Baseball’s Victor Aldredge: “The Hoosier Schoolmaster”

Aldridge_VicThere are many examples of capable educators who have also established themselves as talented athletes. One of these is teacher Victor Aldridge, who was also an accomplished pitcher for Major League Baseball.

Vic was born on October 25, 1893, in the small town of Crane, Indiana. He attended Tempy Primary School, just a short walk from his home. In high school, the teenaged Vic attended nearby Trinity Springs, and following his graduation, the young athlete enrolled in Central Normal College in Danville, Indiana.

From 1914-1915, Vic taught school at the Pea Ridge School in Trinity Springs, Indiana. He also taaught in Miami County, Indiana.

Dubbed the “Hoosier Schoolmaster,” Vic was drafted in 1916 as a right-handed pitcher by the Chicago Cubs. Before his career was over, he also played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the New York Giants, and the Los Angeles Angels. Vic earned a reputation for a sharp, breaking curve ball, one of the three best pitches on any diamond in his day.  In 1918, the former educator played only three games, pitching a total of only twelve innings, before joining the US Navy during the final year of World War I. After returning from the war, Vic played for the Los Angeles Angels, an affiliate of the Cubs, then returned to the Cubs for the 1922 season. He played the next three years for Chicago, delivering consistent performances. But his most notable performances occurred during the 1925 World Series, when Vic pitched and won games two and five, only to pitch a disastrous first inning in the seventh game. He played his last game on August 29, 1928.

After he retired from baseball, Vic attended law school at the Voorhees School of Law. He also served in the Indiana State Senate from 1937 to 1948. He was first elected on November 4, 1936, on the Democratic ticket.

This distinguished educator and talented athlete passed away in Terre Haute, Indiana, on April 17, 1973, at the age of 79, and is buried in the New Trinity Springs Cemetery. For his work in baseball, he was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame on January 19, 2007, as its 131st member.

Roddy Lee: High school teacher, coach, and Olympic athlete

9621f166a4fe0cfccc89befff881d2a6In American history there are many examples of talented athletes who later became successful teachers and coaches. One such example is Roderick (Roddy) Lee, a retired high school business teacher and coach who represented the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the 1972 Munich Olympic games.

Roddy was born in the United States, but his family originally came from Taiwan. He grew up in Kensington, Contra Costa County, California, where he attended Kensington Hilltop Elementary, Portola Junior High, and nearby El Cerrito High School. This gifted athlete began running track while a student at El Cerrito. As a high school athlete, “I liked the hurdles best,” he once said. “It was a little more exciting and the races were a little faster.”

Following his high school graduation in 1967, Roddy enrolled in UC Berkeley, where he was a business major and member of the track team. In 1970, he was approached by a Taiwanese official who invited him to compete for Taiwan at the Asian Games in Bangkok. At the time, Roddy, whose Chinese name is Lee Chung-Ping, had dual citizenship with the United States and the Republic of China. Roddy agreed to represent Taiwan. “I hit a hurdle in the highs — I was the favorite there going in,” he said. “In the intermediates, I lost on a lean. But that’s how it goes. I can say that now.” Despite this setback, by the time the games were over, Roddy had won two silver medals.

Roddy also represented Taiwan in the 1972 Olympics, finishing 35th overall in the 110 hurdles. “There were only four guys on the track team,” Roddy said. “A long jumper, a triple jumper, a sprinter, and me. And that was our relay team.” The 1972 Olympics are best remembered for the Palestinian terrorist attack that left eleven Israeli athletes and coaches dead. The games were halted for one day for a memorial service. The rest of the Taiwanese team returned home on its scheduled flight. The one-day delay meant that Roddy was the last Taiwanese athlete left in Munich to carry the national flag for the closing ceremonies.

During his senior year of college, Roddy decided to become a track coach. He earned his degree and teaching credential, then coached track at Kennedy High School for ten years. Then Roddy transferred to his alma mater, El Cerrito High School, where he coached track and golf, taught computer science and physical education, and led his school’s IT team until his retirement.

