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Donation from Koss Family has deep roots in Bridgeport

Perkins Field named for former Bridgeport High principal

Pictured are Bridgeport Exempted Village School District Superintendent Brent Ripley, left, and board of education member Don Cash II with two informative signs that will adorn the inside of the Koss Family Press Box at Perkins Field in Brookside.

BROOKSIDE — A lot of legendary athletes got their careers started, and nearly a century of memorable games have been played, on the natural grass surface at Perkins Field inside Bill Jobko Stadium. The field is unique in that it is home to both the Bulldogs football and baseball teams.

Next fall the year-old remodeled facility will celebrate 100 years of Bulldogs football. The first game was played on Sept. 23, 1922.

However, the facility would have never came to be if not for the dedicated work of Luther Perkins. Luther Perkins? Who was Luther Perkins?

“The Perkins name is one people around the community and Ohio Valley have recognized over the years. Mr. Perkins was a person that a lot of people in the community had respect for,” Bridgeport graduate Bill Koss said. “As a principal at Bridgeport High School, he was loved and appreciated by all of the students.

“When someone names a space after someone people look back in history and wonder who was that person?” Koss said. “As I look back on it now, I wish I would have met that man.”

Throughout his tenure Perkins worked tirelessly on behalf of the Bulldogs. His efforts from fundraising to fence-building helped make a reality of a dream of an athletic field for the Bulldogs sports teams. The long quest for that field was realized with the inaugural football game being played September 23, 1922.

Perkins was an Ohio native, born and raised in an area of Armstrong Mills, 25 miles southwest of Bridgeport. His parents, William Perkins and Nancy Becket Perkins, raised Luther and his brother, Garfield, on a farm in that rural community.

Teaching in the late 1800s confirmed to Perkins that education was indeed his vocation and set him to pursuit of higher training. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Bethany College and then went on to achieve a master’s degree from Ohio State University.

Post-graduation, Perkins accepted a position at Bridgeport High School as head of the science department. In 1911, he assumed the position of principal at BHS, a role he held until 1926 when he re-located to a high school in the Youngstown area.

Perkins left an indelible impression at Bridgeport High School, both as a teacher and principal.

This fall, Perkins Field will mark the 100-year anniversary of that first game, more than a half-century after the passing of its esteemed namesake.

High atop the old wooden, covered grandstands was the Koss Family Press Box, a smallish structure that barely housed the workers needed to run the clock and scoreboard. When the grandstands were razed several years ago, so was the press box and memories that will live longer than any of us alive now or in generations to come.

Thanks to a very generous donation of $10,000 from the Koss Family, the press box is now one of the roomier press facilities around.

“The (football) field has so much special meaning for the activities that took place there. We all walk in the shadows of great people and I think Bridgeport has had so many tremendous people that care about the community and all have a footprint there that meant something to the community,” Bill Koss said. “For me it’s really just a memory … remembering those people that had a big impact on our community.”

He cited names like Al Blatnik, Raymond Stewart, Al Scheid, Roger Stewart and Allan Marty as just a few who gave back to the school district and the community.

“My grandparents came over here from Slovenia for opportunity and settled in Bridgeport. My grandfather started a welding business (General Welding Supply) and one thing led to another. All of us worked there at some point in time.

“My mom and dad graduated from Bridgeport High School and my brother, Fred, also graduated from there,” Koss continued. “We lived right across the street from the high school.”

Koss left the Ohio Valley in 1961 to play basketball for the University of Florida in Gainesville from 1962-65, and although he still resides there, he and his family have never forgotten Bridgeport.

“We always found time to come back to the Ohio Valley, especially Bridgeport,” he stressed. “I can remember (my wife) Mary and my son (Billy) in the back of the station wagon as we drove from Florida to Bridgeport. Sometimes we were able to stay as long as a month to help out mom after dad died.”

He recalled a moment that stuck with him his entire life, and it involved longtime friend and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro.

“I remember one story about Phil when he received a bonus while playing minor league baseball. He came back to Bridgeport and bought a riding tractor for Ed Kren who was our superintendent at the time. Ed used to mow Perkins Field with a hand mower,” Koss reflected back.

“That was really cool, I thought. Someday, I hope I can do things like that.”

Longtime friend Don Cash added his thoughts.

“Bill was responsible for the old press box at Perkins Field being remodeled in the late 1990s,” Cash said. “He is a really good guy who loves Bridgeport. He’s all about Bridgeport.”

Bridgeport Exempted Village School District Superintendent Brent Ripley couldn’t be more appreciative, on the district’s behalf, for the generosity.

“I tell Bill he is first class. He’s been gone since 19 years of age, in Florida all of that time, but Bridgeport has never left his heart. That’s a testament of the good parents he had. He is a great human being.”

The Koss Family Press Box is named in tribute to Bridgeport native Fred M. Koss (1913-97), his wife, sons and family.

Fred and his wife, Eleanor Quay Koss, were graduates of the Class of 1932 of Bridgeport High School. They married in 1941 and eventually added two sons, Bill, Class of 1960, and Frederick Martin (Fred) Koss, Class of 1964. Both sons played basketball for the Bulldogs.

First Lt. Frederick M. Koss, USAF, lost his life in service to his country in the Vietnam War. Both the pilot of an F-4 Phantom jet and Koss, the Weapon Systems Officer, were killed in a battle-related crash in 1972.

As a longtime business owner and resident of Gainesville, Bill also enjoyed a long career as a television and radio college basketball analyst.

A dedicated alumnus of Bridgeport High School, Fred was an enthusiastic supporter of the Bulldogs sports teams. He served two terms as president of the Bridgeport Boosters Club, during which he negotiated construction of the original press box at one-fourth of the projected cost, making the first press box at Perkins Field a reality in the late 1940s.

For many years, Fred ran the BHS press box. He established game programs for the teams and raised money for them by selling ads to local merchants. As the game announcer, he called out winning numbers at halftime for prizes offered to fans by area businesses.

Upon his death in 1997, Fred’s family funded the re-construction of the original press box in his memory. The naming of the press box for the Koss Family recognizes their generous assistance to Bridgeport High school and on-going support of the BHS sports programs.

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