Ironton ’72 state champs reflect on title during 50th reunion
Published 12:34 am Wednesday, June 8, 2022
By RICK MAYNE
For The Ironton Tribune
If author Thomas Wolfe, the originator of the quote “You can’t go back home,” had been a third base coach, then plenty of members of Ironton High School’s 1972 Class AA state championship baseball team would have run through his “stop sign” at third on their way home to celebrate their historic accompaniments, 50 years after the fact.
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The Fighting Tigers “Never Say No” team fashioned a 29-3 record on their way to the “AA” Ohio High School Athletic Association baseball crown.
During the Memorial Day weekend, former teammates and coaches gathered at various venues to remember their title winning season.
On Saturday after an earlier unveiling of their team picture and season recored portrait along Tiger Alley at Tanks Memorial Stadium, the team was saluted with a banquet at The Depot in downtown Ironton.
With approximately 75 in attendance including 13 layers long with head coach Mike Burcham and assistant coach Tom Castle, and family members representing some of the team’s players who have passed away over the years, team and individual contributions to the school first-ever team state championship were recognized.
Burcham highlighted the entire 1972 roster, taking note of each player’s role by underscoring former Ohio State Buckeyes head football coach Woody Hayes’ famous say (and book, “You Win With People.”
Ironton’s all-time wins leader as head coach pointed out that “everybody in our lineup could hit.”
Notable hitting feats among the regular lineup and reserve role players were shared by Burcham.
The coach recalled how strong his batting order was game in and game out, and that there were plenty of good players o this bench who could very well have been regulars for Ironton or any one number of other area high school teams.
An Ohio High School Hall of Famer as a baseball coach and athletic director praised the ’72 team’s pitching staff, reminding the audience that “Anybody who knows anything bout baseball knows you win with pitching, pitching, pitching,” and then adding “We had some good ones.”
He mentioned ace right-hander Jerry Murnahan’s 14-0 record that season plus an additional six saves including the state championship; the addition of fireball pitcher Jeff Collins and his 95 mile-an-hour fastball and sharp breaking curveball that included six innings and the win in the state title game; Rick Massey’s 8-1 mark and the key performances the team received from an especially deep pitching staff.
The champions were also saluted with a video tribute re-creating the seventh inning of the title-wining game against Solon.
Former Ironton radio sportscaster Greg Houston, whose father Frank announce the Tigers’ final game victory in 1972, delivered an inspirational address to the team.
Current Ironton head coach Travis Wylie also spoke, acknowledging the legacy by the 1972 state champions that included his father, Scott Wylie.
The crowning moment of the evening was the presentation of championship rings to players present and to family members representing some of the players who have passed away: Steve Massey, Greg Rogers, Keith Parker, Tino Boll and Jeff Collins.
In addition to the coaches, team members present including Jim Payne, Jim Tordiff, Rick Boykin, Rick Massey, Jerry Murnahan, Bob Bayert, Steve Johann, Fred Easterling, Mike Rowe, Mark Fairchild, Scott Wylie, Jeff Brickey and Terry Mowery.
Mr. Wolfe most likely could not have taken into account the strong ties an Ironton championship team and its coaches can maintain over 50 years. Going back home was the perfect way to celebrate.
(Rick Mayne is an Ironton native and 1973 graduate and former radio sportscaster.)