In his retirement, Roddy is still very much a part of his school. He is actively working on the El Cerrito High School Archiving Project, an effort to preserve the school’s history. The effort is fitting and proper, because he is part of that history. Lee holds a spot in the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

Mark Geiger: The High School Math Teacher with International Acclaim as a Soccer Referee

There are many examples of talented educators who have also logged impressive accomplishments in athletic arenas. Such is certainly the case with Mark Geiger, a former high school math teacher who now serves as a referee for Major League Soccer in both the United States and Canada.

imagesMark was born on August 25, 1974, in Beachwood, New Jersey. After graduating from Trenton State College, Mark taught advanced placement math at Lacey Townships High School in Lanoka Harbor, Ocean County, New Jersey. In 2009, this remarkable educator was one of 103 teachers who received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. The prestigious award is given annually to the best elementary and secondary science and mathematics teachers from across the country. The winners were selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians, and educators following a state-level selection process.

Mark earned his National Referee badge in 2003 while still teaching. He began his career as a part-time MLS referee a year later. In 2008, Geiger was added to U.S. Soccer’s International Panel of Referees, making him eligible for higher-profile international matches and requiring more travel. When he was offered a full-time, salaried position with the Professional Referee Organization, he reluctantly decided to retire from teaching. He wanted to referee international matches, and he was aware of FIFA’s preference for officials with full-time referee jobs.

Mark confesses that his experiences as a teacher has made a significant contribution to his success as a soccer referee. He once commented that math is about quantity, structure, space, and change, and that is also true of  the dynamics on the soccer field. He also remarked that maintaining order and clarity in a classroom of gifted, confident students is not that different from fairly governing the lightning-fast interplay of 22 of the world’s most gifted and talented soccer players. “When I was in the classroom, it was 25 or 30 students each with a different learning style,” he has said. “On the soccer field you have 22 different players, each with different personalities. So it’s about recognizing what’s going to work with a particular player and then implementing that.” He added, “The situations that are in the grey areas, preventing players from taking that next step, communicating with them, managing them, working with them” is what a good referee brings to the game. Sounds a lot like great teaching.

Mark is recognized as one of the best professional soccer referees in the business. He has worked the  Olympics games in 2012 and four matches during the U-20 World Cup finals in Colombia, which culminated in his officiating the championship game. The U-20 final marked the first time an American official refereed a major FIFA men’s tournament championship. Mark has also been to Morocco for FIFA’s Club World Cup, and he worked the fifth-place match between the Egyptian and the Mexican club. Later Mark served as the fourth official at the championship game. For his outstanding work as a referee, Mark was selected the Major League Soccer Referee of the Year in both 2011 and 2014.

Mark Geiger: a true chalkboard champion.

Rich Franklin: The Multi-Talented Math Teacher

RichFranklinphotoIt’s no surprise that gifted and talented educators possess expertise in fields beyond the educational sphere. This is demonstrated very well by math teacher, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight Champion, mixed martial artist, businessman, and actor Richard Jay Franklin, Jr.

Rich was born on October 5, 1974, one of two sons of Richard Sr. and Valia Franklin. Although he was born in Kentucky, he was raised in Cincinati, Ohio. His parents divorced when he was only five years old, and through subsequent marriages he acquired five additional half-siblings. As a youngster, Rich attended William Henry Harrison High School. Following his graduation, he enrolled at the University of Cincinatti, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and his master’s degree in education. After college, Rich taught mathematics for four years at Oak Hills High School in Cincinatti.

lu25005-edit-199x300During his years as an educator, Rich launched a career as a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), with a goal of fighting professionally. He left the teaching profession to pursue his goal full-time. He quickly moved up the ranks, and in 2005 earned the UFC Middleweight World Title. Following this victory, Rich accepted a position as a coach on the second season of the television show The Ultimate Fighter.

