Mount Union Fans Continue Tailgating Tradition

April 22, 2010

Say the word "hammer" to anyone attending a Mount Union College football tailgate party and you'll be directed to a man standing behind a grass hut wearing a purple wig and laughing with 35 friends.


Jerry "Hammer" Hammerton, a 1976 graduate of the College and physics teacher at Alliance High School, is the most well-known personality at the tailgate parties and has been attending games since he graduated. Hammer, along with Ed Mathie, who played for the College's football team in the 50s, and Joe Cockley started the tailgate parties in 1989.

Growing from three passionate fans equipped with hay bales into hundreds of students, parents, alumni and community members with grills and an impressive variety of foods, the tailgate parties have become a symbol of Alliance's relationship with the College. "Alliance has adopted this team," Hammerton said, "even for those without ties to Mount Union."

Wally Armour, founder of the Wally Armour Chrysler Dodge Jeep car dealership in Alliance, considers Head Coach Larry Kehres the key to Alliance's revival. "Coach Kehres has done more for this community than any one single person has done before." Armour is impressed with the increased enrollment at the College in the last decade and is happy to see Alliance being put on the map.

Mathie, who moved back to Alliance from Louisville after his children moved out, considers Kehres a legend. "How many times do you get to witness a legend in your lifetime?" Mathie said.

"[The team is] the best-kept secret in northeast Ohio," Hammerton added, who begins tailgating at 7:30 a.m.

Sam "Midnight" Schuette, president of Sam's Graphic Industries located in Alliance, said he painted his jeep purple and bought a purple van in support of the College's football team. "I mean, I am a diehard fan," Schuette said.

The gang also has a wide array of rituals. After each game, someone always calls WRMU to request the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" and dedicate the song to the football team. "[WRMU] always plays it," Hammerton said.

To stay in touch with each other all year round, the group even meets in March to hold tailgating reunion parties and watch the previous season's Stagg Bowl tape.

Ryan Schreiber, president of Alpha Tau Omega and tailgater since his freshmen year, says it is great to see so many people out supporting the team. Everyone from the ATO area mingled with alumni and other Greeks tailgating in the area. Schreiber, pointing down to Hammer and Mathie, said, "Those guys - they're diehards."

Schreiber said the tailgate parties are definitely for bonding. "At every football game across the country there are tailgaters," he said. "We want to make sure it happens here, too."

Looking to continue the ATO tradition, Schreiber and his fraternity brothers start tailgating around 7:30 a.m., set up a horseshoe area (or last year's favorites of bocce ball and lawn darts) and throw around a football until game time.

Junior Matt Mroczkowski said nothing can beat tailgating. "Where else are you going to have people, who may not always get along, come together?"

"This is where they resolve their differences," he said.

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