The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 23, 2013

A Don McCormack column: Cover guys

Our local hero, Frank Hall, is the second Ashtabula guy to grace the front page of Sports Illustrated, following Urban Meyer

Sports Editor

— When the amazing tale of Frank Hall and his actions at the tragic shootings at Chardon High School in February 2012 reached the cover of Sports Illustrated, it all but blew up my electronic devices.

From my cell phone, to Facebook, Twitter, etc., the news was everywhere, and almost every message, post, tweet had the same refrain — “OUR hero is on the cover of Sports Illustrated!”

Having grown up with Sports Illustrated, which along with The Sporting News, Baseball Digest and Boys Life supplied a great deal of my reading material as a youngster, seeing one of Ashtabula’s finest citizens on the cover of SI got me thinking (a novel concept, I realize).

How many other Ashtabulans, if any, have graced the cover of Sports Illustrated?

The first

Thanks to the iconic magazine’s website and its remarkable search capabilities, we have the answer to that self-question — two.

Urban Meyer, the 1982 St. John High School graduate, was on the cover of the magazine’s Southeastern Conference college football preview special issue in 2009. Meyer, now the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, was then the head coach of the Florida Gators.

You can bet if Meyer, the former Herald, leads the Buckeyes to another undefeated record in this, his second season at the helm in Columbus, he will all but assuredly grace the cover of SI sometime again this year.

Big Frank

During our conversation the other night, I asked Frank Hall, whom I have known since his junior-high days and then his high school years at Harbor High School, from with he graduated in 1992, “Frank, the cover of Sports Illustrated... the cover, man! How amazing is it to look at that magazine?

“Do you end up saying to yourself, ‘Hey, that’s really me?’”

Ever so humble, the big man with the big heart admitted to being caught off-guard.

“It really is hard to believe that is a photo of me on the cover of Sports Illustrated,” he said. “I mean, it’s the magazine we all grew up with.”

Of course, it goes without saying, everyone, including him, wishes the circumstances were different than the ones that ended up with his image being on the cover of the magazine and the from-the-heart story by Gary Smith being the centerpiece.

On Feb. 27, 2012, Frank, an assistant football coach at Chardon, chased killer T.J. Lane out of the building — while Lane was still wielding the weapon that took the lives of three kids and wounded three others — and himself armed with only his courage.

“I wish to God none of it had happened, every day,” Hall said. “I’m a very boring guy, who lives a very boring life and I wish it had stayed that way.”

But it didn’t and though no one wanted what happened to happen, everyone is captivated by what Frank Hall did that day.

And his story, told so eloquently by Smith in Sports Illustrated, should be required reading for everyone.

And never forgotten.

And finally...

While doing research for this piece, I stumbled on this caveat — Ashtabula also had a Playboy centerfold!

In the March 1960 issue of the magazine, Sally Sarell, born in Ashtabula in 1938, was the Playmate of the Month.

At the time, she was 5-foot-7 and 126 pounds and her measurements were 37-24-36. Her photographs that appeared in the magazine were shot by Louis Capuccine.

I have not been able to discover is Sally, an Ohio State graduate, is still alive, so if anyone out there in Loyal Readerland has knowledge of her or members of her family, please contact me at the email address that appears below.

By the way, happy birthday, Sally — she will turn 75 on Tuesday.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at