By Tom Rowe
Imagine, if you will, that you have the athletic ability to pinpoint a baseball anywhere in the strike zone at speeds well in excess of 90 miles per hour. And contemplate, yet, that your sports talents allow you to use deft hand-eye coordination in tossing basketballs with regularity through the net. What sport do you think you’d choose as your most proficient?
Well, if you are Charlie Townsend, one of the newest members of the Norwich High School Sports Hall of Fame, you would be most proud of your exploits on the football field as a punter. That’s right, a punter! Even though Townsend was an All-Iroquois League tight end on the gridiron, too, it is the memory of his booming punts that immediately brings a smile to his face.
“Everything I did athletically came easy to me. Whether it was throwing a baseball, catching a football, shooting a basketball or even playing pool, I was good at it,” recalled Townsend. “But, punting was something I had to work at. And when I became good at it, I was very proud.”
Called upon his freshman year by then grid coach Kurt Beyer to start honing his punting skills, Townsend went on to produce 53 career punts that traveled 1,792 yards for a 33.8 yard per boot average. And, remember the punter stands 10-12 yards behind the line of scrimmage, from where the subsequent boots are measured. But, more on that later.
All that notwithstanding, Townsend’s prowess in booting the pigskin a considerable distance is not what earned him enshrinement in this, the fifth edition of elite Tornado athletes.
As a three-year stalwart of the Purple mound corps, Townsend went 14-3 (.824) with four no-hitters, one combined no-no with fellow ace and Hall of Famer Fred Swertfager and two one-hitters. He lost out on a third one-hitter and another victory when his 16-strikeout effort in an 8-0 whitewashing of Walton on May 18, 1955 was ruled a forfeit because Norwich used an ineligible player.
Over the course of three seasons, he compiled 207 strikeouts in 120 innings (1.73 per inning) and allowed only 47 hits, 26 of which were given up during his sophomore campaign.
In helping lead Norwich to at least a share of three consecutive Iroquois League titles, it’s difficult to ascertain what was Townsend’s most productive spring. He earned his first varsity victory on May 1, 1954 when he three-hit Herkimer 4-2 in the second game of a twin bill, with nine strikeouts and two walks. All told, Townsend charted a 5-1 record his rookie season, which was Coach Frank Giltner’s 23rd and last as the Purple laid sole claim to the league crown.
With Ray Borowicz taking over the skipper duties for Norwich in 1955, Townsend lost his only game, despite a four-hitter, when Little Falls won out 4-1, thanks to six Tornado errors. He was literally unhittable after that as Norwich tied Oneonta for Iroquois supremacy. That aforementioned combined no-hitter with Swertfager followed that same day, April 30, at Mohawk, and two more no-hitters were sandwiched around a one-hitter over the remainder of the spring. In that one-hitter, a 7-0 blanking of Ilion on May 28, Townsend retired the first 20 batters he faced before the Golden Bombers’ Wayne Murphy slapped a two-strike single to center, thus preventing him of not only another no-hitter but a perfect game, too.