BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – Karl ‘Skip’ Wolf is interested in – among other things – history, local sports and accuracy. And Wolf is very much aware of the fact that numbers never lie.
Wolf is the author of the most comprehensive and inclusive book ever penned about the history of Lancaster-Lebanon League high school football, the aptly named ‘History of the Lancaster-Lebanon High School Football League, 1972-2014.’ But what’s unique about Wolf’s book, in addition to the subject material, is that it tells its story more with numbers than words.
Actually, Wolf’s statistical compilation is the fifth updated edition of a book he first put together in 1990. Featuring local artist Phil Karli’s depiction of former Lebanon High standout, Penn State star and current Miami Dolphin Jared Odrick on the cover, ‘History of the Lancaster-Lebanon High School Football League’ features section standings, coaching records and playoff results, among other things, since the league’s inception 42 years ago.
“Yeah, I am a local sports historian, but that has to be qualified,” said Wolf, recently from the study of his Lebanon home. “I’m not into individual stats. I’m more into leagues and coaches. Things have gotten worse. Newspapers don’t put in box scores any more, or games aren’t reported.
“It’s important because the present is built upon the past,” Wolfe added. “I think I got the genes from my grandfather. He would take me to historical places when I was young. But I have a greater interest in sports history. If someone doesn’t put it down on paper, it evaporates into the air.”
A stickler for details and accuracy, Wolf’s book is the fruit of countless hours of research on his subject material. He has poured over microfilm at the Lebanon Daily News, Lebanon Valley College, the Lebanon County Historical Society, the Lancaster Public Library, Lancaster Newspapers and Millersville University to the point where he now needs eye glasses.
“I would say it’s thousands of hours of research,” said Wolf. “It’s like a baby. It’s like I’m watching a baby grow up. With each passing season, it gets larger and larger. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle in that I like to do research puzzles. I have a certain amount of information, but if I’m missing a year or a playoff game, I’ve got to find it. But there is a lot more information available from 1990 on.
“They’ve all lost money,” Wolf continued. “I never recoup my printing expense. My time was a labor of love. As we did each edition and made improvements, there was hope it would catch on. And there was a desire to keep it current. But media people love it.”
Wolf is much more than one of the most preeminent local sports historians in Lebanon County. A retired elementary physical education teacher and soccer coach from the Lebanon school district, Wolf still actively officiates softball, baseball and volleyball.
“I wanted to do a soccer book, but I experimented with football first,” said Wolf. “I’ve been going to high school football games since I was in fifth grade. Football is more popular. I wanted to do boys’s and girls’ basketball because that’s the next big thing people follow. I have an interest in soccer, boys’ and girls’ volleyball, baseball and softball. When I go to a game, I’ll go up to a coach and tap into their memory.
“It’s more fun,” Wolf continued. “What this has done is organized all the notes I took or the things I have in my head. It’s like a personal handbook for me. But I only work on sports I have ties to or interest in.”
Wolf shelled out $4,800 to print 300 copies of ‘History of the Lancaster-Lebanon High School Football League’. His initial goal for the publication is to get his money back on it.
“You can’t even estimate the time value,” said Wolf. “Every time an edition comes out, I have to absorb the costs. Yeah, I’ll do another edition of this, once I get this bill paid off.
“It’s a labor of love,” continued Wolf. “Milton Hershey had five or six failures before he hit it big. He made caramel first. I’m not looking to make it big. I’m just looking to pay the freight.”
Some see value in Wolf’s labor, others not so much. But what he has accomplished is pleasing the most important person.
“I like the result. Yes!,” said Wolf. “I’m already making corrections. The hardest part is rejection. You show it to somebody, and you put a lot of work into it, and when they say, ‘That’s nice, but I’m not interested,’ it hurts. But when people say ‘Wow! That’s really neat’, there’s satisfaction involved. That makes it all worthwhile.”
Those interested in acquiring ‘History of the Lancaster-Lebanon High School Football League, 1972-2014’ can contact Wolf at 717-272-8844 or firstname.lastname@example.org.