IBCA looking for oral histories

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IBCA looking for oral histories

Bruce Firchau hasn't had so much fun since he caught a 26-pound lake trout near the Arctic Circle a few years ago.

"I have the best of all worlds," Firchau said. "When I retired in 2005, I wondered what bowling league I'd be competing in. What was I going to do? But I still enjoy coaching and fishing for a month in Canada and Minnesota and doing my work with the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association."

Firchau has coached basketball for 35 years at eight schools, the last seven at Westminster Christian in Elgin. He also is a rabid fisherman. He has caught 49 Northern Pike over 40 inches long, but none bigger than that lake trout in 2005.

Now he is engaged in another project. As chairman of the IBCA's Hall of Fame Museum in Danville, he is gathering oral histories from former coaches and players to recall the great games and moments of Illinois high school basketball. So much for retirement.

"It's a dream come true," Firchau said. "I visited other museums and one thing that I noticed is the great museums had oral histories. You can listen to the voices telling the stories that took place, the people who were there when it happened, the great games.

"With all the great players and coaches that have been a part of high school basketball in Illinois, the window is closing fast. Then it will be gone forever. We need to record the stories of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. We need to record as many of the old-timers as possible."

Firchau has launched this ambitious project with the help of retired coaches Ken Crawford of Teutopolis and Ken Wierzba of Farmington and veteran coach Mike Bailey of St. Patrick.

They interviewed their first subject, Dick Triptow, on May 1. Triptow, who will 90 on Nov. 3, is a Lane Tech graduate who had a great career at DePaul. He was a senior on Ray Meyer's first team. He played in the early days of the NBA and played with George Mikan on the Chicago American Gears' NBL championship team in 1947. He coached Lake Forest College's basketball team from 1959 to 1973.

Also on Firchau's agenda area former Quincy coach and Waukegan administrator George Latham and Phil Judson, one of the stars of Hebron's 1952 team that defeated Latham's Quincy team for the state championship in one of the signature games in the history of the Illinois high school basketball tournament.

In upcoming weeks Firchau plans to interview Ann Penstone, longtime television announcer of the girls state basketball tournament; veteran girls coaches Carol Plodzien of Fremd and Pat Kennedy of Hersey; and Chuck Rolinski, longtime basketball coach at Toluca, one of the founders of the IBCA and father of the two-class basketball system.

He plans to travel to Decatur to do research on legendary Decatur coach Gay Kintner. He will interview the widow of Harold Baker, one of the stars of Kintner's 1936 state championship team, the manager of the team and Lisa McCubbin, Kintner's great grand-daughter who is completing a book on Kintner.

Firchau has talked with Teddy Eddleman, widow of legendary Centralia star Dike Eddleman. He is planning to talk with a college professor who is working on a book on the history of Wharton Field House in Moline. And he has talked to Lincoln coach Neil Alexander about the ball-press defense.

He also intends to interview retired Blue Mound coach Dick McDonald about small-school basketball, former Thornridge coach Ron Ferguson and the widow of former Centralia basketball player and Elk Grove football coach Don Schnake, who wrote a book on his former coach, Centralia's Arthur Trout. As a junior high school student, Schnake kept a scrapbook on Centralia star Dike Eddleman.

This summer, Firchau plans trips to Taylorville, Collinsville, Centralia, Mount Vernon and Cobden. He hopes to talk to former Taylorville stars Ron Bontemps and Johnny Orr, the widow of the late Collinsville coach Vergil Fletcher and former Collinsville star Bogie Redmon. He also hopes to talk to Chico Vaughn, who set an all-time career scoring record in the 1950s at Tamms that still stands, and old-timers who were coaching when the IBCA was founded in the 1970s.

That's not all. The IBCA Hall of Fame in Danville also is planning to include a visual library of as many state championship game films as they can uncover. Firchau already has the 1952, 1955 (six points in one second), 1961, 1965 and most of the finals since 1970. The 1947 ParisChampaign game has been promised. So has the controversial 1954 final between Du Sable and Mount Vernon.

Another fascinating film is Galesburg's 23-21 victory over Rock Island, the famous slowdown game, in the 1957 sectional final at Wharton Field House in Moline when Galesburg, led by Al Williams, Doug Mills and Elbert and Albert Kimbrough upset a highly rated Rock Island team featuring junior Don Nelson.

Another subject he plans to address is segregation, the all-black schools in the south, how the state tournament was before it was integrated in the 1950s, the people who helped to change the face of the game.

Another issue that Firchau hopes to resolve is a matter pitting Canton and the Illinois High School Association. Canton contends that during legendary coach Mark Peterman's career, he had a player who participated in four consecutive state finals from 1923 to 1926.

But there is no known documentation on the subject because, in those days, unless a player scored or made a foul, his name didn't appear in the official scorebook. Peterman claimed the youngster played one second as a freshman. But there is no evidence to confirm Peterman's claim.

