Going to Sandusky football games was a special occasion in the Craig household, and finally getting reserved seat tickets in 1958 was even more important.
Ernest D. Craig only got to use those tickets for 20 years, but his daughter — Jan Croom — kept the tradition alive by buying the same seat for the last 30 years.
And now, 50 years after the initial purchase, that seat will be honored in the memory of a father who loved the Streaks so much.
“He loved the Blue Streaks, the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cleveland Browns,” Mrs. Croom said. “He wouldn’t have taken a million dollars to keep from watching those games. After my dad passed away, I kept buying them because I didn’t want anyone else to sit there. My husband (Moses) would sit there.”
“She just kept the tradition going,” said Jeff Craig, Jan Croom’s brother who lives in Centennial, Colo. “My dad loved going to those games and he always had to have that one seat. He always managed to get to the game someway somehow.”
A commemorative plaque will be attached to that seats first purchase in 1958 — Section C, Row Q, Seat 1 — Friday when the Blue Streaks take on Admiral King.
“That’s really neat,” Sandusky coach Mike Franklin said. “I think a lot of our kids still don’t understand the tradition of Sandusky football, and this is a great example of the deep love for Sandusky football.”
Craig was a 1939 Sandusky graduate and state champion in the 100, but he never played football. But when he returned from his stint in the Navy in World War II, it was hard to find a bigger fan.
“There were times when he didn’t have the money to get into the stadium, so he would get up on the roof of a house across the street to watch the game,” Mrs. Croom said. “He would call my mother from work like clockwork at 12 o’clock to tell her to start getting ready for the game.
“When we were kids, the five oldest — my sister Marva, myself, and my brothers Roger, Bobby and Jeffrey — we would go into the neighborhood and collect pop bottles and cash them in to help dad pay for the tickets. I can still see him smiling right now. We would never get more than 50 cents, and I still see that smile and the feel the warmth.”
Times got better for the Craigs, and eventually Ernest became the first black deputy sheriff in Erie County under Al Hess. He was working at New Departure at the time of his passing in 1978.
“He made it a point to get season tickets,” Jeff Craig said. “I don’t know how much they were. They probably were not a whole lot of money, but I know he had to get things together to get those tickets. He was going to be at those games.”
Craig had a 50-yard seat for the Sensational Sixties, but his passing at the age of 58 meant he missed his grandson, Corey Croom, star at Sandusky and Ball State university on his way to the NFL and the New England Patriots, and now an assistant on the Sandusky varsity coaching staff.
“He didn’t live to see his grandsons play,” Mrs. Croom said. “That would have been a treat for him. When Corey played for the Patriots against the Browns, I went to the cemetery and told him.”
And while Craig probably would not have thought much of the Sandusky season opener, he would have liked the results the last two weeks.
“For whatever reason, we did not perform the way we should have in Week 1 (a 14-12 loss to Lorain Southview),” Franklin said. “But the kids stepped up to the challenge in Week 2 and it continued in Week 3.
“We’ve put two football teams on the field this year. If you saw us in our scrimmages and Game 1, and see us in Games 2 and 3, you saw two different football teams. The young team we have, we’re still trying to get the kids to understand how to win games. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a winning team at Sandusky and the kids are starting to gain the confidence that we are on our way back.”
And a traditional rival stands in the way Friday.
“Sandusky-Admiral King was always a big game,” Franklin said. “King is on the rise and we think our program is on the rise so it’s going to be a great battle.”
Running behind a big veteran offensive line is still the preferred method of travel for the Streaks as Eric Jordan has rushed for nearly four times as many yards (424) as the team has through the air (116).
“We had some good results and you see a big change in practice,” Franklin said. “We’re seeing a lot of unselfishness.
“There are a lot of times when we have three or four wide receivers, and have only thrown the ball seven times in the last two games. We’re asking our receivers to block and block and block, and it’s not like they are disappointed they are not getting the ball.
"It’s the excitement in the kids after the game that shows we’re getting closer to being a team.”
A team Ernest D. Craig would be proud of.