Guarnieri's Donation To Stadium Honors Late “Big Ralph”

By: 
JAKE DOWLING
Sports Editor

He is no longer calling games, but his legacy continues thanks to his family.

No one will ever forget hearing Ralph “Big Ralph” Guarnieri’s voice during St. Marys Roughriders football games and telling to the Riders’ faithful to “put’em on the bus,” once the game was in hand, but his family wanted to honor the late radio personality, while also playing an intricate part of the future of St. Marys athletics.

That’s why the Guarnieris wanted to give back by donating to the Roughrider Athletic Complex next to Memorial High School.

“We are 100 percent for the move,” said Dominic Guarnieri, Ralph’s son. “The thing I thought about, personally, was what is best for the kids. I just think back to when I was there, I wasn’t there when the new school was built, but I couldn’t imagine going to school and not playing your football games there or track meets or anything for that matter.

“It is more than about football, it is about what is best for the kids.”

Earlier this year, Dominic, Angie and their mother talked with St. Marys Athletic Director Jim Hollman about donating to the stadium and in return, the Roughriders Philanthropic Association (RPA) gave the family naming rights to the new pressbox that will be constructed in honor of Ralph.

“We didn’t really talk about the naming rights for the pressbox, that wasn’t predominantly talked about,” Angie said. “We talked more about the project as a whole. They just asked us if we would like to put our portion toward the pressbox.”

Angie said she has heard the buzz in her restaurant at Guarnieri’s Pizzeria regarding the new stadium the night that the new lights were turned on following the Roughriders’ week seven win at Bath. After little action at the stadium since initially breaking ground in August, the QLED lights shining on the turf field symbolized progress for not only football and St. Marys athletics, but also for the community.

“I know that night of the Bath game, the lights were on and it made a big impression when they (St. Marys fans) came up over the hill (on U.S. 33),” Angie added. “I was here at the pub working, but people said that it was a sight.

“I think they (the RPA) are doing it the right way, people were saying that the lights were impressive and when people came in, they were saying, ‘let’s continue the project.’ There was a lot of positive feedback.”

Skip Baughman Stadium, which is a stone’s throw away from Guarnieri’s Pizzeria, does help generate business for the local pizza pub, but Angie said she is not concerned when Friday night football are eventually played somewhere else.

“You have people who just don’t want it to move and they have asked me multiple times with Skip in walking distance, how is it going to affect you and your business,” she said. “We have always been downtown, even when we started as a little place, we have always been downtown and Friday nights have been busy. We are not going to lose that, we are going to remain busy and on the business-side of things, we should not have to rely on five home football games to survive in St. Marys.

“It is a wonderful thing to have to be able to walk back and forth, but it is progress to be somewhere new and it is progress for the community.”

Dominic, who is the University of Findlay women’s golf coach, does not live in St. Marys anymore, but is well aware of those who are passionate about keeping football at Skip Baughman Stadium. Skip will host Friday’s regular season finale against Wapakoneta before hosting a Division IV playoff game the following Saturday as its final goodbye to the community.

“They need to have a positive mindset and adapt to change,” Dominic said about residents who want Skip to stay. “I was listening to the game and they had interviewed old coaches during halftime and I think it might have been (Greg) Freewalt who said something about how he would never forget when he and Skip were going up to the stadium and Skip said something about, ‘this won’t be here forever.’

“I have heard people ask, ‘would Skip really want this,’ and from everything that I have heard, he would be a big supporter of this. From what I have heard, people don’t want the new stadium because we have always played football here (at Skip) and it’s tradition and I would always tell people, ‘the New York Yankees built a new stadium, is their tradition gone?’ No.”

Dominic also has an idea as to what his father would think with regards to calling games in St.  Marys, but not at Skip anymore if he were still here today.

“He would definitely be in support of it,” Dominic said. “He loved calling games no matter where it was from. 

I remember when we went up to a place in Toledo and you couldn’t set two people in there, but to him, it didn’t matter where it was at it was more about being the voice of the Roughriders. It didn’t matter if he was calling it in a pressbox, or in a place where he would be getting snowed on, he would support it because of the kids and because he loved to do it.”

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