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99 YEARS AGO (1911): Crawfordsville team began what's now Hoosier Hysteria
November 21, 2009
As Indiana begins the high school boys basketball season that will culminate with the 100th state tournament, the story of Indiana's first champion says much about how far high school hoops have come - and, yet, how some things remain the same.
Controversial home-court advantages. Big-time transfers. Tournament brackets that made you go hmmm. Intense rivalries that don't necessarily bring out the best in sportsmanship.
All played a role on the path to that first boys championship, won by the 1911 Crawfordsville High Athenians.
It's fitting that Crawfordsville won that first title, because for all intents and purposes, Indiana's introduction to the sport began here in Montgomery County in the late 19th century.
In 1890, Nicholas McCay, a graduate of the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., took a position as general secretary at the Crawfordsville YMCA.
McCay had a direct connection to basketball's inventor. James Naismith taught McCay in Springfield.
McCay introduced the original rules of the game in Crawfordsville in 1893 and made it a regular part of his physical education program. Though McCay resigned his post later that year, the fuse had been lit.
On March 16, 1894, the Crawfordsville YMCA defeated the visiting Lafayette YMCA in what is believed to be the state's first game between two towns, a 45-21 Crawfordsville victory.
"Basketball is a new game, but if the interest taken in the contest last night between the YMCA teams of Crawfordsville and Lafayette is any criterion, it is bound to be popular," read the next day's account in the Crawfordsville Journal-Review newspaper.
By the 1900-01 school year, Crawfordsville High School had its own boys team, though finding other schools to play was difficult. In those early years, just a handful of high schools fielded a team.
It took a burgeoning - and some would say nasty - rivalry to spur the state's first title game.
In 1910, Crawfordsville and Lebanon both staked claim to what was then a mythical boys state championship. They had split their two regular season meetings. Crawfordsville - with just one overall loss to Lebanon's two - refused the offer to play a "winner-take-all" third game at a neutral site.
Lebanon officials called out the Athenians. Crawfordsville responded by filing charges against Lebanon with the Indiana High School Athletic Association for unsportsmanlike conduct and unfair criticism.
The huffing and puffing inspired this barb from the Journal-Review on March 15, 1910: "The locals want to know what kind of dope is used in Lebanon because its use gets the most wonderful results in figuring out championships."
Ouch. A rivalry was born - and so, too, was the momentum for a tournament and title game the next season.
A dozen teams would be invited to Bloomington, where the Indiana University Booster Club would host the first tournament.
David Glascock, 25, entered his second season as Crawfordsville coach with a good team, one that figured to compete for the championship.
Glascock, a 1905 graduate of Crawfordsville, returned just one starter from his first team, senior guard Clio "Ick" Shaw. "Because of Ichabod Crane," Shaw's granddaughter, Judy Warren, explained about the nickname. "He was pretty tall for back then, probably about 6-2."
Shaw was the team captain and one of the school's more popular students. The Athenian yearbook even boasted of Shaw's basketball fame.
Though Shaw rarely scored - the guard position in those days meant defense first - he was the unquestioned on-court leader. He was joined in the backcourt by Newt "Brute" Hill, another senior. Hill was fast and aggressive; he scored just 23 points all season but was arguably the team's best defender.
The frontcourt consisted of forwards Ben "Chick" Myers and Carroll Stevenson, both juniors, and senior Orville Taylor.
Taylor was possibly the state's first high-profile transfer - coming from Lebanon, no less.
Myers, a "tower of strength" on the second team the year before, was expected to do most of the scoring. He did more than his share, averaging about 43 percent (12.8 points) of Crawfordsville's 30.1 per game average.
In those days, as Glascock later recalled, "there was no dribbling," or at least very little. Players shot at the basket from a set position, with two hands from the chest. Teams would pass back and forth, often for several minutes, before taking a shot.
"That 1911 team was a pip," Glascock would say years later. "It had height and drive."
After five straight wins to start the season, Crawfordsville suffered its first setback, a 34-32 loss at Marion, on Feb. 3.
"The defeat, however, was largely due to the small, poorly lighted floor and bad condition of the baskets," according to the school yearbook.
Rival Lebanon and star guard Clark Berry came to town and handed Crawfordsville its second loss, 20-16, on Feb. 22. The Athenians dropped to 9-2.
Crawfordsville responded, though, with wins over Brazil and then at Clinton, overcoming an odd home-court advantage.
The Clinton gym was a 40-foot by 30-foot room above a saloon with low ceilings. So low, the Clinton players were able to use the ceiling as a backboard.
Glascock noticed it during warm-ups and protested to the lone official. He won. Shots that banked in off the ceiling were ignored, helping make the difference in a 19-14 win.
A rematch with Lebanon awaited in the regular season finale. This time, in front of a packed house that included 70 Crawfordsville supporters, the Athenians used a game-ending 9-0 run to win 27-18.
Three days later, the Crawfordsville team and two fans - Superintendent L.N. Hines and assistant librarian Elizabeth Molon - made the trip to Bloomington by Monon Railroad for the first state tournament.
All 12 teams practiced Friday morning at the Men's Gymnasium (renamed Assembly Hall in 1917), and play began that afternoon. Myers scored 21 points as Crawfordsville routed Anderson 36-16.
The following morning at 9, Lebanon notched its second victory, eliminating New Albany 28-10, and Bluffton advanced with a 34-22 win over Lafayette. Myers scored 15 points as Crawfordsville defeated tiny Walton, 31-15.
Problem was, a 12-team tournament with no byes produced a final three - Crawfordsville, Bluffton and Lebanon.
Lebanon won a draw and awaited the winner of the Crawfordsville-Bluffton game. It was no contest. The Athenians stormed into the title game with a 42-16 win.
Crawfordsville led Lebanon 13-7 at halftime. The Athenians were on fire. Really on fire.
"When the team came into the dressing room at the end of the first half, all were on fire and could not stand still," Glascock later wrote. "Some of the boys took off their pants and fanned their legs."
It was then, Glascock explained, that the players realized their jock straps had been saturated with Dr. Sloan's Liniment.
"The boys went back into the second half and played like demons," he said. "I have always felt grateful to Sloan and his hot stuff, for I believe it helped us win the championship."
The Athenians claimed the title, 24-17.
News of the victory set off a celebration Saturday night in Crawfordsville. A crowd of mostly high school students paraded through the streets, rang the school bell and started a bonfire. When the Monon train arrived in Crawfordsville that night, the crowd gathered to celebrate its heroes.
But they weren't there. They were back in Bloomington - sound asleep.
Even though the Athenians had won it on the court, it would be 46 more years before they were actually recognized as such.
Why? The IHSAA wasn't the sanctioning body of the 1911 tournament. But in 1957, the IHSAA voted to honor Crawfordsville. Until then, the 1912 champion - those dreaded rivals from Lebanon - had been considered the state's first.
On March 23, 1957, at halftime of the championship game between South Bend Central and Crispus Attucks at Butler Fieldhouse, the Athenians were officially crowned.
Glascock was there, joined by Shaw, Myers and backup Hugh Miller. They were cheered, men in their 60s, by a crowd 20 times larger than the one that had rooted for them in Bloomington.
Today, the site where the 1911 team played its home games is a parking lot. The Terminal Building, built in 1888, was torn down in 1967 - leaving no evidence that it was the home to Indiana's first boys high school champion.