HOFer Brinkerhoff trained some of Ohio’s best trotters

HOFer Brinkerhoff trained some of Ohio’s best trotters

A few thoughts from the week in sports …

Tom Brinkerhoff put Wooster on the map for harness racing in the 1970s through early 1990s.

Brinkerhoff, who eventually moved to Hawkinsville, Georgia, passed away at age 84 on July 26.

The Wayne County Fairgrounds are a treasure for this area, and that’s where many locals can still picture the Wooster native driving and training his trotters.

“(Brinkerhoff) trained some of the best horses in Ohio at the fairgrounds in the 1990s,” said Wooster resident Scott Davis, who has followed in the footsteps of his late father, Dean Davis, as an owner of Standardbred race horses. “I still remember Ruff Stuff Baker — that was his best horse.”

Indeed, Ruff Stuff Baker was the Ohio Triple Crown winner, and Ohio Horse of the Year in 1993.

Brinkerhoff, the son of renowned horseman Jess Brinkerhoff, won his first race at age 18 in 1937 in Wooster. He was credited with 1,695 wins during his career.

The many other champions he trained included Golly Too, a four-time Ohio Sires Stakes champion and 1994 Ohio Horse of the Year.

Harness racing is a lot different than traditional thoroughbred racing, like the Kentucky Derby, which most people are familiar with.

If you’re out for a walk by the fairgrounds, it’s not unusual to see harness racing trainers and drivers at the track working.

In harness racing there’s a lot of strategy involved for the drivers, who ride in a sulky that’s pulled by a Standardbred horse trained to run at a controlled gait. A night at the harness races can make for a fun family outing, and many fans try their luck by placing bets on the action.

Brinkerhoff went on to race at other venues including Northfield Park and Scioto Downs. He’s on the Wall of Fame at both tracks. He was inducted as the 45th member into the Ohio Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2019.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 52 years, Dorothy. Survivors include his daughter, Cheryl (Allen) Duncan, son Thomas Jr. (Truelah), two grandchildren and two sisters including Joan Swick of Wooster.

Road Trippin’ Roddas

Wooster residents Bob and Karen Rodda have quite an impressive list of MLB ballparks that they’ve visited. They emailed me in response to my July 23 column in which I mentioned adding Seattle’s T-Mobile Stadium to the list of parks I’ve been to and asked for readers’ “out of town” ballpark stories.

My list is nothing compared to the Roddas.

Bob, the retired director of The College of Wooster’s Lowry Center and student activities, as well as a former Wooster Youth Baseball coach, emailed, “All five of us have attended a game together in 17 current and former MLB parks.

“Several years ago, one of our sons suggested that a MLB park that we haven’t been to be a factor in deciding where we go on vacation. We have done exactly that several times. Many years ago we created a spreadsheet to keep track of our ballpark visits. I lead the way with 40 parks, Karen has 32, and the kids have 20, 25 and 24 parks. There are six current MLB parks that I haven’t been to; Karen’s total of unvisited current parks is 10.

“Additionally, one or both of us have been to two parks in 10 different cities. I have also been to three parks in St. Louis, and both Karen and I have been to three parks in Minneapolis and Chicago.”

I could only imagine the number of highlights such as opening days, milestone hits and pitches, and fantastic finishes the Roddas have witnessed. Bob Rodda said, “That’s a story for another day.”

Parting shots

What a world we live in here in 2022 when a mom or dad has to sit down with their Browns’ fan kid (or kids) and discuss why the team is lucky that quarterback Deshaun Watson will only be suspended for the first six games. Depending on how old the kids are and the parents’ attitudes probably determines how in-depth the talk is.

Judge Sue L. Robinson gave Watson the same six-game suspension as teammate Myles Garrett received at the end of the 2019 season for hitting Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the head with his helmet.

The NFL had the right to appeal the suspension but hadn’t commented prior to publication of this column.

The Watson case is extremely polarizing, and no decision would have made everyone happy. I don’t know enough about all the facts to say if it’s a good or bad decision, but I had predicted Watson would have had to miss at least eight games. Let’s hope Watson is a model citizen from here on out and he and the Browns can move on.

—Most current sports fans don’t know much about Bill Russell, other than the fact he won a lot of championships (11 in 13 seasons) as a member of the Boston Celtics.

Russell, who died at age 88 on July 31, was more than just the greatest winner in team sports history. He also was a great person. He said over and over that winning meant more than personal statistics. He turned down autograph requests but often took the time to instead talk to fans. He was a champion for equality.

Bob Bercaw, who lives in the Hillsdale School District, emailed me an article link that mentioned Russell was only 5-foot-10 when he started high school. He wasn’t heavily recruited, going to the University of San Francisco, but he grew to 6-foot-10 and became a hall of famer.

If you’re going to debate the greatest NBA players of all time, Russell should be somewhere on your top-10 list.

—My Bargain Hunter/Wooster Weekly News high school football preview column will be in the Aug. 13 edition. The opening night is Friday, Aug. 19. Best wishes to all players and coaches.

Aaron Dorksen can be emailed at AaronDorksen24@gmail.com.