Sports reporter Steve Hemmelgarn retires after 46 years

Photo by Brett Dunlap Steve Hemmelgarn retired from The Parkersburg News and Sentinel on Friday after 46 years at the newspaper. Hemmelgarn graduated from Ohio State University and was a manager of the football team under Coach Woody Hayes.

PARKERSBURG — One of the most recognizable sportswriters in the Mid-Ohio Valley retired Friday from The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

Steve Hemmelgarn started with the newspaper in 1972, back in the day when Jim Snyder was sports editor and Jim Young was the editor of The News. Hemmelgarn previously worked for The Marietta Times for about 18 months prior coming to The News.

Hemmelgarn’s beat at The Times didn’t include sports, but he helped former Times Sports Chief Bill Robinson on Fridays and Saturdays. Hemmelgarn said he would rather cover sports, but at the Times he was on the news side, mostly covering meetings, police and fire, including a boiler explosion at a downtown church.

“I ran into Jim Snyder at something we were covering and he said there was an opening in sports,” Hemmelgarn said. “Dan Page was leaving the newspaper and going to WVU.

“I interviewed and got the job,” Hemmelgarn said.

Hemmelgarn was always interested in sports.

He graduated in 1970 from Ohio State University where he was a manager for the football team while it was coached by Woody Hayes. Hemmelgarn was a manager for the team from 1968 to 1970 and was one of only two senior managers for the team in the 1969 and 1970 seasons.

Hayes was intense as a coach, Hemmelgarn said.

“Very,” he said.

It was not unusual for Hayes to get in a player’s face for goofing up a play, or yelling at people when things went wrong, said Hemmelgarn.

“But he was a heck of a coach,” Hemmelgarn said.

While Hayes was prone to outbursts of his temper, he had a softer side, too, Hemmelgarn said.

“He got mad, but he could be nice when he wanted to,” Hemmelgarn said.

He also worked with another famous coach who once was a Buckeye: Lou Holtz, who later coached the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Holtz was a defensive coach in 1968, Hemmelgarn said.

Hemmelgarn, an Ohio native, has covered every sport played in local schools during his tenure at The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

Some sports he likes, others he doesn’t, but football is his favorite.

Covering the schools when they reach the finals is exciting and it is easy to get caught up in the excitement with the fans, he said. The games between Parkersburg High School and Parkersburg South High School because of the crosstown rivalry always produced an exciting game, he said.

“Those are always great things to be able to cover,” Hemmelgarn said.

The best coaches had similar attributes, he said.

They not only taught the kids how to be adults, but they inspired them to play their best no matter how bad the team might be, Hemmelgarn said.

Players have evolved over the last 46 years, too, Hemmelgarn said. They are bigger, stronger and faster, he said.

“Before there wasn’t a lot of conditioning,” Hemmelgarn said. “Now they are doing strength training, running.”

Girls sports also evolved over the years and started to come their own through basketball, which increased awareness and interest in girls sports, Hemmelgarn said.

The girls also have gotten better and some can give their boy counterparts a run for the money, he said. They excel in softball, soccer, basketball, volleyball and track, Hemmelgarn said.

“Girls sports have come a long way,” he said.

Dave Poe, the long-time sports editor who has retired, recollected meeting Hemmelgarn.

“One person you never forget for the rest of your life is the first one to have enough faith in you to offer you a job. Shortly after graduating from West Virginia University in 1976, I made my way to The Parkersburg News and Sentinel office in search of a sports writer’s job,” Poe said. “Steve Hemmelgarn was the sports editor at the time and he not only made me feel welcome but also offered me a position on the sports staff.

Hemmelgarn was a great boss, Poe said. The writers got their work done on time and had fun doing so, he said.

“One time Steve came back from a game that went down to the wire and the lead to his story was if you weren’t in attendance you missed a ‘ding dong dilly of a donnybrook,'” Poe said. “So every time one of us would cover a close game we would walk into the office and say ‘you missed a ding dong dilly of a donnybrook.'”

Working for the newspaper has been enjoyable over the last 46 years, Hemmelgarn said. It’s like anyplace else that has good days and bad days, he said.

Most have been good, he said.

“I’ve absolutely enjoyed working here,” Hemmelgarn said.