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The Suburbanite
  • STEVE KING: Slayman represented best of Manchester athletics

  • Joe Slayman would tell the story of visiting for the first time what is now James R. France Stadium, the home of the Manchester High School football team for the last 56 years.

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  • Joe Slayman would tell the story of visiting for the first time what is now James R. France Stadium, the home of the Manchester High School football team for the last 56 years.
    It came in 1954, three years before it existed.
    “I heard that they were going to build a new stadium, so I tromped up through the tall grass from the high school to see the spot where it would be,” said Slayman, who graduated from Manchester that year.
    The high school then was located in the building that currently houses the Manchester Local Schools Administration offices on Manchester Road. The present high school, now 54-years-old, wouldn’t be built for another five years.
    That was Joe Slayman, who knew everybody and everything about the Manchester school system and the Manchester community, sports and otherwise. He was a walking, talking history book. It was almost as if he were a mannequin in a Manchester museum who suddenly came to life, stepped down off his stand and began telling you, in detail, what it was like back in the day – many times way back in the day.
    That’s because he had lived it, having been a community member all his life, dating back to the 1930s when Manchester was nothing more than a crossroads of dusty dirt horse paths.
    Joe passed away June 8, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He was 80.
    “When you come out to Manchester, you quickly learn about all the great athletes and coaches who have been here through the years. And in terms of what he meant to Panthers sports, Joe was as big as any of them,” said Manchester High Assistant Principal A.J. Hite, a Barberton native who is a longtime assistant boys basketball coach at the school. “When we were putting together a history of the basketball program, Joe was instrumental with all the information he provided us.”
    Again, Joe gained the information the old-fashioned way in that he had lived it and been a part of it. For 25 years, Joe operated the scoreboard at Manchester home boys basketball games and his late wife, Ruby, also a Manchester graduate, served as official scorer.
    Both are enshrined in the school’s Swede Olson Athletic Hall of Fame, Joe for having starred in football, basketball and baseball and Ruby as an honorary member. Joe had played for Olson, the iconic Panthers football coach from 1946-50.
    Joe also coached a variety of Manchester youth sports, including girls softball, and was a key figure in developing players who would allow the Panthers to become an immediate power when high school girls sports began in the mid-1970s. With Joe as an assistant coach, Manchester won the 1979 Class AA state championship. He later served as the team’s head coach.
    Page 2 of 2 - Following his retirement from Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. after 38 years, the ex-Marine involved himself in a variety of endeavors.
    “I had the pleasure of sitting in my office and watching him work at Sisler Field. He was always there,” said Manchester Middle School Principal Jim Miller of the youth baseball and softball fields next to the school.
    For Joe Slayman – a Manchester guy through and through who coined the phrase “pay it forward” in the community – it was a labor of love.