Tom Blake has made his mark as a coach at Brookhaven High School, guiding his football team to an undefeated record 3 years ago. His 2004 team became the only City League team to reign as a state champion.
Brookhaven earned its championship on the field, the first Columbus team to do so. Other Columbus teams over the past century have had good records and were crowned mythical champions in votes by the media or other coaches. Most of this, however, was before the Ohio High School Athletic Association created the playoff system.
To retired journalist Ed Easterly III, Blake will always be remembered as a West High School athlete.
In his latest book, “Hilltop Roundup,” Easterly devotes several pages to Blake, a member of the 1969 West High School football team that won the City League Championship.
What Blake has learned, according to Easterly, he learned at West.
“He’s a good molder of character,” the retired journalist and West High School alum said in a telephone interview. “At Brookhaven, he’s making the kids work.”
Easterly’s book, published this past December, follows a book he published in 1997 about the undefeated and untied team at West. One year later, he followed that with a book about the City League. Now he presents readers with “Hilltop Roundup.” All three books are self-published by an independent printer in Kentucky, where Easterly spent 34 years in the newspaper business.
Easterly retired in 1990 and “played golf, gardened, built a new house.”
These days when someone retires, the first thing other people often hear is, ‘When are you going to write a book.’ Not that way for Easterly.
“I didn’t plan to write a book,” he confessed.
But it was his love of the area where he grew up, his love of football at his alma mater, that brought him back to the Hilltop.
Using his journalistic skills, he interviewed teachers, administrators and wives (some now widows) to tell their stories of life on the Hilltop, at West High School, and on the athletic courts.
But why the emphasis on football?
“I loved football,” the author said. “I had such wonderful memories of football. As so often happened in my day and experience, so many leading people, prominent people in business and vocations, had a football background.”
He talked about his years at West.
“I came in the 1940s,” he recalled. “You were highly respected if you played football. That’s what made kids want to try out.”
He said so many boys went out for football that they had to borrow equipment from Ohio State University.
While the book focuses on football, a few others aren’t forgotten. Pages are dedicated to basketball star Michael Redd, now with the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association, and Johnny Edwards, a former major league catcher who spent a few years behind the plate of the Cincinnati Reds.
Later in life, after the sports careers are behind them, he found these former athletes had some interesting lives.
One person he didn’t include in his book, but talked about at length during a telephone interview was his neighbor, the late Donn Eisele.
“Donn ran track,” he said of Eisele’s high school days.
Eisele went on to become an astronaut.
The book, in a buff and brown cover, also includes photos of all the schools on the Westside that feed into West High School, as well as their principals and staff members from selected years.
Easterly is hoping his book will “entertain, educate, inform and give credit and respect to teachers, administrators and the great football players out of West High School.”
He said he also wanted “to edify the people who contributed so much in the delivery of education and those who gave the kids their education to go into life prepared.”
The book he labored on for 18 months retails for $18 and can be purchased through the West High School Alumni Association and some drug stores and grocery stores in the area.
“I didn’t do this to make money,” he said. “I just want people to enjoy it.”