MORE ECHOES from Sharon Ocker:
In the fall winter 2007 issue of The Morningsider, Sharon Ocker “wakes up the echoes” of historic events that have occurred in Morningside College gymnasiums. For those who didn’t get enough in his “M-Club Messenger” article, here are a few more echoes:
Elisha McSweeney of Mankato State was a famous dunker. One night he came from the corner for an alley-oop pass. As he caught the ball, Dave Schlesser timed his jump perfectly and blocked it high above the rim. McSweeney’s eyes were as big as saucers after he was rejected.
As far as can be determined, many of Morningside’s basketball games were played in Sioux City’s old, original YMCA, which was built in 1898 on the site currently occupied by Pioneer Bank at 701 Pierce St. By current standards, the court was definitely a “crackerbox,” with dimensions of 55 feet by 50 feet and containing six large posts right in the middle of the floor. Players probably used those load-bearing pillars as an extra screen now and then.
Scheduling was scant and often there were no records kept during the early years of basketball for the Maroons. The season totals were 1-0 in 1905-06, 8-2 in 06-07, 3-4 in 07-08, 1-2 in 08-09, and 0-8 in 09-10. The 1909-10 season was notable because all of the games were played on the road. During Christmas break, the team took the train and played eight games in different communities in Iowa, including Emmetsburg, Charles City, Dubuque, Fayette, and Decorah. H.I. Smith was the captain, and he wrote an account of the trip for the 1911 Sioux annual. Although all of the games were lost, he wrote that “a worn out, tired, and more or less grimy bunch, we arrived in Sioux City on the afternoon of February 6th well pleased with the trip.” (For a full account of this amazing trip, check out the annual or the book “History of Men’s Basketball at Morningside College,” which is available in the college book store.)
Many dance squads, drill teams, musical groups, etc., have performed in Allee over the years, but no routine was more unique than that of the famous dancing custodian and equipment manager, Gary Steemken. One night as Gary was sweeping the floor at half-time, he dropped his broom when the band was playing and began to do a dance with lots of shaking, a la Elvis Presley. Twice he dressed in an Elvis outfit to make it even more authentic. People loved it, and some even called the gym to see if Gary would be doing his dance that night.
A bit of drama unfolded one night in the Alumni gym. Obe Wenig was the coach and one of his star players, Bud Van Citters, was ineligible because of a math grade. Professor Robert Van Horn, the math teacher, was a great friend of Jason Saunderson, the famous Morningside athletic director. Wenig wondered if Bud could take a test and become eligible. The coach was talking to his team before the game when Van Horn stormed in, announcing “Bud passed, Bud passed!” Morningside charged out on the floor and with Bud playing, won the game. Did he really pass a test? Only two people know for sure…
During the 1956-57 season, Morningside became the first NCC school to televise games on an open channel. The station was a brand new one, Channel 9. The opponents were the University of South Dakota and Iowa State Teachers (now UNI). Al Buckingham was the instigator of this bold move, and when the station’s camera lens wouldn’t work, Buck bought one so that they could proceed. President John Richard Palmer was interviewed at halftime and was a bit unhappy with the Maroons trailing by 20 points, but the hometown heroes rallied and won the game by one point.
One night Morningside was protecting a small lead against North Dakota State at Allee. In the last few minutes, Bison coach Irv Inninger yelled to his players, “foul their worst shooter.” Tom Betz was standing in front of the bench, ready to go in at the next opportunity, and said “that would be me.” They did foul him of course, but as bad as Tom had shot free throws earlier in the game, during the last few minutes he was a lot better and he made some of them to win the contest.