The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


November 16, 2012

Buck made his point

Few people are still around who witnessed Elmer (Buck) Peaspanen’s feats as an athlete and coach.

But members of the committee that chooses the members of the Ashtabula County Touchdown Club Hall of Fame learned of them and chose him for that august body in 2011.

“He was certainly one of the greatest all-around athletes in Ashtabula County History,” said Peaspanen’s youngest son, John, who will follow him into the ACTC’s Hall of Fame this year. “After college, he became possibly northern Ohio’s top football coach.”

Buck Peaspanen’s organized athletics’ career began in 1927, when he attended Grand River Academy in Austinburg with the sole intention of playing varsity football as a freshman.

He returned to Ashtabula to play for the Harbor Mariners the following year, and became a star halfback, linebacker, defensive back and punter. Peaspanen’s efforts helped Harbor win the Lake Shore League championship in 1931. In addition, Peaspanen excelled in track and field at Harbor.

Peaspanen won an athletic scholarship to Ohio University, beginning in 1931. In addition to lettering for four years as an offensive halfback and defensive back, Peaspanen was one of the best punters in the country, averaging more than 46 yards as a junior and senior.

He was also a standout in track, throwing the javelin, shot put and discus. In 1935, he broke the Ohio University and American record in javelin with a throw of 218 feet. He qualified for the 1936 Olympic team but couldn’t compete when he tore a shoulder muscle while throwing the javelin. He held the Bobcat javelin record from 1935 to 1966.

“An interesting note about his javelin record is that the javelin he threw was a huge 8-foot long birch wood javelin,” his son, John, said. “For years now, modern javelins have been around 5 feet long, much lighter and made of various metals.”

Many years, later, while watching John throw the shot and discus for Mount Union in 1966 at the All-Ohio meet at Kent State, Elmer coached the Ohio University javelin thrower for an hour. Then the javelin thrower broke the school record, still held by Elmer, that very day.

In addition to football and track, Elmer was also a great heavyweight wrestler for the Bobcats. Weighing 195 pounds, he qualified for the 1936 Olympics.

“Thor Olson, his Hall of Fame wrestling coach at OU, told his daughter, Darlene Buck, that Elmer Peaspanen was the greatest all-around athlete of his time,” John Peaspanen said.

Baseball was another sport Peaspanen excelled in. From 1928-1936, he was a star pitcher on an area semi-pro team.

After graduating from OU, Elmer played pro football with the Cleveland Rams of the American Football Conference in 1936. But when the Rams moved to Los Angeles in 1937 to join the NFL, Elmer gave up pro football. Salaries for the sport were notoriously poor in those days.

So Peaspanen began his teaching-coaching career in 1937 at Freedom High School, now part of the Ravenna School District in Portage County. There, as head football coach, he won several Portage County championships with two undefeated teams.

“Most of his best players were farm boys; thus, he often helped them make hay and do their farm chores so they could be on his team,” John said.

From 1940 to 1943, Elmer got out of teaching and coaching to help his brother Dave run the family dairy farm. Then, in 1943, he accepted the backfield coaching job at Alliance. That led to a return to Ashtabula County, when he accepted the head football job at Conneaut, where he stayed for four years and led some outstanding teams, including an undefeated 1947 Lake Shore League championship team.

He moved on to take the head coaching job at Harbor in 1949 and 1950 before moving on to become backfield coach at Warren Harding. The coaches there were presented gold watches when they defeated state power Massillon.

He returned to Conneaut as head coach in 1954 and ran a very successful program there until 1962. The 1956 and 1957 Conneaut squads were special, going undefeated in 1956 and losing only once in 1957. In those years, Conneaut couldn’t get into a conference, so it played a tough independent schedule against teams in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The state-ranked and undefeated 1956 team ended long winning streaks by Cleveland St. Joseph and Carrollton.

Elmer Peaspanen’s overall head coaching record was 104-52-2 (.666), seven-plus wins per season. A great teacher and coach, he introduced the T-formation to Ashtabula County in 1944 and was probably the first coach in the area to have his players lift weights. In fact, some of the weights he used were homemade barbells and dumbbells he and his brother Dave welded together.

