By MARK MAYNARD
George Stout of Westwood is a member of a rare club.
Maybe its only member.
Stout attended the first game at Putnam Stadium in 1937 and the last one in 2013. That’s a claim probably nobody else can make.
“Dutch Berry’s dad, who was a policeman, took me to that first game,” said Stout, who turned 85 in January. “I used to cut his grass as a kid.”
Last fall, when Ashland played Covington Holmes in the playoffs, Stout also came to the stadium. That was the last game in the old stadium.
“I came to that game, I was feeling so bad,” he said. “I stayed most of the first half. I think there were about eight minutes left.
“I wanted to be the one and only.”
But Stout didn’t want to miss the moment, knowing it was at least possible that would be the last home game in the old stadium.
Turns out, he was right.
This week, as part of a renovation project that has been seven years in the making, the stadium is being taken down.
The home side is already on the ground. The demolition is set to take two or three weeks.
The foundation and new bleachers are expected to be ready for the start of the 2014 season.
“It’s really sad to see the old stadium come down,” Stout said. “Like old people, we’ve got to go sometime.
“Naturally, it’s sad, but I know things have to be replaced. There’s an awful lot of tradition out there.”
Stout played on the field as a junior high member of the Coles Broncos and also played in one game as a sophomore before a massive hit convinced him to give up the sport.
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Stout said he saw stars.
“I got hit real hard and got hurt. That ended my career and chance at the Ashland hall of fame,” he joked.
Growing up, Stout was part of the “19th Street gang,” which would climb the fences to watch a game at the stadium.
“The ROTC guys used to walk away,” he said. “They knew who we were.”
When he did pay to enter, which wasn’t often, he remembered the admission being 25 cents.
Putnam Stadium was brand new and originally didn’t have the concrete seats in the end zone.
“I remember going to that first game and played in the area where the end zone seats are now,” he said. “That’s where all of us kids played.”
Stout, who was only 8, also recalled an enormous crowd for the game against Ceredo-Kenova, a 20-0 victory that christened the stadium.
“I told Mr. Berry, ‘Wow! There’s a lot of people in here. I hope I don’t get lost,’” Stout said.
As he grew older, he stayed with the Tomcats, including working with his cousin as a manager.
There were some games, when the Tomcats played at night, that they journeyed back to Armco Field for games, he said.
“I remember riding the bus and sitting beside their coach, Fayne Grohn,” Stout said. “None of the players wanted to sit by him.”
Stout remembers it almost always being a full house at the stadium.
“The town had so much pride about the Tomcats,” he said. “It seemed like everybody was family.”
Ashland was always expected to win, he said.
Stout remembers watching great players like Jay Rhodemeyer, Doc Rice, Bill Sutphin, “Buffalo” Bill Hopkins, Paul Reliford, Herb Conley and the “major general” (Chuck Anderson).
Stout has lived his life in the area and is more associated with Fairview High School athletics than Ashland.
“But once you have that Tomcat in you, it never leaves,” he said.
Stout intends to begin a new streak on Aug. 22 when the new Putnam Stadium is christened with a home game against Newport Catholic.
“I’ll be there for the first one, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, but I won’t be there for the last one,” he said.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.