Rapp#8217;s stories, laugh won#8217;t easily be forgotten

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 3, 2007

I can still remember the stories and hear the laugh. It’s hard to recall how many times Bill Rapp walked into the Ironton High School football coaches’ office and start in with one of his sports stories, usually about a game he officiated.

And I can still hear Ironton coach Bob Lutz firing one-liners at him.

“I don’t know why I come in here,” Rapp would say to Lutz with a chuckle.

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“I keep wondering the same thing,” Lutz fired back.

“Damn you, Lutz, “ Rapp would say, again letting go with his recognizable laugh.

The laughter died Tuesday when Rapp suffered an apparent heart attack when he was starting a round of golf at the Ironton Country Club.

Rapp loved golfing, but his greatest love — other than his late wife, Lynn — was officiating football.

Rapp’s original officiating crew included Ralph Davis, Gene Jones, and Carl Palmer.

When Palmer died, Joe Swarts stepped into the crew. Rusty White joined the group when crews expanded to five men. Jim Mahlmeister eventually replaced James.

Ronnie Vanderhoof and Tim Collins filled in when needed.

Rapp had a lot of great memories and stories from his officiating career.

One of his best memories was Marshall’s win over Xavier, the Herd’s first followed the plane crash disaster in 1970.

Marshall rallied to win on the final play of the game. Rapp and his crew ran off the field after signaling the touchdown.

Herd coach Jack Lengyl yelled at Rapp, “Bill, Bill. Aren’t you going to kick the extra point?

“I said ‘what for?’ He said, ‘to make it official.’ I said, ‘Believe me, it’s official. Let’s get the hell out of here.’”

The fans swarmed the field.

“They went crazy and I don’t blame them. They’ve had their share of problems, but now their football has been is doing well,” Rapp said.

Rapp said the release of the movie “We Are Marshall” made him think of the games he officiated for Lengyl.

“He was a good guy. I liked him,” Rapp said of Lengyl.

Marshall used to have a live buffalo at its games as the mascot, much like Colorado. But that changed after the buffalo got loose before a game.

And it just happened to be a game Rapp was working.

The buffalo got loose about the time the game was going to kick off. Lengyl came out of the locker room and told Rapp, “Bill, don’t you dare blow that whistle and get them running. That buffalo is likely to go wild out there.

Rapp assured Lengyl they weren’t going to do anything. “I told him we’d wait until you get (the buffalo) corralled.”

There are a lot of other stories Bill Rapp liked to tell. I’m going to miss those stories.

And that laugh.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.