Noel Blankenship

West Virginia native Noel Blankenship learned early about the high price for fame in baseball when he was hitting .500 as a teenager in the Sertoma League in Richmond, Va., that featured a bevy of ex-professional ball players. “I didn't know the assistant manager at the Food Fair where I was working was an old baseball player,” Blankenship said. “I was working the evening shift, but I missed a lot of shifts in the summer in order to play ball. The very day the Richmond Times Dispatch Sports page headline said ‘Blankenship leads league with .500 Batting Average’, I reported to work that evening only to be fired by a grinning assistant manager. He understood....really, he did. But he still fired me.”

That gave Blankenship time to focus on baseball and later to forge a sterling career along with teaching at Kent State University. Blankenship, who also was a standout pitcher, was offered a tryout in the New York Yankees system after his standout season in the Richmond League.  He went to former Indians shortstop Dick Howser’s baseball school in Florida to showcase his skills and talents as a slugging outfielder for professional team scouts. Blankenship was so impressive that Tommy Howser, Dick’s brother, offered to represent Blankenship as an agent. Blankenship, who had quit his job at DuPont in early 1963 to attend the showcase, said he “had no idea” what that meant and passed on the opportunity.

“I didn't play baseball again until coming to teach at KSU, when I hooked up with the Black Labels in '69, playing part of a season,” Blankenship said. “The next couple years I played for Dairy Queen, hitting fourth, playing center field, mostly.” Blankenship played at Glenville State College and was a top-level player for many years in the Akron Class AA Baseball League and then turned to golf as his recreational event. Blankenship, now 73, won the Portage County Senior Amateur at age 50.