What Kroger Babb is credited with starting is something we take for granted today.
Newspapers in Wilmington were first published in the early 1800s. Back then, and well into the 20th Century, local newspapers didn’t have “sections,” or specific places where information was published. Items of all types, and importance, would randomly appear, seemingly based on what filled a space best.
In recent years, we have grown used to “sections” for world news, obituaries, society news and certainly sports.
But when Babb was first credited with a byline in the Wilmington News Journal, Sept. 24, 1924 for a Wilmington High School football game against Withrow, the local sports coverage began to change.
Previously, stories on football or baseball games may have been found on page 1 or page 3 or page 12.
Once Babb came on the scene, though, there were pages dedicated to local sports and they were together. Babb wrote a column which had the title “Bumble Bee,” which he used to offer his opinion as well as to feature local athletes.
In high school at Wilmington, Babb was the school cheerleader. From information gathered over the years, it appears there was a single cheerleader for the football and basketball teams at Wilmington back then. I picture the guy with the large megaphone yelling to the local fans to root for their team. Babb also was the team manager for football and basketball at WHS.
Though an exact start and end date were not found for Babb’s tenure at the News Journal, it looks like he started in 1924 and worked until approximately 1934.
Before he left the News Journal, Babb started officiating basketball and football games.
A 1980 story in the News Journal, stated Babb earned a note in Ripley’s Believe It or Not for having officiated more than 1,000 high school football and 1,000 high school basketball games in his career. During the 1933-34 school year, Babb was said to have officiated 147 football and basketball games.
Consider at the time, only two schools in the county — Blanchester and Wilmington — had football. Blanchester eventually dropped football, so Babb’s games had to come outside the county for sure.
Also, many of those basketball games could come on the same day if Babb was fortunate enough to officiate a county’s post-season tournament. In some cases, five or more games were played in a day at a single location.
One note regarding Babb’s officiating career reported he traveled more than 30,000 miles to officiate football and basketball games.
When it appeared he had his fill of sports writing and officiating, Babb went to California and took his place in the film industry. It doesn’t appear Babb’s films had anything to do with sports, but rather controversial or easily sensationalized subjects.
However, he reportedly made a great deal of money from these films. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, per Wikipedia, Babb’s “Mom and Dad” film grossed anywhere from $40 million to $100 million. Also, Wikipedia’s biography on Babb said he received “the first annual Sid Grauman Showmanship Award” in 1951, presented by the Hollywood Rotary Club.
Babb was the producer of The Ern Westmore Hollywood Glamour Show, which may have been the first makeover reality show, in 1953.
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports