I Bet You Didn’t Know

Christmas is over.  Now it’s that depressing time of the year to take down the tree, knowing it will be another 11 months before it will make another appearance.  It will be another 11 months before you hear that Christmas song that was played every few minutes, All I Want for Christmas is You.  That’s a good thing.


You won’t have to fight over whether Die Hard was a Christmas movie, which it was.  One thing I can’t believe is I never saw my favorite Christmas movie on any channel and I have almost all the channels.  That movie is Miracle on 38th Street, the original of course.


I saw about three of the Christmas Story during the marathon.  My favorite part is when Ralphie goes to see Santa. That line I can’t get out of my head for 11 more months;  “Ho, ho, ho!  What do you want for Christmas little boy?”  It’s not the most famous line, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”


To break out of the routine of playing with board games that were under the tree Christmas morning, I’m going to give you a little sports trivia that will fool even the most avid sports fan.


I am currently writing a book about a man from Marshall, Missouri.  His name is Wilson Fitzpatrick.  The University of Nebraska basketball coach discovered Wilson playing town team basketball as he was waiting for his discharge from the Air Force at the Lincoln Air Base.


Wilson only played one year at Nebraska and was a student coach as he finished his degree.  It was a memorable year. The Huskers beat two number one teams nationally in the course of 10 days in February of 1958.  


First they defeated Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain after having been beaten by Kansas two weeks earlier by 56 points.  Kansas fell from the top spot in the nation, giving it up to state rival Kansas State who was led by Bob Boozer.


If you are at all a historian, a major news event was occurring in Lincoln totally unrelated to sports during February of 1958.  Can you tell me what that historical event was?


Have you ever heard of Charlie Starkweather and his 14-year old girlfriend, Carol Ann Fugate?  They went on a murder spree in Lincoln, the near-by small community of Hickman and finally the spree ended in Wyoming.  At least two movies were made of the killing spree and it has a place in Billy Joel’s video of We Didn’t Start the Fire.


Charlie died in the Nebraska electric charge 11 months later.  Carol Ann Fugate received a life sentence but was released 30 years later.  She is still alive, claiming her innocence and living in Michigan.


The great Wilt Chamberlain played three years at Kansas.  Basketball wasn’t his favorite sport.  He said once that basketball was for sissies.  What was his favorite sport?


Wilt’s favorite sport was track and field. A few of his marks with old definitions of track and field was a 22 foot broad jump, a 53’4” shot put, a 1:53.3 880 yard run, a 49.0 440 yard run and a 6’6” high jump.


Wilt won the Big 7 high jump championship three consecutive seasons. Let’s stay with Wilt the Stilt.  Wilt left Kansas after his junior season.  Things were much different in 1958, when Wilt left the Jayhawks.  Why did Wilt leave?


One explanation is predictable.  He wanted to be paid.  In 1959, Wilt played for the Harlem Globetrotters.  He was a paid $10,000.  However, a better explanation of why he left Kansas was he was angry.  The coach that recruited him was Phog Allen.  The state of Kansas made Phog retire at 70 years old.  It made Wilt so mad, he left for the Globetrotters.


I once read a book called The Greatest Story Ever Told.  It was the story of Milan High School winning the Indiana State Championship in 1954.  Unless you have been totally isolated to sports, you probably have seen Hoosiers which is roughly the story of Milan’s state championship.


My first trivia question is in the movie, the coach bars the public from practices. Was that true?   It is absolutely true.  Just like in the movie, the coach, Marvin Wood, adopted a much more conservative approach that the pressing, fast break style of the fired coach before Woods.


Coach Marvin Woods was only 24 years old when he came to Milan High School. He did have one previous job, at another high school.  That high school was where a very famous Indiana NBA Hall of Famer played.  What was that high school?


The answer is French Lick High School. French Lick is the hometown of Larry Bird.  Larry never played for Woods.  As a matter of fact, Bird was born in 1956 and Woods left French Lick in 1952.


That means he came to Milan one year before the state championship.  What did his first team accomplish at Milan? Sneaking up on bigger schools, Milan made the Final Four in 1953.  All five starters returned in 1954.  There was never a doubt that Bobby Plump would play, unlike the drama in the movie.


Milan was the smallest school to ever win a state championship in a state with a single class.  In the championship year, they beat a team in the quarterfinals from Indianapolis.  It was the all-black school, Crispus Attucks.


Milan beat Crispus Attucks by 13 points in the quarterfinal game in 1954.  What NBA Hall of Famer played in that game? The answer is Oscar Robinson.  The next year was when the Supreme Court struck down segregation in schools.  Still an all-black school, Crispus Attucks became the only Indiana high school to win a state championship with only blacks on the team.


Who was Crispus Attucks and why would they name a school after him?  Crispus was African American, working the docks in Boston.  In 1770, Crispus Attucks became the first American killed in the Revolutionary War, dying in the Boston Massacre.


Had enough sports trivia?  Only one more that I bet no one knows.  Indiana went from one class to several classes in the 1990’s.  Only two states still only crown one state championship, no matter how small of enrollment.  Who are those states?


If you picked the tiny state of Delaware, you’d be right.  They only have 56 schools in the entire state.  The second state may surprise you.  It’s Kentucky with 279 schools that compete for the basketball state championship.


Now get busy and put that tree in storage or burn it out back.  Put the Christmas CD’s somewhere you may never find them.  You now know some useless facts that may be more interesting than that board game.

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