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Mike Blauman

Mighty Mike
Geneva’s Blauman proving to be one famous guy

By Chris Larick
For the Star Beacon

Mike Blauman was an All-Ohio baseball player at Geneva High School.

He was a star in football in both high school and college, good enough to be selected for the Ashtabula County Touchdown Club’s Hall of Fame in 2006.

But it was basketball that Blauman played until he was 52 years old.

He was good enough at hoops to be selected to the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame, into which he will be inducted on April 13 at the Conneaut Human Resources Center, along with 14 others.

An entire group of men played for most of those 25 or 30 years. Geneva, with Blauman, Al Hogan, Ernie Pasqualone, Louis DeJesus, Norm Urcheck, Al Landphair and Tony Hassett was the high school best represented, but players like Lou DiDonato from St. John, Scott Humphrey and Tim Richards from Conneaut, along with Dr. Frank Sailors, also played.

“We played for 30 years, most of the time in Mentor, played in 30-and-over and 40-and-over leagues,” Blauman said. “When we got to be old, they put us in the open division. That was tough.”

Those days are gone, but Blauman still plays against the coaches in his son, Chris’, league.

“If I wasn’t so old and my knees weren’t so bad, I could still play,” he said.

Blauman recalls playing on outdoor courts as a kid growing up in Painesville, where he competed against stars like former Ohio State quarterback John Mummey.

MIKE BLAUMAN of Geneva is mobbed by teammates after hitting two clutch free throws with 10 seconds to play to defeat mighty Cleveland St. Joseph, 56-55, in 1970. Blauman will be inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame in April.

MIKE BLAUMAN was a versatile player for the Geneva Eagles.

MIKE BLAUMAN is shown with his family. 

His parents, Bill and Marge Blauman, moved to Geneva before Mike’s eighth-grade year. He credits Tom Conner, his coach in the eighth and ninth grades, for an early foundation in fundamentals.

“He was a very good coach and a great player,” Blauman said of Conner.

“When I got to high school I played for coach Bill Koval. He’s a legend. It was his way or the highway. You had to slow it down, get good shots, play fundamentally sound, play good defense.

“With his style, we won a lot of games.”

Perhaps the best team that Blauman played on at Geneva came his junior year. Six-foot-6 Randy Knowles, who would go on to play college and pro ball, transferred into Geneva that year as a senior. Koval also had the 6-1 Blauman, 6-3 John Hejduk, 6-5 Al Hogan and Mike Barker to work with. Six-3 Ned Tennant came off the bench. That may have been Koval’s biggest team ever. The Eagles went 17-3 but fell in the sectional finals.

“We lost to Harvey,” Blauman said. “It was a nip-and-tuck game, but we lost by a couple of points. We had a fine team but just didn’t mesh in the tournament.”

However, the following year, 1970, the Eagles did mesh, despite the fact they had lost most of their starters from the year before.

Ernie Pasqualone and Norm Urcheck, who are already in the ACBF Hall of Fame, started that year, Pasqualone as a sophomore. Al Landphair also started. Blauman and Landphair were the tallest players at 6-1 each. But the Eagles made a memorable tournament run.

“We won the sectionals and went to the district finals,” Blauman said. “We beat Cleveland St. Joseph’s in the regular season, then beat Cleveland Heights in the sectional finals. We upset the team that beat Cleveland St. Joe’s, 99-98. We beat (Cleveland Heights), 44-41. Everett Heard, their great player, averaged 21 points a game and I held him to two. Ernie (Pasqualone) held Mike Greenwald to two. That was the highlight of our senior year.”

In the victory over St. Joe’s, Blauman scored the winning free throws in the 56-55 upset, then was mobbed by fans. He had 24 points in that game to lead the Eagles.

Blauman, who played guard and forward that year, led the Northeastern Conference in scoring that year, with about 18 points per game, a shade better than Ashtabula’s Jim Hood (another ACBF Hall of Famer) and was a first-team All-Ashtabula County and All-NEC selection.

