SALEM - 1954 was a tumultuous year for Buckeyes fans. Ohio State was coming off of back-to-back 6-3 seasons in '52 and '53. The collective fan base, aptly nicknamed "Buckeye Nation" today, was fed up with a coach named Woody Hayes who had a record of 16-9-2 to that point during his time in Columbus.
That season the Buckeyes and Hayes went on to defeat six top ranked teams en route to their first conference championship and the 1955 Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes finished their run by securing the school's second national championship, with a No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll.
The road to a perfect season that year included an annual bout with Michigan on Nov. 20 in which the Buckeyes defense made a goal-line stand against the Wolverines to highlight a 21-7 win.
From left, Dick Ball, Phil Keller, Will Stamp and Lowell Hone gather before presenting the ‘toppled top’ from the 1954 win over Michigan which capped a perfect OSU season and marked the last time the goal posts at Ohio Stadium were torn down. The group presented the goal post top at halftime of the Ohio State-Michigan game Saturday, Nov. 20 and it will soon make its permanent home at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. (Submitted photo)
Fans rushed the field, flooding the playing surface at Ohio Stadium with over 78,000 screaming Buck-nuts.
Five friends - Dick Ball, Richard Britton, Lowell Hone, James King and Will Stamp - all optometry students and members of the Epsilon Psi Epsilon fraternity, wouldn't be left out as they too joined in on the festivities taking place on the field.
Stamp, a Salem resident and 1950 graduate of Salem High School was among the students who was at Ohio Stadium that day - the last time that a goal post was torn down at Ohio State.
"I think we were standing around, more than anything. Well, I suppose we were pushing on the goal post and helping rock it," Stamp said with a chuckle.
After taking down the North goal post, the group traveled from the stadium, through the Oval and onto High Street behind the optometric fraternity house. That's where the five friends got the idea that they would like to have a piece of history as a keepsake for the fraternity.
"We wanted the ball at the top," Stamp said. "We said 'all we want is the ball, you can have the post,' so I don't know where the rest of it went. We cut it off with a hacksaw and were going to continue downtown with the group but we decided not to."
The five friends decided to display the top on the mantle in the living room of the Epsilon Psi Epsilon living room.?They had hoped that the top would remain there to commemorate the win over their rival and the Rose Bowl victory that followed.?Years had passed and new members of the fraternity were unaware of the story of the top and what it stood for. The decision was made that it was no longer a necessary centerpiece for the living room and the top was tossed out.?The group returned one weekend for an alumni event in which they reunited at the fraternity house. Unfortunately the "toppled top" was nowhere to be found.
"He would go back almost every year to the fraternity house and look around," said wife Barb. "He would walk down in the basement and see if someone put it somewhere else. I can remember him doing that about three or four times."?As time went on the five begin to settle across Ohio, Michigan and South Dakota. But they still kept in touch and would often muse over the game and what followed.?They had all but given up hope and finding their lost trophy.
"Well, the feeling is that they made a lot bigger deal about it than what I thought it would be," he said. "It turned out to be a real exciting thing, for all of us really. We all enjoyed it. Of course, getting older it's nice to have something like that in your background."?Jim King, one of his fellow optometrists and accomplices that day decided to submit the story of the toppled top to an optometry alumni magazine.?Little did they know one of their own, an Ohio State graduate in fellow optometrist Phil Keller had been keeping the ball as a memento of his own for several years.?Keller, on a visit to the university himself, had found the relic outside and became interested.?After scooping it up, the top was kept among other Ohio State artifacts until Kings' article surfaced this spring.?Keller notified the school of optometry in search of King but only to find out that he had sadly passed away.?Instead he was able to find Ball, who passed along the information to the remaining friends.
"I was in disbelief," she said. "I mean golly, somebody really had it. They weren't sure until they saw the picture of it but when they did they knew that's exactly what it was."?The remaining friends were reunited yet again Nov. 24 at the Ohio State-Michigan game.
"These guys had more fun reminiscing than you would believe," said Barb. "You've never seen three guys so ecstatic over something."?58 years after their initial parade from Ohio Stadium through the oval to the optometry house, Stamp, Ball and Hone were once again on the field at The Horseshoe in a celebration that had come full circle.
"It was exciting," Stamp said. "Ohio State won and went undefeated, which hadn't happened for many years. That year Woody Hayes had that perfect season and then won the national championship."?Again, Stamp watched as the Buckeyes defeated the Wolverines to secure an undefeated season.
"And being at the Michigan game, that was a big thing, too, naturally with Ohio State winning, it topped it off," Stamp said.
"Oh my, it was almost like they were seniors at school again," Barb said. They were so happy together reminiscing everything. You could just see the joy in their eyes."?This time however the goal posts would be spared in the on-field celebration.
"We went down on the field afterwards, and of course the Ohio State Troopers are surrounding the goal posts," Barb said. "I said to them, 'Do you guys realize that these three here are the reason you have to stand here?'"
"We tried to get a picture with them trying to arrest them but they wouldn't cooperate," she continued. "They were willing to play along, but these guys didn't want to. I said 'oh you don't want to repeat history?'"?The optometry school has rallied around the story of the toppled top, Displaying the story on its website along with an interactive Google map that lets you walk the route the five friends took that night.?For now, the top will remain on display at the Thompson Library until December. It will then make its permanent residence at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, where it will be on display for all to see, and learn about the last time a goal post was brought down at Ohio Stadium.
"It's a nice memory," Stamp said.