Harry “Dutch” Cotton
A true Pioneer
Dutch Cotton’s eventful life of success tipped off during his days as a star at Austinburg
By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
“When Austinburg High School was swallowed up by the surrounding school districts, it was rumored all of the trophies and records for the athletic programs at the school were destroyed.
Those who were part of those athletic teams thought their past had been erased, lost forever.
Memories existed, as did the records. As they have been unearthed, the exploits of men like Harry “Dutch” Cotton have been rehashed.
Cotton, playing under coach Hiram Safford, led Austinburg to an Ashtabula County championship in his senior season of 1953.
He will be inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on Sunday.
“It really means a lot,” Cotton said. “I hate to tell you this, but my memory’s not too good anymore. I read stuff and go sit down and I can’t remember it sometimes. It’s really something being inducted after all these years.
DUTCH COTTON Circa 1953
SOME OF THE MAIN MEN from the 1952-53 Austinburg Pioneers (from left) Larry Brail, Dutch Cotton, coach Hiram Safford and Norm Kikel.
“We thought everything had been destroyed. We were sort of pushed to the back side and thought nobody knew anything. All of a sudden, it came back up.”
Being remembered after he thought he’d been forgotten meant a lot ot Cotton and his wife, Barbara, who have been married 54 years.
“That’s wonderful,” he said. “It really livens us up. It took 59 years to get in. I didn’t think I’d ever get in (to the HOF).”
Cotton was the catalyst for the county championship and led Austinburg to a Big Seven League titles in his junior and senior seasons and led the Big 7 in scoring his final season.
“We were all good players,” Cotton said. “We played all the time. We were all together all the time. When I was a senior, there were 14 of us (on the team) and of those 14, only two weren’t seniors. We had a great time playing ball. We all lived together and played basketball and baseball all the time.”
Offense was a bit different in Cotton’s day.
“Somebody would pick your man, you would go around and get either a jumper or a layup,” Cotton said.
Cotton and his teammate in the post, Al “Red” Schubert, combined to form a formidable duo in the paint.
“Al Schubert was the other forward,” Cotton said. “He was quite a player, too.
“We would block and go. The guards, Larry Brail and Larry Park, could really whip that ball in there. They did a nice job passing.
“Al Schubert was a terrific player, too. He was unreal. I think he scored more than I did. He was a super player.”
In the 1950s, it was largely uncommon to play an uptempo game. Austinburg went against the norm.
“We would get quite a few points ahead,” Cotton said. “We only gave up 1,036 points in 1953 and scored 1,387. We were in the 50s to 80s every game and the highest we gave up was 57.”
A big reason for that was the style defense Safford preferred.
“We played zone and once in a while, we played man-to-man,” Cotton said. “He was a zone coach. We played zone about 90 percent of the time. We caused a lot of turnovers. We had to move fast.”
Scoring was easy for Cotton. He did it every way imaginable.
“I would make jumpers and one-handers,” Cotton said. “I could drive to the bucket, too.”
Cotton and his teammates were blessed to play for the same coach for six years. He is a big reason the team matured into the county and Big 7 champs.
“Safford was our coach from eighth grade through our senior year,” Cotton said. “He was very nice. He never got blown out of shape. He’d just say we had to go get the win, we had to hustle. I never saw him blow his lid. He was a super guy.”
Answering the call
Cotton had it is his mind to go to college, but answered a more noble cause after graduating in 1953. He served three years in the Army.
“The teachers and coaches would tell us to go into the service first, then go to college,” Cotton said.
Cotton continued to play the game he loved, though the uniform had changed a bit.
“We went into the building and there was a signup sheet for basketball,” Cotton said. “I picked up a form and it said you had to have played in college or the semi-pros. I wasn’t going to sign up, but Lt. Johnson said, ‘Dutch, just fill it out.’ I told him it said that I had to have played in college and he told me to just put down Ohio. I did and I played two years.”
One of the guys was a Harlem Globetrotter.
“When they broke the Army base down at Fort Rucker to make it an Air Force base, we moved over to Fort Benning,” Cotton said. “I didn’t play any more after that. Two years was enough.
“I talked about (playing college), but my teachers and coaches were saying we should go in the service first now because we wouldn’t be happy if we went to college then had to go in the service. I was thinking about (college) but I needed money and a job.”
Playing the game, even in the Army, still had it’s appeal.
“I loved it,” Cotton said. “I never thought I would make it since they wanted college players until Lt. Johnson told me to fill out the paper and just put, ‘Ohio.’ Those players were unreal. They were all college or semi-pro guys. It was a lot of fun.
“I never went overseas. I took up cooking and baking and they had me teaching it to the younger guys, too.”
After the game
During the summers before he graduated, Cotton laid the foundation for the way he would spend the majority of the rest of his life.
“John Arsulic taught me how to lay bricks,” Cotton said. “I did that in the summers when school was out. I got into Local No. 42 bricklayers and just got my 50th year in.”
Cotton worked 38 years for the late Don Locy — father of Jefferson athletic director Steve Locy — and Buckeye Masonry.
“I loved the job,” he said. “I built houses, schools, churches, you name it. When I retired, I got a nice letter from Don that said what I did for them. He gave me enough of a bonus that I bought a brand new truck.”
When he wasn’t working, Cotton took the opportunity to pass the game on to his kids, Randy and Pam.
“I coached my kids,” Cotton said. “I really liked it.”
He now has six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.