Friday, January 12, 2007

100 Years Ago Today

On January 12, 1907 – 100 years ago today – five young men donned Tiger uniforms and took to the court at state-of-the-art Rothwell Gymnasium to play the first intercollegiate men’s basketball game in the University of Missouri’s history. Hezekiah “Zeke” Henley, Carl “Curly” Ristine, William Driver and John Gardner had come to Mizzou from Joplin, and the fifth starter, Fred Bernet, came from St. Louis. With head coach Isadore “Izzy” Anderson watching from the sidelines, the Tiger five overwhelmed the Central College of Fayette team, 65-5, still one of the most lopsided victories in Missouri’s history.

Since that first day, Missouri Tigers fans have been thrilled, dismayed and enthralled by a century’s worth of moments and memories. There have been monumental wins and crushing defeats. There have been heroic players and coaches we remember well, and others who have faded from memory. But they’re all part of a continuum and a tradition that is Missouri Tigers basketball. While that first team may now seem like little more than a historical curiosity, they began a thread that winds through the program’s full history.

Carl Ristine, the first team’s best scorer, played with Herman Cohen, who played with Joe Parker, who played with George Taaffe, who played with Pip Palfreyman, who played with Fred Williams.

Williams played with Paul “Deerfoot” Vogt, who played with Craig Ruby, who played with George Williams, who played with Herb Bunker, who played with Frank Wheat.

Wheat played with Ted O’Sullivan, who played with Kenneth Yunker, who played with Wendell Baker, who played with Charlie Huhn, who played with Norman Wagner.

Wagner played with John Cooper, who played with Evans Powell, who played with Ralph Beer, who played with Kenny Brown, who played with John Lobsiger.

Lobsiger played with Herb Gregg, who played with Roy Storm, who played with Thornton Jenkins, who played with Dan Pippin, who played with Bud Heineman, who played with Bill Stauffer.

Stauffer played with Med Park, who played with Norm Stewart, who played with Lionel Smith, who played with Al Abram, who played with Charlie Henke.

Henke played with Ken Doughty, who played with George Flamank, who played with Ron Coleman, who played with Gene Jones, who played with Don Tomlinson, who played with Henry Smith.

Smith played with John Brown, who played with Al Eberhard, who played with Kim Anderson, who played with Larry Drew, who played with Steve Stipanovich and Jon Sundvold, who played with Greg Cavener.

Cavener played with Derrick Chievous, who played with Doug Smith, who played with Melvin Booker, who played with Kelly Thames, who played with Brian Grawer.

Grawer played with Arthur Johnson, who played with Thomas Gardner, who played with Marshall Brown, Matt Lawrence and several other members of the current Tigers team.

And just as the players form a thread, so do the generations of fans who have lived and died a little on each hoop this past century. One of the great pleasures of my life has been the opportunity to document and share the history of Missouri Tigers basketball. And since you’re reading this, that history is probably important to you, too. So, tonight, raise a glass to a century of thrilling, maddening, captivating Missouri Tigers basketball history, and maybe one to its future, a toast to all the true sons.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

On WHB in Kansas City on Wednesday

Just got word that I'll be on Between the Lines with Kevin Kietzman at around 4:00 p.m. on 810 WHB in Kansas City this Wednesday, January 10, to discuss True Sons.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

That’ll Leave a Mark

Games like this wake me up at night. My eyes pop open at 3:00 a.m. and I think “we really lost that one, didn’t we?”

Yes, we did.

One unexpected loss won’t ruin a season, but the optimism that the Missouri Tigers basketball team brought into conference play hinged on winning every home game against the Iowa States and Nebraskas of the league, and stealing a couple on the road. One game into the slate, there’s already a dent in the plan, as the Cyclones won one that Mizzou never seemed in jeopardy of losing until the last sixty seconds. But as Iowa State crept closer and Missouri failed to make plays, I turned to my pal Bob Bailey, the Assistant Dean at the MU Law School, and said “this is starting to remind me of last year’s Colorado game.” The sense of déjà vu grew palpable as ISU tipped in the game-winner just before the buzzer, and the Tigers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

If Mizzou is going to win tight games in Big 12 play, this much is clear: the frontcourt quartet of Leo Lyons, Kalen Grimes, Darryl Butterfield and Vaidotas Volkus will have to combine for better than the eight points and twelve rebounds they accumulated in fifty-three minutes on Saturday. The Tigers were abused on the inside by a group of interior players not nearly as talented as they’ll see down the road. Those four players don’t have to carry Missouri, but when they produce so little, they require the Tigers’ guards to be near-perfect, which they weren’t in the league opener.

Family Picture: If you weren’t at the game, you missed a sight that was, in its own way, as remarkable as the introduction of the Tigers’ All-Century team a year ago. Sixty former players, spanning seventy years of history, took to the court as part of a hoops family reunion. The senior member of the group was John Cooper, ninety-four years old and the 1932 Big Six scoring champ. He was joined by his baby brother Clay (a standout on the 1939 and 1940 league championship teams) and a host of players who represented the full spectrum of Missouri basketball. There were plenty of stars, including Thornton Jenkins (perhaps the finest Tiger player of the 1940s), Charlie Henke (who held Mizzou’s career scoring mark from 1961 to 1973), John Brown (who eclipsed Henke’s standard), Joe Scott (whose 46 points against Nebraska in 1961 still stands as a Tiger record), Curtis Berry and Jon Sundvold. But there were also dozens of former players who filled key roles to far less glory, guys like Gary Filbert, Howard Garrett, Greg Flaker, Scott Sims and Greg Church. As a whole, the group represented toughness, dedication, loyalty and excellence, traits that are at the heart of True Sons.

Lawrence of Columbia: Matt Lawrence’s transformation from end-of-the-bench reserve to game-changing sharpshooter is complete, and the crowd at Mizzou Arena knows it. I love how now, when Lawrence lets fly from behind the arc, everyone in the house leans forward and yells “three!”