For most of Peaspanen’s years at Conneaut, legendary Andy Garcia was an assistant in football, while Elmer assisted Garcia in basketball. They both coached track successfully. In 1956 and 1957, another county legend, Gene Gephart, assisted Elmer and Andy. From 1958 to 1962, Frank Farello assisted Peaspanen and Garcia.

Among the players he coached were some of the county’s best ever: Harold Ladner, Jim Heittiko, Larry Ogren, Jim and Paul Dombrowski, Bill Skippon, Fred Monda, George “Cowboy” Snyder, Bill Lacey, Tom Batta, Bob (“The Toe”) DiPofi, Leo Mucci, Vinnie Rose and many more. In addition, he coached his oldest son, Tom, from 1958-1960.

Elmer Peaspanen concluded his coaching career as his son John’s backfield coach in 1972.

“It was an honor to coach with my dad that year,” John said. “I learned more that year than any other in my football career. Dad was loved by all his players and deserves this long-due Hall of Fame honor.”

Larick, a retired Star Beacon sports writer, is a freelance writer from Geneva.

Click here to subscribe to The Star Beacon print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Star Beacon replica edition.

Text Only
  • Danielle Zip-ing along

    Just minutes after Geneva’s Danielle Nicholson holed out on the 18th green at the Gray Course at Ohio State University during her freshman year to win the 2011 Division I state championship, the recruitment process of where she would go to college began.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Maruna headed for Mount

    LeeAnn Maruna never really expected to play collegiate golf. She was so taken aback when the opportunity presented itself, she didn’t know how to respond. After all, the Grand Valley graduate had only been playing the game for a few years.

    July 23, 2014

  • Crate Late Models featured

    The Evergreen Lake Park Campground Crate Late Models, the premier class at Raceway 7, will be featured Friday night as they race for $1,000 to win.

    July 23, 2014

  • Norm He’s the Norm

    In the early part of the 20th century, as golf was taking off in popularity, it was not uncommon for boys to take up the game after becoming caddies.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Don A Don McCormack column: The journey is what’s most important

    Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past couple of weeks, you’ve heard over and over and over how it’s been a half-century since one of Cleveland’s big three professional sports teams have won a championship.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Murdick wins as Big Block Modifieds return

    The BRP Big Block Modifed Tour returned to Raceway 7 with 21 of the region’s fastest Modifieds turning out for the scheduled 35-lap event, the first for the Modifieds at the northeast Ohio speedplant since 2005, an event won by Todd Burley.

    July 21, 2014

  • Dale Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Chances for controlled waterfowl hunting

    Waterfowl hunters are invited to participate in special drawings for controlled hunting opportunities, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife. The drawing dates and times are as follows:

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kingsville gets it done

    In a rematch of a previous softball clash between the Kingsville 9-10-year-olds and those from Conneaut, Kingsville had settled thing quickly and decisively in a mercy-rule triumph.

    July 20, 2014

  • TD Club golf A Chris Larick column: TD Club hopes to score

    Though its life was never seriously threatened, the Ashtabula County Touchdown Club has suffered in recent years.

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Don A Don McCormack column: A heartfelt plea to curb violence

    Like everyone who loves soccer — and the rest of us whose interest level rises dramatically every four years when the World Cup comes around — Kevin Meier was appalled at the recent attack of soccer referee John Bieniewicz in Michigan by a player that resulted in Bieniewicz tragically dying.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

Little League All-Stars July 1 to 12
AP NASCAR Lastest News
AP NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule
AP NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings
AP Auto Racing Photos
West Side Shootout 2014
Ashtabula County at State Track Meet
Jefferson vs Akron St. Vincent St. Mary Regional Softball
District Track 2014
Jefferson District Softball Tournament
Bob Walters 50 Years
Geneva vs Perry Division II District Semifinal
Sports Week in Review May 12 to May 17
Sports Week in Review May 5 to May 10 2014
Sports Week in Review April 28 to May 3
Sports Video Archive
House Ads
AP Video