In 2003, Rich launched a clothing company with several business partners. This enterprise was named American Fighter. “The American Fighter message was about finding the fighter in each of us,” Rich once explained, “Whether you are a person battling cancer, an athlete preparing for competition, or a soldier stepping into combat, we all have a fighter in us.” In 2012, Affliction Clothing expressed an interest in American Fighter. They acquired the majority of the company to take the brand to mainstream retailers where it continues to grow. “The American Fighter name had an obvious connection with military personnel and I have always felt it is my civic duty to give back to the troops,” Rich says. “I have visited military bases all over the country, both domestic and abroad. The most recent trip was to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. In 2006, I began working with the military extensively, particularly with disabled veterans.” Specifically, Rich is an avid supporter of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) organization.

Rich made his acting debut in a film called Cyborg Soldier,  where he portrayed an escaped super soldier. In 2010 he starred in Hamill, a story inspired by the life of Matt Hamill, a deaf UFC fighter. He can also be seen playing MMA Coach Billings in the 2014 comedy Mantervention.

The multi-talented Rich Franklin: a true chalkboard champion.

Pro Wrestler and Physical Education Teacher Angelo Poffo

poffo_angelo1There are many talented educators who have earned accolades in fields other than education. This is the case with Angelo Poffo, a physical education teacher from Chicago, Illinois, who had already established a reputation as a professional wrestler.

Angelo was born April 10, 1925, in Downers Grove, Illinois, the son of Italian immigrants. When he first started school, Angelo spoke no English. “I remember, my first day, it got to be around noon, and I didn’t know what was going on, so I went home,” he once said. “That didn’t go over real well.” At school, young Angelo got tough in a hurry, learning to defend himself from kids who picked on him. But his immigrant parents were strict and overprotective. They insisted that he stay at home to study and do chores, and forbade him from working out in the high school gym or playing sports.

After his high school graduation, Angelo enrolled at DePaul University in Chicago. As a young man, he thought that baseball was going to be his ticket to success. He earned a spot on the university baseball team as a catcher. “My catching was good and everything, but my hitting was bad. So I had to give it up,” recalled Angelo. At DePaul, Angelo studied physical education and played competitive chess. Before being hit by a baseball and getting plate-shy, he played ball with George Mikan, who would later become the first big NBA star. DePaul is also where Angelo met his wife, Judy Sverdlin. The pair married on June 6, 1949, and had two sons, Randy and Lanny. Both of Angelo’s sons also became professional wrestlers.

During World War II, Angelo served his country in the US Navy. The first time he saw the weight room, he remembered, he felt like a kid again. “I thought I was in heaven,” he once said. As a 24-year-old pharmacist mate, his unit was stationed at the Naval Destroyer Base in San Diego. Angelo hit the gym for hours on end, sculpting his 6-foot, 200-pound physique. On July 4, 1945, the young sailor set a world record of 6,033 sit-ups in four hours, ten minutes. “Somebody did about 5,000 and his abdominal aorta broke and he died. So I did 6,000 and I was so happy that I was still alive, I did 33 more sit-ups, one for each year of Jesus Christ’s life,”Angelo once recalled. He became an instant celebrity on the base, and word soon spread beyond the Navy. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not showcased his achievement in their newspaper strip and presented him with a gold belt emblazoned with his record.

After his discharge from the Navy, Angelo launched a 35-year career as a professional wrestler. He was strong and determined, and it turned out he was a natural. First came billings at small events and carnivals. During the 1950’s, his fights were televised on the DuMont network, but much of his time was spent on dreary long-distance drives. On one trip, he drove former boxing champ Joe Louis, who had become a wrestling referee, to a match in Minnesota. They stopped at a restaurant, but Louis was refused service because he was black. Angelo brought dinner back to the car so Louis could eat. But as a pro wrestler, Angelo’s crowning achievement came December 27, 1958, when he dethroned Wilbur Snyder for the U.S. TV Title in Cincinnati.

When Angelo decided to retire from professional wrestling, he accepted a position as a physical education teacher and wrestling coach in Chicago.  “I was just getting older,” he admitted. “I saved all my money and I was happy with the money I got,” he recalled. “Then I started teaching school in Chicago, physical education.”

In 1995, Angelo Poffo was inducted into the World Championship Wrestling Hall of Fame. On March 4, 2010, this dedicated educator, talented athlete, and US veteran passed away at the age of 84.