By Mark Schmetzer, Enquirer contributor
Elder High School fans take great pride in the school’s rich baseball tradition, which includes at least one state championship in each of seven consecutive decades, the 1940s through the 2000s.
That streak reached its peak in the second half of the 1950s, when the Panthers captured four big-school division titles in five seasons, including three straight from 1958 through 1960.
What makes that stretch even more remarkable is in the state semifinals and finals of those last three seasons, Elder won six consecutive games over six different opponents with five of the games decided by one run and the other going to 12 innings – five more than the scheduled seven.
“We knew baseball,” third baseman Bob “Steiny” Steinbeck said. “We knew how to play the game, and we knew how to win. We had good pitching, but our guys were down-to-earth. Nobody thought they were bigger than anybody else. We just went out and played the game. We never got overconfident.”
Steinbeck and first-baseman-right fielder Tom Tiettmeyer are the only guys who played on all three Elder state championship teams. They were coached by Ray Dieringer, who doubled as the Panthers’ basketball coach and admitted that baseball was, at best, his second sport.
“He would say, ‘I don’t know a whole lot about baseball,’” Steinbeck, 76, recalled while sitting at a table in his Delhi home. “Back then, we only had one coach. A player would coach first base. He would say, ‘I just brought the balls and bats and let them play.’ We went out and played our own game.
“He never took credit for the winning. He always says, ‘I had the players.’”
Steinbeck believes Dieringer, who lives in South Carolina, is not giving himself enough credit.
“He had to keep 20 guys’ heads on straight, and we were 16-18 years old,” Steinbeck points out.
The approach paid off. Elder went 66-7 overall during the three-year championship run, losing to just one team more than once – Newport Catholic, now Newport Central Catholic.
“They always gave us trouble,” Steinbeck recalled. “I don’t know why.”
The Panthers were in their second season under Dieringer when they started their tournament run. They reached the 1958 state semifinals with a 7-6 win over Dayton Chaminade in the Class AA regional championship game and advanced to the finals with a 4-3 win over Euclid. Bruce Goins drove in two runs, Dick Vogel drove in another and Tom Weber scored on a wild pitch for Elder, setting up a sloppy championship game against Fremont Ross that was marred by a combined 20 errors, leading to 19 of the combined 21 runs being unearned. The Panthers gave up two leads before scoring three runs in the seventh inning to survive for the win.
“We won the game with three squeeze bunts,” Steinbeck said.