Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Spuds Had to Keep Eyes on the Ball in Church Gym ; Good Morning

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Spuds Had to Keep Eyes on the Ball in Church Gym ; Good Morning

Article excerpt

Today's glitzy basketball palaces are great for creature comfort, but they'll never be able to match some of the gyms of yore for storytelling. Like the former Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Ind., built in 1885, which became the gym from 1942-48 for the lovable Ireland Spuds. They may have been the only team to ever play basketball using a former church for a gym, but the quirks don't stop there.

Junie Himsel of the Ireland Historical Society recently gathered six players, a cheerleader and a scorekeeper from that era for a bull session. And it flew.

The church was relatively small, so the gym was compromised a bit. The playing area ran short, so the free throw circles actually intersected with the center jump circle. Himsel cracked that instead of a 10-second line, they had a 5-second line, but he assured it was Presbyterian regulation.

But there were plenty of other real cracks. Like the ones between the original 1885 uneven wooden floorboards still in use. A ball dribble could go anywhere. Wilfred Gress remembered having to dribble the ball so hard to get a return off the shaky wooden floor that when they played on a "real" floor in Jasper his pounding dribble would smack into his face. Once, the old floor broke beneath a player during a game. No problem. The custodian fetched another board, sawed it to size, crawled underneath the gym to clean out the broken board, and nailed the new one down. Game on.

Then there were the cracks in the bankboard, also made of wooden boards nailed together. Players talked of having to learn to hit a board just right to make a bank shot. There was no rectangular target behind the rim to shoot at, either.

The bankboards were mounted about 18 inches off the end walls of the gym, so those out-of-bounds lines were the walls themselves. Since there were only two rows of bleachers for fans on the sides of the court, some fans actually stood behind the goals, in the playing area. …

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