The first time I walked into The Blade building in the early summer of 1972 to begin work as a summer intern, the first person to say hello was the man who hired me. Chet Sullwold was the executive sports editor.
Nowadays, 38 years later, when I stop by the same office, the first person to say hello often is the same Chet Sullwold, a member of the sports copy desk.
That may not seem all that noteworthy until I mention that Chet had already been at The Blade for nearly a quarter of a century by the time I first showed up. And that was after his college studies had been interrupted for a few years by WWII. So what I'm telling you is the first time we met there were already a few gray hairs on the old man's head.
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Chet is 86 years old. He decided a year or so ago to cut back to part-time status, but your idea of part-time and the number of hours he still devotes to this newspaper and our sports section are probably two different things.
Needless to say, he is The Blade's living legend.
On Saturday night, he was honored as being a living legend at the University of Toledo, as well. During a stoppage in play during the first half of UT's football win over Kent, Chet received the 12th Man Award in honor of 55 seasons on the football press box staff and 60-plus years spent working on UT's basketball statistics crew.
Unlike most 12th Man ceremonies, this one wasn't held on the Glass Bowl turf. Chet doesn't get around so swiftly these days, for one, and he didn't want to leave his post in Row 2, Seat 1 where he mans the internal public address microphone for the press box, radio and TV booths. So they came to him with a TV camera and sent the feed to the big video screen on the scoreboard. That's perfect, because any tribute to Sullwold should take place in a press box.
Chet went from Libbey High to UT, or TU as it was known back then, before answering the call to military duty. He then enrolled at Ohio State University, where he served as sports editor of The Lantern, before graduating to The Blade in July of 1948. He and Dolores have been married for 60 years, a union that created three children and, by extension, five grandkids. But Dolores has been sharing Chet with a number of mistresses, so to speak, for a number of years.
The Blade and UT, of course, have been at the top of the list. He has served the former as a sports writer and columnist, news reporter, sports editor, regional editor, Peach Section editor, and copy editor, among other jobs. In addition to the hours he has spent, and continues to spend, working at UT games, the Sullwolds started an endowment fund - "a few bucks," Chet said - to help pay students working in the Rockets' sports information office.
But there also has been a lifelong love affair with track and field - Chet was among the first registered officials in Ohio, served as the clerk of course at more prep meets than anyone could count, and was the voice of the state meet at Ohio Stadium in Columbus for nearly two decades - and he and his mellifluous, deep baritone had long stints as the PA voice of old Page Stadium at the former DeVilbiss High and as the voice of St. Francis de Sales football.
True to his nature, Sullwold accepted the 12th Man Award modestly and suggested it "really should go to all the stat crew members, the ushers, the ticket-takers, the guards, all those people who are fairly anonymous but who love and support the university."
Sullwold is proof that age is just a number. Both of his parents lived into their 90s, and he keeps stored in his computer terminal a wire service story on the late Bob Sheppard, who was the PA announcer at Yankee Stadium into his mid-90s.
"The way I look at it, I've still got things to look forward to," he said. "It keeps me going. I have a schedule, a reason to get my tail out of bed, get dressed, and go to work. So that's why I'm still at it. Plus, I work with a bunch of wonderful people, and I still truly enjoy it."
Part of UT's 12th Man Award is an invitation for the recipient to Friday night's team dinner. Sullwold had to pass. He was working on our sports desk, manning the phones, taking high school football reports, and setting the pace under deadline pressure for co-workers half his age.
Being saluted as the 12th Man by UT was a well-deserved and very nice honor.
Here at The Blade building, though, Chet has been our No. 1 Man for a long, long time.
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