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Monday, September 4, 2017

Journey to Buckeye Grove, Part 3

Ask someone to give their earliest memory as a Buckeye fan and folks will often recall a shared memory with their parents, specifically their father. My earliest Buckeye memories are of Carlos Snow and Keith Byars running wild in the Shoe with my dad. A deep and abiding love for the Buckeyes was inculcated into me by my father very early, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Last week, we touched on a very special father son relationship between that of Chris Spielman and his dad. Spielman at one point expressed a desire to attend Michigan. He recounted in the HBO special, "Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry":  My dad said, "Okay, where are you going to go?" I said, "Dad, I want to go to Michigan." And he said, "You traitor. I'll tell you where you're going. You're going right down 71 South and you're going to play for the Buckeyes... Better not go there (Michigan). Don't ever come home if you do."

The elder Spielman’s parenting style is refreshing because it stands in stark contrast to our modern day politically correct guidelines; that we must stay neutral and introduce our child to all teams and let them decide for themselves. Fathers like Spielman’s have gone the way of the dinosaur. That’s what makes my next story about a father and his sons’ shared Buckeye heritage, so significant.

Born in Texas on May24, 1943, Jay Gelbaugh was the son of a WW2 veteran. After the war, Jay’s dad moved to Marion and then eventually to Findlay to raise his own family. He raised his sons Eric and Adam as Buckeye fans from their earliest moments. Eric recalls, “I knew the words to the Buckeye Battle Cry, Across the Field, and Carmen Ohio by the time I was three. To my dad Woody was god, Archie was a saint, and TBDBITL was the sound of angels.”  Mr. Gelbaugh loved the band so much that he would by tickets for the games just to watch their ramp entrance and halftime show. In those days, Script Ohio was only performed a few times a year and you were lucky if you saw it. The Buckeye Battle Cry album often bellowed through the Gelbaugh household on the family turntable.

The most memorable game that Eric remembers watching with his father was the 1984 Illinois game; Eric was thirteen. This was the game that Illinois broke out to an early 24-0 lead in the second quarter. His father said. “If they give up one more point, we’re getting the hell out of here!” Keith Byars quickly ran for a touchdown and instilled Mr. Gelbaugh with a surge of confidence “Were going win this game, Trust me.” This was the game Byars lost his shoe at the 50-yard line and ran for a 67-yard TD. The Buckeyes went on to win 45-38, no doubt with the help of the Gelbaugh family. How often do we think our own superstitions and actions affect the outcome of Buckeye games? For the Gelbaughs they did.

Mr. Gelbaugh’s favorite player was two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin. He would relate to his sons how he was at the game against North Carolina when Archie ran for 239 yards and became a legend.

Game day at the Shoe with his sons, was always special for Mr. Gelbaugh. Like many Buckeye fans most of their time was spent on the North side of the stadium at the old Holiday Inn for Hiney Gate. Some of my fondest memories are with my own father when we would go over and grab a bite to eat at the Holiday Inn before making our trek to the stadium. The Gelbaugh family would then make their way to the Skull Session before heading to the Shoe. As is often the case, life gets in the way and Mr. Gelbaugh never made it to the Buckeye Grove with his sons. With his health declining, Eric and Adam’s father talked a lot about the Buckeye Grove. Perhaps Mr. Gelbaugh was admonishing his sons to visit the Grove, an experience they had never shared together.

On December 21, 2015 Jay Gelbaugh passed away unexpectedly. While one chapter in a great man’s life had closed, another one was about to be opened. Eric and Adam made their way to the Grove with their father’s ashes. The proud sons spread some of their father’s ashes around Archie’s trees in the Buckeye Grove.

Adam and Eric at the Grove the day they spread their father’s ashes:

That day Eric and Adam were given a whole new perspective on Buckeye football because of their visit to the Grove. “Of course, I felt a sense of obligation to him, to do something that both honored him as well as something that gave my brother and myself a sense of closure. My brother and I thought that my dad was definitely smiling down on his Buckeyes that day and we were proud to have been able to leave a little of him at his favorite place on earth, Ohio Stadium”

Picture of Mr. Gelbaugh’s hat that Eric wore (with pins his dad had gathered throughout the years.)


I hope you enjoyed my three-part series on the Buckeye Grove. It is my sincere desire that you earnestly guard that precious gift of Buckeye fandom bestowed to you by your parents. Cultivate a love for OSU in your own children, one that will abide for a lifetime. Treasure each day you have with your parents as well as your children for our life is but a vapor. For as the words of Carmen Ohio so eloquently put it:

These jolly days of priceless worth
By far the gladdest days on earth
Soon will pass and we not know
How dearly we love Ohio.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. Exodus 20:12

Until next time,

Nicholas Jackson

Copyright 2017 Nicholas Jackson - All rights reserved.
Originally printed in @twssbuckeyeblog
Nick is a 1997 graduate of Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio where he received his B.S in Biological Sciences. He went on to receive his Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy at Andrews University in Dayton, Ohio and then his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. He has been published in the Newark Advocate, The Granville Sentinel, and the St. Louis Metro Voice; and professionally in the Journal of Acute Care Physical Therapy. Nick has also been a guest host on 88.9 WLRY and 880AM WRFD

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