EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final in a series of profiles on the 2019 class of the Clinton County Sports Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony and announcement of the winner of the 2019 Wilmington News Journal Clinton County Scholar-Athlete Award is 6 p.m. June 26 at the Expo Center on the Clinton County Fairgrounds. Reservations and payment can be made at the News Journal office. Cost is $25 per reservation. UP NEXT: The Banquet.
If you catch John Patton at work, you’ll get a full dose of his favorite athletic teams — the Hurricane, the Buckeyes, the Bengals, the Reds.
And you might get a word in about a vehicle as well.
While Patton may know a thing or two about sports, his livelihood is the automobile industry. Now at Bush Auto Place, Patton figures he’s personally sold more cars than anyone in Clinton County the past 53 years.
Sports and selling cars. Patton’s learned plenty doing both.
“I’m a competitor, whether it’s sports or selling cars,” said Patton. “Competition teaches you so much about life. Everything’s not going to be roses. Not every day is going to be great. If something goes wrong, you compete and strive to get it right.
“I’m 72 (years old) and still here (at Bush). If I left there’d be nobody here to talk about Ohio State, Reds, Bengals.”
Patton’s athletic legacy as one of Wilmington High School’s best all-around performers wasn’t a birthright. He is one of the few — if not the only — Hurricane athletes to earn a varsity letter in five sports as well as first-team All-South Central Ohio League honors in four sports.
But Patton was born in Springfield and his family lived on a farm in the area. He could have grown up knowing more about cows than cars, or riding horses more than playing H-O-R-S-E.
“Who knows, if I stayed in the country, I might have played the tuba,” he quipped.
However, Patton’s uncle Jack — already in Wilmington selling automobiles — told John’s father J.B. that the family was selling the farm and the Springfield Pattons were coming to Wilmington.
Patton moved to Locust Street, just three houses from the high school. The WHS campus and Alumni Field became his backyard.
One of his first memories, though, was not a happy one. As a 7-year-old, Patton remembers looking through the fence and crying as the 8-year-olds played baseball. He was too young but eventually made it over the fence and the rest is history.
In 1954 his Mud Hens team won a city rec trophy. “I had a homerun all on errors … but I thought I was a star,” he said.
Patton remembers Vic Wertz’s homerun and Willie Mays’ catch in the 1954 World Series.
“That’s when I first got into (sports),” he said.
Patton saw his first Ohio State football game in 1955 against Nebraska. “That’s how I fell in love with Ohio State,” said Patton.
As a youth, he enjoyed racing out to the middle of Alumni Field to retrieve the kicking tee when the Hurricane kicked off in a football game. He remembers being the catcher when Bobby Hooper was pitching at the park.
“This was just a great place to grow up; we had a blast,” he said, noting Wayne and Brett Hutchens were neighbors when he first arrived in Wilmington.
He also recalled shooting basketball in an empty high school with his friends.
“We had a way to get in to the old high school,” Patton said, smiling. “We never did anything bad, just went in there to play basketball.”
Patton was a relentless athlete, regardless of the sport, and gave every team an honest effort each and every day.
“I’ve been hyper all my life,” he admitted. “Al Burger, who was my (basketball) coach my senior year, told me he coached all over the United States and he never had a player play as hard as I did.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports