By STEVE KRAH
Bob Rutherford has been a supporter of youth sports for the majority of his 84 years.
One can find him at all sorts of events involving athletes from Western High School in Russiaville, Ind.
One of eight in the 1957 WHS graduating class and a 10-letterwinner (track, basketball and baseball), Rutherford carries a shiny lifetime pass that allows him to cheer on the Panthers at home contests.
At baseball games he can be found behind home plate between the scoreboard and the backstop. He also has his favorite locations to view basketball, football and more.
What is now Russiaville Youth Baseball League purchased land from Rutherford and expanded while he and wife Anna Mae moved to New London — which is two miles due north of Russiaville and 10 miles southwest of Kokomo.
There is a baseball diamond in the back yard and batting cages in his garage at New London.
“The minor league team needed a place to practice and we had 2.75 acres so we just built us a ball diamond out back,” says Rutherford, who was a volunteer Little League umpire for 14 years.
Bob and Anna Mae have been married 56 years. They had three daughters (one died at 42).
Rutherford goes all over the region — Championship Park (Kokomo), Kokomo Municipal Stadium, Grand Park (Westfield) and more — and is a fixture at Kokomo Post 6 games.
When Post 6 is at home as it is this weekend for the regional tournament against Lafayette Post 11, he can be found in his favorite spot high in the third base side bleachers at CFD Investment Stadium at Highland Park.
“I attend as many as I can,” says Rutherford. “I don’t miss any home games.”
To say he is a loyal customer is an understatement.
“I love the game,” says Rutherford. “I played it and I love it.”
Though he never played at Highland Park, he did attend a tryout there for the Kokomo Dodgers following high school. He recalls seeing future Baseball Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda when he was the the minor league team.
“That’s where he used to hit his home runs,” says Rutherford while pointing to a house beyond the Highland Park fence.
After the Dodgers, the Kokomo Highlanders attracted baseball fans — including Rutherford — to Highland Park.
Purdue standout Dennis Brady and Del Harris (who went on to coach in the NBA and go into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame) was were Highlanders in the late 1960’s.
Rutherford played in front of large crowds during his fast pitch softball days at Foster Park. He worked at Delco in Kokomo.
He served in the U.S. Navy from 1958-62 and belong to Kokomo Post 6, which is celebrating its centennial in 2022.
Harold Rutherford — one of Bob’s four siblings — was the president of the first class at Western (a consolation of the New London Quakers, Russiaville Cossacks and West Middleton Broncos).
In 1985, Rutherford helped start the Russiaville American Legion Post 412 Cubs. The team traveled far and wide and made some noise in a tournament in Pueblo, Colo.
“They wanted to know where Russiaville, Ind., was,” says Rutherford of a team that drew players from Western, Northwestern and Clinton Central high schools. “Eventually they started coming up here and play ball. We’d roast a hog. They really enjoyed it.”
Russiaville hosted wooden bat classic every year in July with teams coming from places like Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota and Ontario.
“The kids really enjoyed what we tried to build out there,” says Rutherford. “You get to see them expand. That’s why I like Legion ball.
“These kids are developing to the next step.”