When Mike Jaccar returned to the area last month to be inducted into the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame, it marked his first visit back to a place where he once resided in more than 30 years.
He had last been here in 1982. Since leaving the lovely city of Ravenswood following his graduation in 1972, Jaccar has spent the bulk of his time in the state of Texas – mainly Dallas.
Ravenswood was just a brief stop in Jaccar’s journey through life, but it is one which turned out to be quite special. In fact, those two years here in Jackson County were among the greatest in his life and helped mold a bright future of success.
“My dad was with Kaiser Aluminum in Washington state in Tacoma. I was originally born in Butte, Montana,” Jaccar said. “He was offered a job to run that plant (here in Ravenswood).”
Obviously being a high school athlete who was starting to enjoy what hard work can bring, Jaccar wasn’t exactly thrilled he would be moving.
But, of course, like most situations – father knew best.
“Dad said, ‘You’re going to be fine there,’” Jaccar recalled. “He said, ‘You’re going to like it. It’s a whole different atmosphere. But you’re going to like it.’”
A young Mike Jaccar certainly had his doubts.
“As a sophomore I had made the varsity in both baseball and basketball at Clover Park. It was a big school in Tacoma,” Jaccar said.
“I got there (to Ravenswood) and it was a complete shock, in terms of size and things like that. Of course I came in there and there were some guys who were just super to me - (the late) Gary Hunt, Greg Varney, Sam Romeo, Rick Wolfe, Joe Fox. It was really neat.”
Jaccar fit in immediately and the rest as they say is history.
Jaccar was a First Team All-State selection in both basketball and baseball. He was a flashy point guard on the court and a smooth fielding second baseman/shortstop on the diamond who also swung a solid bat.
Jaccar praised all of the coaches who he encountered at Ravenswood, most of all the late Jack Wiseman.
“He was a great man,” Jaccar said. “All of those coaches were great people and knew what they were doing.”
In his acceptance speech at the MOV Hall of Fame ceremonies at Vienna’s Grand Pointe Conference and Reception Center, Jaccar said without Wiseman none of the great moments he’s enjoyed in athletics would have been possible.
“Jack Wiseman was kind of like a father to me. He was just always in my corner. My junior year I ran the ball up the court. We distributed the ball to Hunt and to Varney. Varney was a heck of a rebounder. Gary was a great athlete,” said Jaccar, who was saddened that Wiseman couldn’t be there to see him inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Wiseman, who died last fall, had always hoped to get Jaccar into the prestigious MOV Hall of Fame. Wiseman, a member of the Hall, was an active member and was serving as its president when he passed away.
“Jack was so good to me,” Jaccar said. “Jack Wiseman never once raised his voice to me. He was just a true gentleman.”
Jaccar not only formed a great relationship with Wiseman, but so many others during his short stay in Ravenswood.
Jaccar averaged 24.2 points per game in the season of 1971-72. He scored 821 points in just two seasons as a Red Devil. He ranks high in a number of categories. His 131 free throws made as a senior is fifth-best in school history for a single season.
Jaccar enjoyed athletics at Ravenswood, the close-knit walls of the high school and the warmth the community exhibited. It was a great place to be. Jaccar is the third among 10 children and the oldest of four boys.
“I can name all of my sisters in 15 seconds. Because I can still hear my mother telling them to come for dinner,” he said laughing. Jaccar then proceeded to rattle off their names – “Colleen (the only one who didn’t live in Ravenswood), Michelle (a Ravenswood and WVU graduate), Sheila, Cathy, Elizabeth (deceased), JoAnn.”
His brothers were Danny, Gaby (deceased) and Patrick (who was born in Ripley).
With his high school days over, Jaccar started looking for the next opportunity as an athlete.
“My dad in the summer of my senior year moved to Dallas. And my family was going to move to Dallas. I had no offers from anybody for basketball or baseball. My dad wrote a letter to Texas.”
Jaccar was granted a $500 scholarship for basketball, which was basically a walk-on situation. He wanted to play both sports.
“The whole goal was to go to a place that had a great baseball program and a place where I could play basketball,” Jaccar said. “Texas was a tremendous baseball power and they weren’t that good in basketball in the Southwestern Conference. I thought I’d have it nailed. Texas was huge. There were more people in lunch (at the University of Texas cafeteria) than there are in Ravenswood.”
