John Wend (HCP photo by Stephen Forsha)
John Wend (HCP photo by Stephen Forsha)

John Wend used to write a newspaper column under the header “The Press Box.”

For many years, his column in the former Greenfield Daily Times was the go-to column for local sports fans.

In addition to covering sports for the newspaper, John also was a varsity softball coach at McClain High School and an assistant coach in other sports.

He was, perhaps, best known for his great public address announcer’s voice for the McClain basketball and football programs and for the Chillicothe Paints baseball team.

If you’ve ever heard John get excited over a McClain touchdown when he bellows “TOUCHDOWN TIGERS,” you’ll get the idea.

The Chillicothe Paints said this about John on the news of his passing this week: “It is with deep sadness that we post that our ‘Voice’ and the face of Paints’ baseball for 25 years has passed away this evening. John Wend will be terribly missed by the Paints’ family, fans and by so many countless lives that he touched through coaching, writing and announcing sporting events throughout his life. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Carol, and his family. As funeral arrangements become available, we will share them here and on our website. Rest in peace, John Wend. We were very blessed to have you as a huge part of the fabric of Paints’ Baseball. Always... with love, respect and class.”

Five years ago, two McClain High School legends were honored at the regular-season basketball finale as the Tigers hosted the Madison-Plains Golden Eagles. Former McClain varsity head basketball coach Rick VanMatre and public address announcer John Wend were honored by the high school.

Coach Rick was honored for his induction into the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. John was honored with a golden microphone trophy for it being his 30th year as the voice of McClain Tiger basketball.

Just last week, as reported by HCP sports editor Stephen Forsha, McClain High School and all in attendance at the 2017 Rotary Bowl, again honored John. There was a moment before the game to honor him, and for the entire first quarter his microphone was silent, all knowing what was inevitable.

John loved sports. He loved writing about sports. Broadcasting sports. And just talking about sports.

John and I met in 1990 when we were both sportswriters. During football and basketball seasons in the early 1990s, we would talk on the phone almost every Monday morning and exchange stats from the weekend games. In 1996, we became co-workers. He once almost gave me a heart attack. Really!

Somewhere around 1991, I remember Hillsboro resident Doug Wagoner telling me that “Hillsboro needs our own John Wend as a sportswriter.”

Doug may or may not remember saying that to me, but I guarantee you that he did. And I’ll put it in context.

Doug and I met when his son, local attorney J.D. Wagoner, was playing baseball for Rick Earley and Dick Shaffer and football for Jim Horne. Doug brought a copy of the Greenfield Daily Times to me with one of John’s columns about McClain student-athletes.

Now, having watched John coach his Lady Tigers softball teams, I knew he could break down one simple sentence with all of its necessary ingredients to get his players’ attention – in between a few puffs on a cigarette. But that was always left in the dugout.

When he went back to write for the paper – sometimes about his own team – he always emphasized the positives about the young students. He did not rip them in print, even if he may have “gotten their attention” in the dugout from time to time.

Doug and I talked about that more than a quarter of a century ago. I had similar conversations with Ernie Blankenship about John’s writing style and how he did his best to highlight the players’ accomplishments through the years. (Ernie did the same thing on his radio broadcasts.)

Thus, the lesson was learned.

No, I did not copy John’s “Press Box” column when I was writing about local student-athletes, but I did learn from it.

His method was to cover a game accurately, but never to cast blame on a single player by name. In other words, let’s not fault the player with 25 points who misses a foul shot with one-10th of a second left in the game, and say he’s the reason for the loss. If we’re going to do that, we might as well mention all the other players who missed free throws in the first three-plus periods.

“It's impossible to put into words what John Wend has done for Greenfield,” said McClain High School Principal Jason Potts.

“Whether it was coaching, announcing or just supporting our students, John touched so many lives. We were truly blessed to have such a great supporter of Tiger Nation for so many years. He wore his purple with pride whether win or lose. He always was a positive voice for our town. We really did lose a great man."

"The impact John Wend had on the lives of countless individuals cannot be measured," said Greenfield Exempted Village Schools Superintendent Joe Wills. "The 'Voice of the Tigers' will be remembered as a true leader, supporter and friend to those he touched in so many ways throughout his life."

"I remember meeting John for the first time when he was selling athletic equipment when he first moved to Greenfield," HCP sports reporter and photographer and longtime McClain supporter Jim Jones said.  

"John was also the person who got me started in the newspaper business after he asked me to be his photographer when he was sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Times. Another thing that was so amazing about John was the fact that no matter what town we went to cover a game, almost everybody knew him.
"Not only was John one of the best P.A. announcers for McClain sports and a great supporter of all Tiger athletics, but he was a really good junior high football coach and an excellent girls’ softball coach. John was one of the most knowledgeable and caring people that I have ever met. He was also a big animal lover and was quite fond of his beloved golden retriever Max.
"I, like most people whoever knew John, will never forget his unmistakable and powerful voice that greeted and enlightened every sports fan who ever attended a McClain football or basketball game. John and his wonderful wife, Carol, were also two of our most loyal supporters of our Daryle Unger Memorial Scholarship and Kids Fishing Derby."

In addition to understanding the right way to cover local sports, John also had a wonderful sense of humor. He used to tell stories about working with Roger Ross, the Schluep family, Shelba Grim and others. One of his election night stories that ended at Jon’s Restaurant and Lounge in Hillsboro in the late 1980s was priceless. (Miss Jon’s used to be the place to be on election night in Hillsboro. Trust me.)

The last email I sent to John was this: Please know you have many friends, and I am proud to be one of them.”

Thanks for everything, John.

(Note: The Murray-Fettro Funeral Home is serving the family.)

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.