"What is interesting is how the game has changed, how the officiating has changed," Firchau said. "There is so much athleticism now.

"I'm having a ball doing this project, going around the state, meeting all kinds of people, reliving the past, recalling old memories of great players and coaches and teams."

White Sox fall to Diamondbacks in series opener

White Sox fall to Diamondbacks in series opener

PHOENIX -- The red-hot White Sox ran into Zack Greinke on Monday night.

He cooled them off in a hurry.

Greinke struck out 12 hitters and Daniel Descalso blasted a three-run home run off Miguel Gonzalez as the Arizona Diamondbacks sent the White Sox to a 5-1 loss in front of 18,333 at Chase Field. The loss snapped a three-game win streak for the White Sox, who had scored 24 runs in their final two games against the Seattle Mariners.

Descalso’s three-run shot off Gonzalez followed a two-out walk of Chris Owings in the bottom of the fourth inning. It broke a scoreless tie and gave Greinke all the breathing room he needed.

Not only did Greinke strike out a dozen hitters, he limited the White Sox to four hits in 8 2/3 innings.

Omar Narvaez had two hits, the first coming after Greinke opened the game by retiring seven straight batters. Leury Garcia homered off Greinke with one out in the fifth inning to break up his bid for a shutout.

It was quite the turnaround from when the White Sox bashed Yovani Gallardo and Chris Heston on consecutive days in Seattle. The White Sox scored a combined nine first-inning runs in winning three of four against the Mariners.

Gonzalez was sharp for three innings as he faced one over the minimum. After he walked nine batters in his previous two starts, Gonzalez walked only one on Monday. The right-hander also yielded a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt. Gonzalez allowed five runs (four earned) and seven hits in five innings. 

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

Jon Lester vs. Johnny Cueto at Wrigley Field – the playoff matchup the Cubs dreaded in an elimination game – will happen more than seven months later under far different circumstances.

The Cubs have a 2016 championship banner flying next to the iconic center-field scoreboard – the ultimate response to any questions about their slow start to this season. The San Francisco Giants can’t have Madison Bumgarner saunter out of the bullpen when he’s recovering from a dirt-bike accident, another reason why an odd-year team is much closer to last place than first in an improved National League West.

The Giants don’t have the same aura, because the Cubs staged an epic comeback to end a best-of-five division series last October, scoring four runs again five different relievers in the ninth inning at AT&T Park.

“I’m telling you, man, Game 4 pretty much won the World Series,” Joe Maddon said. “I did not want to see Mr. Cueto pitching back here again. I’ll get to see him (Tuesday night), but that’s OK, compared to whatever that day would’ve been.”

Maddon has admitted this already, but it is still telling from a manager who always tries to stay in the moment and ignore the negativity. It says something about a Giant franchise that had won 10 straight postseason elimination games and World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 – and a fan base that used to expect things to go wrong in Wrigleyville after more than a century of losing.

“That whole Game 4 in San Francisco, I did focus on that a lot,” Maddon said. “Just trying to understand Game 5 back at home – how this is going to play out – and do whatever we possibly can to win that game there that night in San Francisco.

“That was the game for me – out of the entire postseason. To have to play the Giants where they were battle-tested – Game 5, back here with (Cueto) pitching – I did not like that at all. I thought that pretty much the postseason hinged on that one game in San Francisco.”

Even though the Cubs still had to survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Los Angeles Dodgers before winning their first NL pennant in 71 years. And come back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series and beat the Cleveland Indians on the road in a 10-inning Game 7 for the ages.

[RELATED: Cubs can't complete another miracle comeback against Giants bullpen]

“That’s what good teams do,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “They’re a very talented club, very solid all around. You don’t win the World Series unless you are.

“Look back at our success, how many times were we looking at elimination? No, you’re never surprised in the postseason. Anything those teams do, it’s because they’re there for a reason. They’re very good.”

Lester beat Cueto in a 1-0 instant classic when Javier Baez lifted a 3-2 quick pitch into the basket beneath the video ribbon in the left-field bleachers. Cueto kept the Cubs so off-balance in Game 1 that Baez actually walked up to home plate in the eighth inning thinking bunt.

The Giants reacted to that Game 4 meltdown by giving All-Star closer Mark Melancon a four-year, $62 million contract at the winter meetings, trying to fix a bullpen that led the majors with 30 blown saves last season.

“It was close,” Bochy said. “Three outs from taking it to Game 5 with a pretty good pitcher going. We can speculate all we want. There’s no point in that. It didn’t happen.

“But, sure, you look back. That’s how tight that series was. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold on. Give them credit – great job coming back. We’re a team that plays very well under pressure, and we did there. Just couldn’t hold on to that ninth inning.”