Jaccar was informed by the school’s basketball coach he wouldn’t be permitted to take part in fall baseball. He decided to leave Texas.
“I called my dad and said, ‘I’m going to come home (Dallas).’ I went to Richland Community College. “I played there two years. I started growing and getting a little bigger and faster. I got much stronger. I had some people look at me.”
In the end, he chose SMU.
“I could go over there and start playing right away in both sports,” he said. “It was the complete opposite. They were really good in basketball and had a terrible baseball program.
“I figured that’s where I’ll go and stay close to home. My mother was sick and my dad just got cancer. He died in 1980. I was with him for a lot of things.”
At SMU, Jaccar played for Sonny Allen, a former Marshall basketball great who hails from Moundsville. Allen now lives in Reno, Nevada.
SMU was ranked the most improved team in the country from Jaccar’s junior year to senior season.
“It was fun, we ran (the fast break). Sonny was great. I called him ‘Old Sunshine.’ Literally we just ran the break. It was like running the wishbone in football. Sonny and Jack were just great people – West Virginia boys.
“I played against some of the best players that ever played in the Southwestern Conference.”
Jaccar earned All-SWC First Team honors as a senior.
While starring on the basketball court, he was also excelling in baseball and after college was drafted by the Texas Rangers’ organization.
“My dad was able to come to just a lot of different ball games.”
Jaccar’s travels on the pro baseball circuit took him to the likes of Sarasota, Florda, Asheville, North Carolina, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Tucson, Arizona.
He reached Class AAA but finally chose to give up the pro baseball dream. His chief competition was former Rangers star Bump Wills.
Coaching would be the next venture in Jaccar’s storied life of athletics.
“I was offered a job by Sonny Allen. I was an assistant coach along with Bill Ryczaj, who played at West Virginia,” Jaccar said. “He (Ryczaj) was my mentor. He had the greatest penmanship of anyone I’ve ever known.
“He taught me the ropes. We landed some really good recruits. I just love those guys.”
Allen, who won a national Division II championship at Old Dominion, left SMU to take a job at Nevada-Reno. Jaccar was offered to go, but chose not to do so.
“I had some opportunities to go to some different colleges to be an assistant,” said Jaccar.
The death of his father led him out of coaching. He entered the oil business and enjoyed success.
He did some other work in the business world but grew tired of the travel to other countries.
For the past 20 years, he’s been running the Brentwood Foundation in Frisco, Texas.
His wife, Laura Lynn, is from El Paso, Texas. “She is a pistol,” Jaccar said laughing.
He has two daughters from a previous marriage. His oldest, Jillian, turned 33 the day of the MOV Hall of Fame banquet (June 9). She is a professor at SMU and speaks five languages. His youngest, Shelby, turned 25 two days after the banquet (June 11) and works for Toyota.
“The Good Lord works in great ways. He gave me two daughters so I couldn’t ruin my son’s lives,” he said laughing. “I wanted a little shortstop or point guard.”
Even now, Jaccar, who admits to wishing he had stayed in the coaching world, is still very much involved with basketball. He plays pickup games on a weekly basis with former Dallas Cowboy greats like Roger Staubach, Cliff Harris, Dee Dee Lewis and Leroy Jordan.
Jaccar was joined on his return to Ravenswood, Jackson County and the Mid-Ohio Valley by his wife and two sisters (Cathy and JoAnn).
It brought back a plethora of wonderful memories. He not only had the chance to visit with his dear friend Greg Varney, but he also made new friends like Jim Mahan (a Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Famer who nominated Jaccar), long-time Red Devil head basketball coach Mick Price and assistant Bryan Canterbury.
“I was so blessed by my teammate Greg Varney,” Jaccar said. “Jim Mahan may be the nicest man I have ever met. Mick Price is not only a great coach, but even more an outstanding person.”
While his stay in Ravenswood was only for two years, there is no one who accomplished more with his time here than did Mike Jaccar.
He treasures his days as a Red Devil, Ravenswood High graduate and Jackson Countian.
And without question, those of us feel lucky and honored to call him one of our very own.