Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Fabulous Waterloo Wonders

A writer named Dick Burdette was skeptical. He had heard all the stories about the Waterloo Wonders and took them with a grain of salt. So he traveled to the village tucked deep in the hardscrabble Appalachian hills of Southern Ohio. The first of two original Wonders he found was wearing bib overalls and strumming a guitar. More skepticism.
They walked to the home of the second Wonder and then strolled down to the new consolidated high school where the basketball team was practicing. The two old Wonders, both in their late forties now, took on the young players in an impromptu game and made monkeys of them. Then the pair went to center court and each hit seven straight baskets. With each shot, Burdette's skepticism faded until it had vanished.

More sophisticated fans laughed when the Waterloo Wonders showed up in Columbus for the finals of the 1934 Class B state tournament. Even the name of their coach and the school's principal, Magellan Hairston, was the butt of a few jokes. The players did the unthinkable and passed the championship trophy from one to another before the opening tipoff.
Then the game began and the laughter ceased. A display of crisp behind-the-back passes, bullet-like throws to teammates, dribbling between and around their legs and brilliant shooting silenced the crowd.
But that was nothing compared to their usual antics. Basketball was supposed to be fun, wasn't it? So they had fun. When an opponent missed a shot, a Wonder often grabbed the rebound, made a courtly bow and handed the ball to the player for a second try. They hit baskets by bouncing the ball on the floor and through the hoop. During timeouts they munched hotdogs and, after building a lead, two of the players would sit in the grandstand and eat popcorn while the other three put on a dazzling display of passing. While a game was in progress they were even known to open a bag of marbles and play a game at center court.
These hijinks drove Magellan Hairston crazy because all he wanted to do was win. Which the Wonders did by taking the state championship two years in a row.
During the second year the Ohio High School Athletic Association relaxed the rules to allow the Waterloo Wonders to play as many games as they could schedule. They traveled throughout the state in Hairston's car and easily defeated the best of the large schools. One night the car broke down and they didn't arrive for the game until two-thirty in the morning. The entire crowd was still waiting to see them play.
After graduation they turned pro and beat the best of the professionals, including the Original Celtics and the Harlem Globetotters. Then World War II put an end to their playing days.
How did five kids from the backwoods (one came from a place called Greasy Ridge) do it? By learning to shoot baskets with a ball made of rags. By practicing in the hayloft of a barn. By working harder then anyone else and above all by having fun. The Waterloo Wonders, the world won't see their likes again.


Blogger STAG said...

Damn, now I heard everything!

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Barb Sivinski said...

My Dad used to tell us stories about the Waterloo Wonders as he was from Ironton, Ohio. He used to tell us kids how he played against them in high school. He attended St. Joseph's in Ironton and used to say how they ran rings around their team. My Dad has passed on now, but it's nice to hear all my Dad's stories validated. It means all lot to me.
Thank you, Barb Sivinski

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read the book by Mr.Burdette.A great read.I have heard alot about the Wonders.I live about an hour away.My Father in Law got to see them play in Ironton.He was talking about it yesterday as a matter of fact.He is almost 85 years old now.I wish I could have seem them too.

8:10 AM  

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