Jim moved to Ashland at the age of 4 and played softball, baseball, and basketball in recreation and church league program and was a member of the Ashland Whiz Kids basketball team. At AHS, Jim earned 6 varsity letters, 3 each in baseball and basketball, and served as co-captain of both sports his junior/senior years. Fans remember him ply his trademark behind-the-back, over-the-shoulder, rolling passes to teammate and Hall of Famer Max Messner. The Runyon-Messner combination worked so well that Bob Dixon, Ashland Times-Gazette Sports Editor, drew parallels to the Celtic great Bob Cousy. When the post was clogged, Jim shot long one-handers with the ability to score in the 20s.
Teammates remember him for his heady, unselfish competitiveness. Jim made getting enemy batters out routine. His senior year, a 7-0 pitching record and an ERA of less than 1.0 helped lead his team into the regional finals. As a junior, Jim led the Arrows with a .365 batting average and topped that his senior with a .440, second to Lanny Repp. Only the sports gods know what might have been. Jim tried out with the Cincinnati Reds and was asked to report to the Georgia farm team but a drunk driver cut short the dream.
In 1957, Jim renewed Ashland’s semi-pro baseball by going from merchant to merchant asking for donations to start a semi-pro team. Enough merchants responded and Ashland once again had a semi-pro team, which played for the next 5 summers. Jim was working for the State Highway department when Lanny Repp and 2 other AU baseball players began to urge him to enroll. On a cold December day, Jim had a surprise visitor while at work – Coach George Donges.
The next 4 years, January 1958 to January 1962, were spent at AU. With 4 baseball and 3 basketball seasons available, Jim earned 7 varsity letters, 4-year letterman in baseball, 3-year letterman in basketball, served as co-captain, and owned a 30 game hitting streak. Jim never pitched an inning at AU but owned the “hot corner” 3rd base for 4 years. By graduation 4 years later, Jim had batted over .300 each season, was capable of hitting the long ball, and owned a s 30 game hitting streak. The first year playing Eagle basketball, Jim was the leading scorer on a losing team. The next season saw a strong recruiting class that added rebounding and much needed scoring. The Eagles began to win and became the nation’s leading small college scoring machine, averaging 100 points a game. There were 4 wins that he “remembers like yesterday” a 93-91 victory over Stewart Air Force Base in the Christmas Holiday Tournament in which Bob Brownson called the victory “the most fabulous and unexpected win we’ve every experienced here at Ashland”; a 104-94 win over Wooster when he and Larry Aulger each scored 32 points and played only 30 minutes; and 2 wins over Defiance College; the only two losses of their season. The second victory was in the N.A.I.A. District 22 Tournament. Jim was selected to the All-Mid Ohio Conference Team and the All-Tournament District 22 Team while attending AU.
After graduation, Jim moved to Mansfield and continued to play industrial league basketball and semi-pro baseball for Mansfield Farmers Bank. The Bankers won the National Baseball Congress State Championship in 1964. As baseball coach at Mansfield Madison High School, Runyon-coached teams had 5 consecutive 20-win seasons, won 4 straight Cardinal Conference Championships, 3 Sectional Titles, 2 District Crowns, and a Regional runner-up. Jim also organized a week-long spring trip into West Virginia for the Rams Baseballers. Still in operation today is the Madison summer baseball program that Jim organized in 1964 for players ages 7-17, 1998 marks Jim’s 26th year in the Broward County, Florida schools and 36th in the field of education. He serves as president of Ergonomic Resources of Florida. Jim holds a Master’s degree from Indiana University and certification from Florida Atlantic in Administration-Supervision. Jim and his wife, Mimi, reside in Coral Springs, Florida.
Nominator: Robert C. Howell