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Published on 06/15/05 in the Fostoria Focus

Woody Bell looks forward to Fostoria's John Jacobs Day


John Jacobs Day players Woody Bell (back row, sixth from left) will bring his champion Bell Corp. softball team to Fostoria for John Jacobs Day on June 25. Meadowlark Lane will also be renamed John Jacobs Drive in honor of Jacobs, who has made the park his second home. He has long been a friend to softball players in the park
- Click for team picture -

Woody Bell says, "It's going to be great."

Former Fostorian Woody Bell is sitting in his home in Florida right now, but he's looking forward to

"John Jacobs Day" June 25 at Meadowlark Park.

That day, Meadowlark Lane will be renamed John Jacobs Drive.

Woody and John go back a long way.

Woody came to Fostoria in 1959. He ran the American Loan Co. In 1970, he moved to Florida where he established Bell Corp., a subrogation company.

Softball is one of Woody's great loves. While in Fostoria, he was a player, manager and sponsor.
Softball, specifically softball at Meadowlark Park, is one of John's great loves. That's where the twain did meet.

"John was always out there watching the games," Woody said. "I just kind of took him under my wing. John loves the game and he has a terrific memory. He never missed a game. I look forward to seeing him."

Woody is donating the cost of the new street sign and its installation to the city in honor of his old friend.

"I get a kick out of doing things like this for people I think are deserving of it," he said. "It gives me a good feeling inside."

When he went to Florida, Woody started Bell Corp., the first and largest subrogation company in the United States.

"It's a very lucrative business. Bell Corp. is one of the best things that ever happened to me."
Bell Corp's success has enabled Woody to pursue his love of softball in a big way. When he was here, his teams played all over northwest Ohio, not just in Fostoria.

"We played in Toledo and Gibsonburg. We played every night. You never forget those days."

His teams were also very, very good, something he remembered fondly when he moved to Florida.
"When my wife Pat and I and the kids moved to Florida, I didn't think the softball teams were as good as those here in Fostoria. Our girls played and they got pretty good. I umpired some."

Woody was sitting in his office one day when a fellow named Chet Rowland walked in. He said he was looking for someone to sponsor his softball team.

"I asked how much money he needed. He said, '$10,000 would do it.'

"He had a 'B' team. I enjoyed it so the next year, I put together an 'A' team and we went to the softball world series. We lost the first game 21-20. Then we lost in the first game in the losers' bracket 21-20 and went home.

"I told the tournament director, 'I'll be back' and that's how I got started.

"When I see Chet I don't know whether to hug him or shoot him. I tell him, 'You're the guy I've got to thank for all this.'"

How good is Woody's Bell Corp. team? Plenty good. Over the years, Bell Corp. has won five softball world series and three National Invitational Tournaments.

Bell Corp. has other sponsors. One is Easton, the sporting goods manufacturer.

"Easton is a great, great company. They treat me real well. They also furnish our equipment. They'll have a representative in Fostoria on the 25th."

There are two other sponsors, good friends of Woody's.

One is Jerry Blackman of Lawrenceburg, Ind., whose family started a casket company. Jerry is also involved in real estate development.

The other is Bill Taylor of Rhode Island who also has a real estate company.

Gene Smith is another friend of Woody's who will be in Fostoria. Gene owns and publishes Softball Magazine.

To add to the festivities on John Jacobs Day, Woody is bringing his Bell Corp. team with him for an exhibition game against some area players and a home run hitting exhibition.

"Anyone who knows softball will enjoy the hitting exhibition we're going to put on," Woody said.
One Bell Corp. slugger is Brett Helmer. The 6-foot, 255-pound 33-year old from Cicero, N.Y. has won every weightlifting competition he's entered since the age of 15.

Brett once popped a softball right out of the park in Cincinnati. But he's not the biggest man on the club.

That distinction belongs to Scott Brown.

The Andover, Minn., native is 6-1 and 275 pounds. These guys will put a charge in the ball.
In addition, several Bell Corp. players have done stints with the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tiger and Tampa Devil Ray organizations.

One of Woody's players was Cliff Carpenter, who played linebacker for the Bowling Green State University football team. In a single tournament in Texas, Cliff once drove in 50 runs.

Woody used to travel with his team all the time. He once attended 143 consecutive tourneys without a miss. Woody piled up the frequent flyer miles. For instance, this year's Bell Corp. schedule calls for games in Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Indiana, Ohio and Minnesota.

These days the 72-year-old Turtle Creek, W.Va., native takes it a little easier. Woody and his wife don't travel quite so much now. They have a home in Treasure Island, Fla., with a lake right nearby.

It's a nice lake, too. Pat recently snagged a 12-pound bass out of it.

Woody played softball with lots of folks when he was here. Roger Wise and Bob Fast are two he recalled. He said Roger was a pretty good first baseman.

Woody takes great satisfaction in the enjoyment his softball team gives people, but he wants the emphasis on John.

"I know a lot of people are coming to see me and my team, but it's John Jacobs Day, not Woody Bell Day."

So Woody is very much looking forward to John Jacobs Day. "I'm going to see people I haven't seen in 25 years."

Woody was last in town in 1980. When he came back that time, John was anxious to see his old pal.
He told everyone, "Woody Bell is coming back."

Woody's coming back again. So everyone come on out. Say hello to Woody, enjoy his ball club, and help honor one of the good guys in town by celebrating John Jacobs Day.


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