---- — Of the many Logansport stories I have covered over the years, one of the most enjoyable was a special evening back in 1984.
I think of that particular story this week because St. Patrick’s Day will mark the 80th anniversary of that team’s crowning championship game at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The final score, 26-19, is remembered on a scoreboard that hangs on a wall at Amelio’s at Fifth and Erie.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Logansport’s only state championship team, the LHS Berry Bowl was filled for a regular season game with Plymouth. The honored guests in attendance that night were the surviving members of the 1934 state championship team.
Interviewing former players, researching the team’s success and talking to people who remembered what it was like when Logansport laid claim to basketball superiority in the old one-class basketball tourney was unforgettable.
I’ll not forget one of the starters, Ed Porter, who ran out on the Berry Bowl floor and high-fived his old teammates. Paul “Stoney” Stonerock, the lone male cheerleader from that season, eagerly slid in front of the team for an impromptu team picture after the players called for him to join them. They clapped as the LHS Band played “Our Director,” which was the music for the school song at the time.
Hudon “Hudy” Beaulieu, the Super Sub on the team and one of the few reserve players who played that season, had lost much of his ability to speak, but the look on his face was one of pure joy to be reunited with his teammates.
I recall chatting with starter Jean Smith’s wife, who related to me the career Smith had as a starter at Northwestern University and his work in upsetting a powerful Notre Dame team.
Then there were the minute details of the championship season that were passed down like folklore. Among those stories was the one about the night the Berries played in Frankfort. After a particularly disappointing first half in which legendary Coach Cliff Wells was disappointed with his team, Wells elected to stay in the locker room. Finally, Gordon Horstman, the team’s captain and starting center, returned to the locker room, promising the team would listen to the coach if he returned to the sidelines. He did, and it was said to be a motivational turning point of the season for Logansport in a 26-4 year that included its only outright North Central Conference championship in basketball. Logansport didn’t even gain a piece of the title again until it garnered a three-way tie for the title in 1977.
Another interesting thing about that team was that one of those four losses wasn’t pasted on Logansport by one of the larger schools on the schedule, but the Young America Yanks, who pulled the rug out from the Berries one night on their home floor. One of the great players on that team was “Jumping” Jack Insley, who jumped center for the Berries, and another was Addington “Ag” Vance, who went on to become publisher of the Crawfordsville Journal-Review.
Interestingly, the varsity’s practice scrimmages against the junior varsity were particularly competitive, and never resulted in the varsity defeating the JVs.
That unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime night was filled with recollections of the team coached by the legendary Cliff Wells, who was credited with perfecting what then was called “the block” but what we know today as “the screen.” It was Wells who followed up a previous state championship at Bloomington High School with a state finals appearance for the Berries. My only previous contact with the Wells legend was through the memories my father had of him when Wells was his high school teacher in the 1930s. I only heard Wells’ voice once, and that was during the closing ceremonies at the old Berry Bowl at 13th and Market in 1973 when a taped phone conversation with Wells was played over the loud speaker system.
What I learned of Wells that season is that he not only was Logansport’s all-time winningest boys basketball coach, but Tulane University’s as well. Wells went on to be the executive director of the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., and for years hosted a coaching clinic in the Berry Bowl. His record at Tulane was particularly impressive because it happened at a time when Tulane was in the Southeast Conference along with the Kentucky Wildcats and its own legendary coach, Adolph Rupp. Wells’s success there also was highlighted by his ability to recruit so many Indiana high school basketball players to the New Orleans campus.
But that season was full of interesting trivia that made for conversations long into the night and for weeks after that.
One bit of trivia that came from it was a memory from the final moments of the state championship game when a Berry looked over at Wells on the bench and said something that may never have been said during a game in Indiana high school championship history: “Happy birthday coach.”
It was a great gift for one of the few men ever to win two state championships in the old single-class tournament, and for the Berries who made a bit of history that can never be taken away.
Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.