John Crawford Remembrance
Joe Blundo: Death ends Ohio State fan’s amazing home game attendance streak
When Ohio State opens its home season Saturday against Oklahoma, John Crawford ’53 won’t be in the seats for the first time since World War II.
“We were making arrangements to bring him any way we could — wheelchair, anything,” said Jon Orr, his son-in-law.
But the 86-year-old Crawford succumbed Wednesday night to a fast-moving blood disorder, diagnosed a few months earlier through a routine physical. He was in hospice care when he died.
Crawford’s home-game streak spanning 74 years brought him much attention, but wasn’t all that defined him, said his wife, Harriet.
“He was more than a football lover. He was a fine human being.”
Harriet had four daughters when she wed Crawford 44 years ago. He liked to say he married a whole family.
“He told me on our anniversary, which was one of the last days he was able to communicate, that his life started when he married us,” she said.
She appreciated the sentiment but said her husband was underestimating his bachelorhood.
Mr. Crawford worked in local theater and television and later became a teacher of radio and TV production at Fort Hayes High School in Columbus. After retirement, he volunteered at Riverside Methodist Hospital, escorting departing patients.
“He loved tucking the new babies into the car,” Orr said.
The streak that brought him fame began when Crawford, then 12, saw Ohio State beat Illinois on Nov. 13, 1943.
As a teenager, he became an Ohio Stadium vendor and, after enrolling at the university, an OSU cheerleader. For a while, he had an apartment on the second floor of the Varsity Club, the Buckeye-centric bar on Lane Avenue.
He was at the blizzardy “Snow Bowl” against Michigan in 1950 and traveled by train to the 1955 Rose Bowl against the University of Southern California. In 1992, he managed to attend a day game and still fly to a nephew’s evening wedding in New Jersey (with the help of a post-game helicopter ride to the airport).
He wore the same pair of lucky socks to every game for years and, even into his 80s, belted out “Carmen Ohio” in a strong voice.
If fate had to decree that the 2016 season be his last, it at least granted a stirring climax: the double-overtime win against Michigan.
Crawford’s finale as a fan, Orr said, came as the game neared its conclusion and the tense crowd had fallen quiet.
“I said, ‘Crawford, you gotta start a cheer.’ So he started ‘OH,’ and it picked up and went around and that’s when everything took off.
“So I credit him with that win.”
Joe Blundo is a Dispatch columnist.