(The following was written by Marlyn England, and is reprinted from “Reflections”, a collection of local stories available at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum. Any opinions made in the article are from the author.)
As a high school student in 1907, Grover Davis was to be part of many” firsts” in the Grove City Schools. The high school pupils were still housed with the primary grades in the old Park Street School, which was located on Park Street between Arbutus Avenue and Third Street.
When the ”new high school” (the Jackson building, which now houses the transportation offices of the South-Western City School District at 3191 Park Street) was built in 1910, he was a senior and one of the first students to attend the new, modern building.
Although the first school house in the village of Grove City had been built in 1853, there had been no organized sports or Band program until 1907.
In 1980, while a resident of the Masonic Home in Springfield, Ohio, Rr. Davis addressed a letter to Dr. Martin Stahl, superintendent of the South-Western City Schools, describing his recollections.
The Ohio Masonic Home
P.O. Box 120
Springfield Ohio, 45501
Dr. Martin Stahl
Supt. of SW School Dist.
My name is Grover Davis and I am writing you a little bit about the beginning of Athletics at G.C.H.S. This took place in 1907. The boys in school at that time got tired of playing the games that were being played and began to think more about baseball, track and basketball and getting a high school band started. All the boys knew more about baseball so that sport was our first venture. The high school had a teacher by the name of Mr. Clay Neiswander who had played with the Grove City team at shortstop and was a very fine ball player. We also had a lady high school teacher by the name of Miss Adda Harbanger, a graduate of Phys. Ed. from OSU.
Mr. Neiswander surely knew his baseball. We started to practice in 1907 and all were started the hard way: baseball, track, basketball and enough boys to start a band. Mr. Neiswander saw Mr. Bill Fast who had a fine ball team mostly from Columbus that played for G. C. on Sundays and a fine ball diamond also, and he gave the high school team the use of the grounds for practice and all our games. Mr. Fast was from Derby, O. All during 1907 and 1908 he taught the fine points of the game – such as how to get away from the plate after hitting the ball – how to get your lead to steal bases – how to bunt – how to slide – when and how to hook slide – when to slide head-first – how to hold your bat when bunting – when you went on the field to be sure and know which way the wind was blowing and many other things that came up in a ball game. He also taught our catcher how to use the big mitt and tag runners out at the plate and by the way I have seen many G. C. catchers catch, as I have lived on Woodlawn Ave. just a stones throw from Windsor Park ballgrounds and I think, outside of Worthington, our catcher on that first ball team, Earl White, was the best one G.C.H.S. ever had. He was fast, could hit, throw, bunt and wasn’t afraid of the Devil Himself when base runners were trying to score, and he was also a fine base runner. I, Grover Davis, did most of the pitching and could throw most of the pitches that are used today only under different names, except the forkball. I could also throw the spit ball which is outlawed today and had pretty good control of it. We practiced all through 1907 learning the different plays and what to do with the ball in these plays as they came up. In 1908 we played some scrub games when we could round up enough Outsiders to make two teams and Mr. Neiswander looking on to tell us are good and bad plays and how to correct them. By The Last of the Summer of 1908 our team had become a very good ball team. We played and practiced until late in the fall and Mr. Neiswander said he was very proud of us and in the spring of 1908 (Editor’s Note: 1909?) when we were Juniors he said now you are on your own, get out there on the diamond and show me how much you have really accomplished. We got a pretty good schedule with some small schools and some large schools such as West, East and South. We won over West and that was the time that Billy Southworth was catching for West High School. West never did win over us. East won over us at 3-1 in a tight game. I can’t remember the South score but we lost by a close score. Billy Southworth later became a fine outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals and then managed the Columbus Red Birds for the Cardinals.
(The continuation of this letter in the next blog entry.)