Jim Ingledue isn’t an objective judge.
Nor does he claim to be when he argues that Dick Shatto “was probably the finest athlete ever to matriculate through the Springfield system.”
Ingledue, after all, was not only the late Shatto’s teammate on the Wildcats football, basketball and baseball teams of the early ‘50s.
He and Shatto also formed a kick- and punt-return threat that struck fear in the hearts of kickers in the fall of 1951 and went with Shatto to Paul “Bear” Bryant’s training camp at the University of Kentucky in the fall of 1952 to experience smash-mouth football at its most intense level.
Still, Ingledue says he’d “almost bet you a milkshake” that Shatto’s eight varsity letters in football, baseball and basketball in the days when high school was a three-year affair was never topped.
Then he offers what, to him, is the clincher: That when Shatto ended a 12-year career with the Toronto Argonauts in 1965, he had scored more touchdowns, caught more passes and amassed more total yards than anyone in Canadian Football League history.
The icing on the cake: “You couldn’t ask for a better friend.”
Whatever the merits of Ingledue’s argument, it seems clear that Shatto’s memory is part of what will draw 150 people – most of them 80 and older – to Friday’s 65-year reunion of the SHS Class of 1952. Thirty of the attendees are expected to come from other classes that were part of what they argue was the golden era of Wildcats athletics.
The tones of those times are captured in pages of the Springfield High School yearbook of those days, which feature layout and photography of the quality one might expect to appear in a city that was home to Crowell-Collier, one of the nation’s leading magazine publishers.
“We produce our thrills and chills during (the 1949) football season,” reports the 1950 edition, called “A Century of Progress” and sporting an embossed image of Saturn and its rings.
“The Friday morning pep rallies … Shatto’s four touchdown passes against Woodward … The train to Portsmouth …. DeJong’s two touchdowns against the (Middletown) Middies in a dying cause … Bill Slagle’s 55-yard romp of an intercepted pass against Toledo Catholic … The muddy vengeance wreaked against Hamilton.”
In a time before township school districts merged and became large enough to support programs, football was the purview of the bigger city schools. Middletown, Hamilton, Columbus Central, Dayton Roosevelt and Stivers, Lima Central, and Toledo teams, including Toledo Catholic, united their towns, the winners drawing huge audiences.
“We bumped gourds with all those guys,” Ingledue said, playing before home games that drew 11,000 people to Evans Stadium.
A picture in the 1950 yearbook shows the leaders of that era’s teams: Jim McDonald, football and baseball; Gladden Ronemus, whose track team that year preserved his undefeated record and dual meets; Elwood Pitzer, whose basketball team won the state title that year; and Athletic Director John Remsberg.
Just as the Wildcats had reveled in their revenge against Hamilton in 1949, they suffered through a 42-6 drubbing at hands of the Big Blue in 1950, the lone defeat for the team led by Gus Keriazes and Bob “Bugs” Bronston.
In the 1952 yearbook, titled “Tops for ’52,” Ingledue and Shatto were the stars of another of Coach McDonald’s powerful one-loss teams.
Both were All Ohio backs. Ingledue was named Most Valuable Player for his team and won the 1951 Jim Thorpe Award. Shatto was named to the All American High School Team and was voted honorary captain.
“Pandemonium reigned throughout the Stivers game as the Wildcats, matching lightning speed with sharp blocks, ran at will … for a 53-0 score,” the yearbook reports. “This may have been Coach McDonald’s lightest team but it also has been the speediest.”
“Probably the most outstanding memory from the season,” it added, “is the punt returning team of Shatto and Ingledue.
Shatto, a giant for the time at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, scored 16 touchdowns.
Ingledue, called the “Mighty Mite” confesses to have been 140 pounds “soaking wet,” but crossed the goal line nine times.
He recalls as “one of the finest games ever played at Evans Stadium that year’s square off with arch rival Hamilton. Down 7-6 with a minute to play, Ingledue’s punt rolled dead at the Hamilton one, and one of the Wildcats defensive ends turned a Hamilton sweep into a winning safety just before time expired.
Coach McDonald’s team would go undefeated the year after Shatto and Ingledue graduated, shutting out six opponents and, led by All-Ohio back Lee Williams, who scored 119 points, outscored the opposition 336-19.
When that year’s Wildcats finished fourth in statewide polls, the yearbook groused: “Dissatisfaction is growing rapidly over the week-to-week polling of teams, particularly over the questionable practice of putting emphasis on point record regardless of the strength of the teams played or the gains or losses in (games).”
That same fall, things didn’t turn out at Kentucky as the Shatto and Ingledue had hoped. After a brutal two-week pre-season session under Bryant, they hitch-hiked home, both intending not to return.
Ingledue transferred to Wittenberg, where he lettered for four years in baseball, a .300 hitter over his career, and started on the football field for three years until an injury ended his gridiron career. He was inducted into the Tigers’ Athletic Hall of Honor.
Shatto, married by then to his lifelong mate and SHS cheerleader Lynne Garlough, thought it was in his family’s best interests to return to Lexington, where he played a year for Bryant, then another for his replacement, Blanton Collier.
After his sophomore year, Shatto accepted a $6,000 contract with the Argonauts, with whom he went on to score 91 touchdowns and rush for 6,958 yards before being converted to a league leading receiver and, in his final year, leading the league in kick and punt returns, and being elected to the CFL Hall of Fame.
Shatto died of lung cancer a day short of 70 years old in 2003 without ever having smoked a cigarette.
In this year that the National Football League has relaxed its regulations about touchdown celebrations, Shatto’s style represents a throwback, or, perhaps, a tossback.
After each of those 91 touchdowns scored for the Argonauts, he did what he had done after his touchdowns at Springfield’s Evans Stadium: He tossed the ball back to the official.
As one might expect of a member of the SHS class that will celebrate his memory on Friday he was old school.