University of Dayton, helped lead Mike Kelly’s Flyers into the Salad (now Fiesta) Bowl — UD’s first appearance in a major bowl.
He’s a UD and Dayton Amateur Baseball Association Hall of Famer, and the 79-year-old has a World Series ring as a batting practice hurler for the Cincinnati Reds — the Big Red Machine — in 1972.
Mike Mescher, alumni Web site coordinator and ’Ridge Hall publicist, said one of the key people responsible for getting the school hall off the ground was first-year AD Phil Rench.
“It had been in the planning stages a long time,” Mescher said.
Chairman of the affair was veteran teacher-coach Sonny Szekley.
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