An all-state player in three sports in high school, Blauman had to decide which one to play in college. He had played quarterback under Tom Jennell as a sophomore in 1968 (the Eagles went 6-3-1 that year), Gary Prahst as a junior (when Geneva posted a 9-1 mark and won the NEC) and Bob Herpy as a senior (Geneva was 7-3).

Blauman was an effective quarterback at Geneva, playing on a team that also included standouts like running back Tim Packrall, who still holds the school all-time rushing record.  Blauman connected on 49 of 82 passes for 569 yards and 5 touchdowns as a junior. When injuries depleted the Eagle running back position in Blauman’s senior year, he turned into more of a rusher and gained 360 yards on 79 carries, while completing 37 of 98 passes for 386 yards. He was a unanimous selection as a first-team quarterback on both the Star Beacon Ashtabula County and All-Northeastern Conference teams, in addition to being a first-round pick as a defensive back.

A lot of the credit for his success has to go to his parents, Bill (who died in 2011) and Marge, Blauman said.

“They were instrumental in everything I did,” he said. “They were great parents; they went to every game.”

Prahst had moved on to an offensive coordinator’s job at Ashland College and recruited Blauman to that school, surprisingly (to Blauman at least), offering him a full scholarship.

Blauman backed up Ronnie Slater at quarterback his first year at Ashland (like Geneva, the Eagles). He did get into one game and, running the option, raced 89 yards for a touchdown.

When he was a sophomore, Blauman was switched to safety. That year, the Eagles went 11-0 and were ranked fourth in the country. They gave up just four points a game.

The Ashland players thought that they would go to the Division II championship game, but Heidelberg, also undefeated, got the nod instead. The Student Princes were badly beaten in that game.

“It was the biggest disappointment in my life,” Blauman later said.

The Eagles went 7-3 his junior year, when Blauman recorded seven interceptions as a defensive back and ran four or five punts back for touchdown.  They also won seven games his senior year. By that time he was tired of football.

“If I had to do it all over again, I might have gone to college for basketball,” he said.

Blauman graduated from Ashland in 1975 with a teaching degree, a degree he would never use.

His father had established Northeast Plumbing Supply in 1961 and asked Mike if he would come work for him.

“He said, ‘Give it a shot,’” Mike said. “I never left.”

Mike eventually took over the running of the business. He sold it recently.

Mike has four children: twin daughters Emily and Amy (30) and sons Mike (27) and  Chris (11). Blauman moved to Madison in 1990 and all his children have played for Blue Streak teams. Mike Jr. was a star for the Madison boys basketball team, while Emily and Amy both played on the Madison girls basketball team.

Emily and Mike graduated from Mount Union. Amy is a Mercyhurst and Cleveland State graduate. The twins both work in the healthcare field.

His job with his father proved advantageous as the kids grew up.

“I could go to the kids’ games,” he said. “I never missed any of their games.”

Right now, Blauman is coaching and following the athletic career of his son, Chris, currently in the sixth grade at Madison. Chris is in two or three basketball leagues, including a traveling league.

“He’s taking up the torch for his father,” Blauman said. “All the Madison kids are playing together. There’s a lot of basketball being played.

“Chris is playing with kids he plays with in middle school. In the summer, they’re not allowed to play as a team. Then he plays on a traveling team at Lost Nation, with a mix of kids.”

Divorced, Blauman has been with his “significant other,” Laura, for five years. Her daughter, Jillian Gibson, plays basketball for Lake Catholic.

Blauman just retired from the plumbing business on Jan. 1. He’s in the process of figuring out how to spend his retirement years.

“I play a lot of golf,” he said. “And I coach Chris. I still have to find out what I’m going to do.”

One of the men Blauman plays golf with is Clyde Koski, another member of the 2014 ACBF Hall of Fame class.

“I’ve played golf with him and we’ve formed a friendship,” Blauman said. “He went to Harbor. I guess he was a great basketball player. He’s a little guy.”

Larick, a retired Star Beacon sports writer, is a freelance writer from Geneva.

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