Greatest Booster Woody Ever Had

When Wayne Woodrow Hayes was born Feb. 14, 1913 – the same day as Baseball Hall of Fame announcer Mel Allen and former Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa – the baby became the youngest of three children born to Effie Jane and Wayne Benton Hayes.

Mary was the oldest child by eight years and Isaac was two years older than Woody. Mary was an accomplished pianist and studied classical piano at the Ithica (N.Y.) Conservatory. When she completed her studies, she went to New York and found work in vaudeville. She later became a leading lady on Broadway, acting in such hits as “The War Song” starring alongside George Jessel.

In later life, Mary became the first female radio announcer at WMCA in New York and wrote radio shows for several years until her retirement.

Meanwhile, Isaac turned a boyhood love for horses into a lucrative career in veterinary medicine. Woody once said, “The most colorful person I have ever known was my brother Ike. He had three loves in this world – horses, football and family.”

When Ike was in high school, he got a part-time job, saved his money and spent it all on a riding mare. When he got out of college, he began to buy racehorses, and when he was married, he sold half-interest in one of his horses to get money to purchase furniture.

Ike volunteered for military duty in 1941 five months before Pearl Harbor, and as a captain in the cavalry division was in charge of some 1,500 horses at a base in New Guinea.

In between, Ike was an excellent football player. “Ike was the most intense and the most competitive football player I ever knew,” Woody wrote in his renowned 1973 book “You Win With People.” “In high school after the season was over, he cried because he couldn’t play more football.”

After he graduated from high school, Ike didn’t want to continue his education. Woody always reasoned that his older brother refused to go to college because of trouble Ike had had growing up the son of a school superintendent. Tired of having education shoved down his throat, Ike decided to go with his heart and worked with horses for three years.

Finally, after being persuaded by a local farmer on the advantages of a college degree, Ike relented and enrolled at Iowa State. Not only did he become a distinguished student in veterinary medicine, earning distinction as the “Most Representative Man” in his class, Ike resumed his football career and became a star guard for the Cyclones. Despite his diminutive size (5-6, 158 pounds), Ike earned first-team all-conference honors in 1934 and ’35, and received second-team All-America mention in ’35. He also served as team captain of the Iowa State squad.

To say Woody Hayes idolized his older brother would be something of an understatement. “Each person who met him regarded Ike as his closest friend,” Woody wrote. “He had a personal aura about him that was unbelievable, and it was not the least bit phony. Friends of mine who met him would immediately spend more time with him than they would with me. I have to believe that if it weren’t for his attitude and relationship to me, I wouldn’t have amounted to much. … He was the greatest booster that I ever had.”

Not that Ike coddled his younger brother. After watching a game between Miami (Ohio) and Cincinnati, a game in which the Woody-coached Redskins absorbed a lopsided loss, Ike was waiting outside the stadium. He told his brother, “Wood, you got outcoached today and your team got outfought. I’m going to be on this exact spot a year from today, and if you don’t beat them, I’m going to beat the hell out of you!”

Woody later said, “Would he have done it? No, but he would have tried. The next year, he had no reason to try for we won, 28-0.”

After his graduation from Iowa State, Ike Hayes settled in Waterloo, Iowa, and set up a successful veterinary practice. Periodically, he returned to Ohio to watch his brother coach football teams at New Philadelphia (Ohio) High School as well as Denison, Miami and Ohio State.

Ike traveled with his family to Pasadena for the 1955 Rose Bowl and watched the Buckeyes roll to a 20-7 win over USC to sew up the 1954 national championship. He returned home to resume his veterinary practice. Less than a month later, he was dead.

“No one enjoyed that (Rose Bowl) victory more than Ike did,” Woody said. “Then a couple of weeks later, I got a call one morning from his wife, Lucy, and she said very simply, ‘I’m sorry to tell you but your brother just passed away.’”

