Windham – The heroes and villains of local high school sports entered the spotlight this month with the publication of “The Windham Bombers,” the history of the first 50 years of Windham High School sports.
Written by Windham High School and Hiram College graduate George Belden, the book involved ten years of research and interviews with hundreds of former athletes and coaches in order to peer backwards through time to the beginnings of team sports in Windham.
At the same time, it is really a history of Portage County sports. Local high schools that disappeared though consolidation, Freedom, Nelson, Garrettsville, and Hiram, come to life again though their competition with the Bombers since 1927.
But the real highlight of the book is the intense rivalry between Windham and Garrettsville, which had a head start by sponsoring teams for well over a century. The Garrettsville girls’ basketball teams of the 1920’s, and the state-qualifying boys’ basketball team of 1932 are the stuff of legends, but once Windham built a gymnasium, it has been 90 years of head-to-head competition.
There are many lengthy stories of the battles between the two schools, including the story of Garrettsville superstar Mary Jean Bock, the leading scorer in Portage County girls basketball in 1933-1935, and the tragedy that befell her the night after her greatest triumph. Also, the 1966 Windham-Garrettsville football game, played in a blizzard with the Portage County League championship on the line, is recounted in all its epic detail.
Chapters in the book cover girls basketball in the 1930’s and the yearly battles between Windham, Nelson and Garrettsville. Two chapters are devoted to the Ohio State and National champion Six-Man Football teams of Windham, which were so powerful that three players from the 1940 team were chosen as first-team All-Americans by “American Boy” Magazine, and the story of how Hiram High School ended the longest winning streak in Ohio history.
Three chapters cover the career of Leo Kot, the “Dean of Portage County Football Coaches,” including Windham’s years as an independent, and then in the tiny and long-forgotten Tomahawk Conference, made up of Southeast, Crestwood and Windham.
Boys basketball earns chapters devoted to the great coaches before current mentor and Garfield graduate Marty Hill – coaches that took the Bombers to the height of glory, including the 1951-52 team that went 25-0 in the regular season.
The final chapter covers the 1974 Bombers football team, which became the first Portage County team to make the Final Four in the OHSAA Football Playoffs.
Belden’s book is available on Amazon by typing “Windham Bombers” into the search box. It can also be purchased for $15 check or money order from Belden at George Belden,1224 North Mantua Street, Kent, Ohio 44240-2330.
In addition, Belden will be having a book signing at the first Bombers home game on September 2. Books will only be $10 that night.
100% of the profits from the book will be used for the benefit of Windham Bombers athletics.