Ike had gotten up early on the morning of Jan. 25, 1955, and complained that he wasn’t feeling well. A few moments later, he suffered a massive heart attack. He was 43.

The funeral was attended by a huge number of people, all of them touched in some way by Ike. Upon returning to Columbus, Woody related the eulogy of a man who helped his brother with horses. “I can’t understand why Ike’s been taken from us,” the man said, shaking his head. “I guess the Lord has a mighty sick horse.”

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s Buckeye birthday belongs to former Ohio State quarterback Greg Frey. Born Jan. 29, 1968, in Cincinnati, Frey was a prep All-American at Cincinnati St. Xavier and earned Ohio offensive player of the year honors as a senior. He was also a two-time Cincinnati area player of the year in baseball. Frey signed with Ohio State in 1986 and after a redshirt year served as backup to Tom Tupa in 1987, coming off the bench to complete a critical third-down pass during the Buckeyes’ comeback win over Michigan that season. Frey took over the starting QB job in 1988 and led OSU to some memorable wins over the next three seasons. In ’88, he rallied the Buckeyes from 13 points down in the final four minutes to a 36-33 win over LSU, and the following year led the team out of a 31-0 hole against Minnesota to a thrilling 41-37 victory. Frey is the only quarterback in Ohio State history ever to throw for 2,000 or more yards three times. He is currently a private quarterbacks coach, having tutored such QBs as Brady Quinn, and also has provided color commentary for Arena Football League and Ohio high school games.

Also celebrating birthdays this 29th day of January: actor John Forsythe (the voice of Charlie on the “Charlie’s Angels” television show) is 91; actress Katherine Ross (“The Graduate” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) is 69; actor Tom Selleck is 64; talk show host Oprah Winfrey is 55; two-time Olympic diving gold medalist Greg Louganis is 49; former MLB second baseman Steve Sax is 49; actor Nicholas Turturro (Sgt. James Martinez on “NYPD Blue”) is 47; pro wrestler Hardcore Holly (born Robert William Howard) is 46; former Buffalo Bills receiver Andre Reed is 45; former NHL goaltender Dominik Hašek is 44; actress Heather Graham is 39; Grammy winning singer Jonny Lang is 28; and Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol is 24.

AND FINALLY

** When the Bowl Championship Series committee holds its annual spring meeting in late April, it will not be discussing a playoff. It will, however, consider a request from the Mountain West Conference which seeks an automatic bid to the BCS. This is as good a time as any for the MWC to lobby their case after Utah’s undefeated season coupled with TCU finishing 11th and BYU at No. 16. No teams from the ACC or Big East – each of which have automatic BCS berths – finished above No. 12 in the final polls.

** Here’s a novel idea for the BCS: How about adding the Mighty Mountain West as well as the WAC, where Boise State has become a perennial champion, to the big-money bowl mix? Throw in Conference USA and the MAC, too. Then, when/if Notre Dame ever gets its act together again, the BCS can determine who gets the automatic bids to the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange bowls by simply taking the top eight rated teams in the final regular-season BCS rankings.

** It didn’t take former Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Mel Tucker long to land a new job. Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio hired Tucker to take over his defense. The Jaguars were 17th in the NFL this past season in total defense. The Browns ranked 26th.

** Did you see the flap about ESPN hiring Magic Johnson as an analyst for their NBA coverage on ABC? This is the same Magic that is part-owner and vice president of the Los Angeles Lakers, and some believed he might be a little partial when analyzing his own team. Then again, since when did ESPN start worrying about impartiality?

** Just a hunch, but I’d take Arizona and the points (currently at plus-7) on Sunday.

** Kurt Warner? In the Pro Football Hall of Fame? C’mon. I’ll concede his two league MVP trophies and the fact that he will have led two different teams to Super Bowl victories if the Cardinals pull off the upset on Sunday. But Warner doesn’t rank among the NFL’s top 35 in career passing yardage, completions or TDs. Isn’t the Hall of Fame supposedly reserved for the very best of the very best?

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